My buddies and I used to get together once a week to cook steaks, drink beer and hang out. Eventually, that evolved into an occasion for use to experiment with recipes and build our culinary skills. One of the first side dishes we integrated into our weekly steak cookout was Mac n Cheese. None of us had really made Mac n Cheese from scratch before so when we ready to graduate from the boxed stuff, we all began looking for great Mac recipes that we could build on. We’ve since made a lot of different kinds of Mac n Cheese but the basic, classic 3-cheese Mac recipe is still the core process for making any kind of Mac n Cheese dish.
The only part of this recipe that requires a little skill and attention is the roux. You need to pay attention to the texture of the roux as you whisk the butter and flour together over heat and be careful not to cook it too long. If the roux burns it will destroy the flavor of your entire dish. So watch for a smooth consistency and good bubble before adding the milk. Don’t neglect the milk either, you’re looking for it to thicken up enough to stick nicely to the back of a spoon but not get too thick, the cheese will thicken it up plenty later.
Classic 3-Cheese Mac n Cheese
- 1 tbs salt
- 1 tbs fresh ground black pepper
- 1 lb pasta of choice (I use penne or cellantani)
- 6 tbs unsalted organic butter
- 6 tbs all-purpose flour
- 3 cups of whole organic milk
- 1 cup organic heavy cream
- 1 lb aged white or yellow cheddar, shredded
- 4 oz Asiago cheese, shredded
- 4 oz Romano cheese, shredded
- 1 cup of seasoned bread crumbs
- fresh chopped parsley (for garnish)
- 1-2 tsp hot sauce (optional)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Boil pasta until al dente, drain and set aside.
- In a large sauce pan over medium heat add butter. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk until a good roux forms.
- Add cold milk and whisk continuously until roux is dissolved. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sauce is thick and bubbly.
- Add salt, pepper, (hot sauce), heavy cream and all cheeses. I find it easier to add a little cheese at a time until it’s all incorporated. Cook until cheeses are fully melted and cheese sauce is smooth, stirring as needed.
- Add cooked pasta to cheese mixture and mix until the cheese completely coats all the pasta, you really want to make sure it gets into all the nooks and crannies.
- Place pasta into a pre-heated greased baking dish and top with bread crumbs. Place in oven and bake for 12-20 minutes or until edges are bubbly and top is golden brown. I usually turn the broiler on toward the end to get a nice crispy brown top to the mac.
- Garnish with fresh parsley and serve while hot.
Make it Your Own
This dish is great as is, or as a great base for making your own recipe. My wife and I love to add fresh Jalapeno to the mac before it goes in the oven for a spicy kick. My buddies and I used to add grilled marinated chicken and bacon to our Mac n Cheese. My wife is a big fan of sweet potato so I’ve also sauteed some sweet potato hash and added it to this recipe (which is awesome!). The options are endless because this dish is a strong neutral base that carry just about any flavor combination you want to throw at it. Experiment and have fun with it!