What’s better on a cold winter’s evening than some ooey, gooey decadent Macaroni and Cheese? Yes, it is the ultimate comfort food whether you are 5 or 50. I grew up with the old standby made with that cheese product that came in a rectangle box and didn’t need refrigeration. That was good, don’t get me wrong, but there are so many good cheeses out there, it seems a shame not to experiment with different cheeses. In this version I used not one, not two but….wait for it……three cheeses!!!
In this version I used Fontina, Havarti and Monterey Jack. I have also used Swiss, Asiago, Gruyere and mozarella as well as good old cheddar. I’m thinking using a smoked cheese such as gouda would lend a rich flavor. As long as you have 3 cups of whatever combination you like, you will be in business. I don’t always stick to the same cheeses and I have found some pretty good combinations. I like smooth, creamy cheese rather than tangy or sharp versions but sometimes I switch it up for some interest. I do stick with cheese that melts well.
Another aspect is how to flavor. I don’t like to overpower the cheese with a bunch of other flavors. I think the bit of dijon mustard with worcestershire sauce gives it just a something something but doesn’t take away from the cheesiness. It really does complement the flavor of the cheese. Try it, you just might like it!
I also like the flavor of the corn flakes as opposed to panko or cracker crumbs. You can crush them in a food processor or zipper bag…..or buy them already crushed in a box like I do!!! (there is something to be said for convenience)
Give this recipe a try, it doesn’t really take that long, especially if you get someone to help you shred the cheese. But let me warn you, it is really hard to get it into the oven once you see the creamy shells filled with silky cheese. I usually don’t prepare the topping until I see how my willpower holds up. I have been known to throw out the cornflakes because I just had to dig in without baking.
Ultimate Macaroni and (Three) Cheeses
3 Tablespoons Butter
3 Tablespoons flour
1 T Dijon mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp onion powder
Pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup half & half
3 cups shredded cheese, either equal parts of each or any combination (I used Fontina, Havarti and Monterey Jack and Asiago but Swiss works well, too)
4 oz cream cheese
1 lb box of medium or large shell pasta
1/2 cup crushed corn flakes
2 T butter
In a large sauce pan or skillet, melt the butter. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Continue to cook over medium heat until it is a golden color. Slowly add chicken broth, whisking constantly until incorporated. Add Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and onion powder. Add cheese, cream cheese and half & half, stirring to incorporate. Since cheese tends to be salty and salt is usually added to the boiling pasta, I don’t usually add extra salt. Keep heat at medium or lower to avoid burning and stir often. Mixture should be the consistency of pancake batter. If it still seems too thick, you can add some milk to ensure it is the right consistency. If serving from pan, you may want it thicker but if you are baking, a thinner consistency is needed.
Heat water to boiling in a large stock pot. Add pasta and cook until just al dente. Drain and add to the cheese mixture.
Now, you can dish this right up and it will be a rich gooey bowl of goodness. However, if you liked baked mac & cheese, pour the mixture in a greased 9×13 baking pan. In a small bowl, melt 2 T in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Add the crushed corn flakes and mix. Sprinkle evenly on top of the macaroni. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes to set cheese & brown corn flakes. Let set 5 minutes before serving.
Hope you enjoy it!!!