Macaroni and cheese is one of those dishes that has a near and dear spot in my heart. Wait before I go on let me state a few things:
1. Yes I know it’s not true macaroni noodles (I used cavatappi cause they are my favorite) so it’s truly not ‘macaroni and cheese’ per se. Sure I could have titled this post “Pasta and Cheese Sauce Extraordinaire” but yeah, that’s boring and not many would type that in to search for it.
2. This is NOT your boxed mix as my cheese does not glow in the dark nor is it neon.
3. It’s not baked but good ol’ fashioned stove top. The only time you bake it is if you want that crispy crunchy crust.
Now back to what’s important… shoveling forkfuls of this luscious cheesy goodness in your pie-hole! Mac ‘n Cheese is a source of comfort for me as I’m sure it is for most of you all. See I was that child who, while fat, was the pickiest eater EVER. I mean EVER. Mom knew, however, that I would always eat mac ‘n cheese.
See the thing is for me I didn’t grow up on the boxed stuff. We simply couldn’t afford it. At times we’d have to get food from the government (I don’t care what people say that gov’ment cheese was awesome. Granted I’m not sure if it really was actual cheese though.). Mom would make up a roux (melted butter then add in some flour, cook that for a minute). Next she’d whisk in the milk to make one of the Mother Sauces (bechamel). Once she had that in went pounds of cheese.
Then Mom would add mix-ins to the simple butter-flour-milk-cheese-macaroni mixture. We’d have cut up hot dogs, tuna fish, stewed tomatoes (GAG to this day!), cooked broccoli (hated it then but now I LOVE IT!) and so forth.
Once I hit college I had my first taste of the boxed stuff. Whoa.. the powdery stuff is neon orange; traffic cone color I used to say. It wasn’t bad though it’s not something I honestly liked. It didn’t taste like cheese and surely didn’t taste like Mom’s. However it surely was a bajillion times faster to make and let’s face it 6 boxes for a $1 can’t be beat when you’re on a college budget.
It wasn’t until I went out on my own and really got into cooking did I explore the world of mac ‘n cheese and go beyond cheddar. I’ve made it countless ways with various noodles. I’ve gone fancy with lobster, crab and gruyere to full-blown meals made up of mac ‘n cheese. One of my favorites is mac ‘n cheese with cooked chicken, broccoli, cauliflower and bacon in a quiche-like crust. I’ve had it on pizza (it’s odd for me) but when put in a pizza puff… OMG it’s amazing! I’ve had it breaded and deep-fried, on a stick, made it in the microwave at work and I’ve had it on grilled cheese. I’ve baked it and have made it on the stove top, like the recipe here.
Let’s talk about that for a minute… baked macaroni and cheese versus stove top macaroni and cheese. Do you have a preference? Now it could be all me and the ones I’ve had over the years but I’ve yet to have a baked macaroni and cheese that is creamy and luscious as a stove top one. I know some of you love when the noodles that stick out get all toasty brown and crisp on the edges but me, I hate that.
Normally mac ‘n cheese is made one of 2 ways – starting off with a bechamel sauce (butter, flour, milk) or using a custard type base involving eggs. I’ve seen it made with stock and heavy cream – why? Mac ‘n cheese is simple and basic. You can have it taste amazing and be the star of your show without all of that hoopla.
For me I’m still on the fence as to which way I like best – bechamel or the custard egg mixture. Both have their great qualities and their negatives. The bechamel sauce to me never gets as cheesy as I like while the custard egg mixture doesn’t stay creamy once it sets. Sure when you heat it back up it gets all creamy again but if you were serving this on a buffet, you’d need to keep it on a warming station.
Just like pizza I could eat this every single day and not get sick of it. It’s so versatile and goes beyond the cheese and noodle. Now when I first started out making my own version of this I went with the typical butter, milk, cheese however I found that it wasn’t rich enough and I had to keep adding cheese. It was good but… it was missing that richness; that creamy decadence.
It wasn’t until literally I was out of milk and just didn’t feel like going to the store but HAD TO HAVE mac ‘n cheese. The only stuff I had on hand was evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is a milk product, usually sold in cans, that is made by removing about 60 percent of the water from ordinary milk. Literally it’s milk that’s heated and well reduced to get rid of the water part of it. You’re left with a creamy, silky thickness.
On a side note about evaporated milk, you can convert evaporated milk to back to regular milk simply by diluting it with an equal part of water — so add half a cup of water to half a cup of evaporated milk.
I made my mac ‘n cheese my normal way only this time I used the evaporated milk and OMG WOW this was amazing! But I have to fill you in on a secret here. The real true secret to getting super smooth, silky and creamy mac ‘n cheese is the addition of eggs.
For me, this is simply the best mac and cheese ever! This is one of those recipes EVERYONE should know how to make. If you can make this, the sky is the limit on where you can take this simple dish!Print
- 2 quarts of water
- 3 cups cavatappi noodles (regular or Gluten Free)
- 1 XL egg, room temperature
- 1 cup aged cheddar, shredded
- 1 cup fontina, shredded
- 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
- 1/2 cup gruyere or pecorino Romano
- 6 ounces evaporated milk
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 4 Tbl butter, unsalted
- Reserved pasta water
*Optional Cheesy Crumb topping
- In a bowl add all the cheeses together and give it a mix. Set aside.
- Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.
- Add in the noodles with a healthy pinch of salt (about a tsp or so).
- Return to a boil and boil for 8-10 minutes or until the noodles are al dente.
- While the noodles are cooking whisk together the egg, 4 ounces of the evaporated milk, dry mustard, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Strain the noodles reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water.
- In the saucepan over low heat, return the noodles and add in the butter stirring until the better is melted and the noodles are coated.
- Add in the egg/milk mixture and about 3/4’s of the cheeses gently stirring and tossing the noodles until the cheese starts to melt.
- Slowly add in the rest of the milk and the cheeses stirring constantly (but gently) until the cheese is melted and the mixture is all creamy and hot. ~8-10 minutes. *If the mixture is too thick add in a Tbl or more of the reserved pasta water. You want this creamy.
- If adding the optional crumb topping, preheat the oven to 400F.
- Lightly butter a casserole dish or individual ramekins.
- Spoon on some of the creamy mac ‘n cheese.
- In a microwave safe bowl melt the 3 Tbl of butter.
- Pour the bread crumbs and grated pecorino Romano in a bowl and gently mix.
- Dump the melted butter on top and using a fork, mix just until everything is moistened.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top of the mac ‘n cheese.
- Bake for 8-12 minutes or until the breadcrumbs and toasted or golden brown.
And if you wanted to go all out top it with my Cheesy Crumb Topping and make it all kinds of yummy!
Looking for other Pasta and Comfort Food Recipes?
Cheesy Manicotti stuffed with Italian Meatballs will surely make your tummy smile!
These Italian Style Stuffed Shells is the perfect 2-fer dish. Make a pan for dinner and another pan for the freezer!
With it being Fall and holiday parties in the near future, these Lasagna Rollups are perfect as a party appetizer!