Friends, if you’ve come here today looking for salads or even low fat desserts, I suggest you keep on moving. Or try this salad. Today, I’m here to share with you pure comfort food. All the fats, all the carbs, all the creamy deliciousness you could ever want. I’m not advocating for eating this way every day or even every week, but as an occasional indulgence, you really can’t do better than this, the best creamy macaroni and cheese recipe ever. Hyperbole? I think not. When I want mac and cheese, I want to taste the cheese. I want it to be deeply flavorful and gooey and creamy and perfect. This recipe is a version of the macaroni and cheese recipe I made for Thanksgiving. The only difference is that I upped the cheese-to-noodle goo ratio so it wouldn’t dry out and I left off the crushed Goldfish topping. I’ll give you the ingredients for the topping though, in case you’re feeling Goldfishy. Three types of “shredding cheese” plus cream cheese and sour cream all whisked into a luxurious white sauce equals one luscious, rich mornay sauce. (Mornay = bechamel (white sauce) + cheese).
This looks like a long list of ingredients, but it takes a village of spices and cheeses to build flavor. If you’ve ever been disappointed by bland macaroni and cheese someplace, blame lack of spicing and only using one kind of cheese. Now let’s get right to it, because far be it from me to stand between a hungry person and their comfort food.
- 1 pound of your favorite short noodle shapes , preferably rigate (with ridges) I used my favorite: cavatappi
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more to taste)
- several grindings of fresh black pepper , to taste
- 1 Tablespoon dry mustard powder
- 2 teaspoons turmeric (optional, but it gives it a lovely golden color, plus it's good for you)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika or sweet smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
- 2 oz (1/4 block) cream cheese
- 1/2 cup full fat sour cream
- 8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese , grated
- 8 oz Colby Jack cheese , grated
- 4 oz Parmesan cheese , finely grated (not from the green can)
- freshly ground black pepper and paprika or ground chipotle for topping
- 1 cup Goldfish crackers or other cheese crackers
- 1/2 cup panko
- 2 Tablespoons butter , melted and cooled
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or chipotle powder , or to taste (optional if you don't like it spicy)
Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Preheat the oven to 400F.
Meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed 4-5 quart sauce pan or Dutch oven,melt the butter. When it starts to sizzle, add the salt, pepper, mustard powder, optional turmeric, paprika, onion powder and garlic powder. Let sizzle about 45 seconds, stirring.
Dump in the flour and stir until all the butter is absorbed. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Add the milk and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes to thicken just slightly.
By this time, your water should have come to a boil. Salt your water and dump in the pasta. Cook for 5-6 minutes until just shy of al dente. The bite should be very firm.
While the pasta is cooking, take the cheese sauce off the heat and whisk in the cream cheese and sour cream until melted.
Whisk in the cheeses, a big handful at a time, until all melted and smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
When the pasta is done, drain and add to the pot of cheese sauce. Stir well to evenly coat and then dump into a buttered 9"x13" casserole or into individual serving vessels of some sort. If using individuals, place them all on a sheet pan or cookie sheet. Sprinkle on a bit of black pepper and paprika or ground chipotle, or add the Goldfish topping.
Bake the finished pasta for 12 minutes.
Let set up for about 10 minutes for individuals and 15-20 for one whole casserole before serving.
Crush crackers either in a food processor or in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. Either in a bowl or right in the bag, add the panko, butter and spice. Mix well (or squish the bag around well) to incorporate.
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It doesn’t take a bunch of fancy equipment to make mac and cheese, but I have pulled together a few recommendations for spices, serving vessels (who wouldn’t want a cute crock of the best creamy macaroni and cheese all to themselves) and a food processor with a shredding disc. If you’re going to be shredding a lot of cheese or vegetables, a food processor takes the pressure off your wrists and shreds in a fraction of the time it takes me to do it by hand. I hope you find something here that speaks to you. Thanks for shopping through my affiliate links. It helps me keep this blog going, and I appreciate your support.
Don’t forget your holiday printable! Click on the photo to download the pdf!
Please enjoy the macaroni and cheese responsibly! Thanks for spending some time with me today. Take care, and have a lovely day.