Ready to ditch the boxed stuff and experience the Cheesiest Indulgent Mac-n-Cheese? Boy, do I have the recipe for you!
Okay. I’ll admit it. I’m utterly in love with cheese. So much so that my husband literally bought me cheese pajamas for Valentine’s Day (SO ROMANTIC).
I try to reduce my cheese consumption as much as I can, so when I do eat cheese I GO ALL OUT!
Green tip: Industrial dairy production has a huge impact on the environment, especially because of the amount of land it takes to sustain and its high amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing your dairy consumption is one great way to reduce your ecological footprint.
So, developing the Cheesiest Indulgent Mac-n-Cheese recipe was a challenge I took VERY seriously. But, I mean, come on. Is there anything more satisfying than that ooey-gooey melting cheese oozing off your fork when mac-n-cheese is done right?
My memory of mac-n-cheese growing up seems like a dream. There’s a little packet filled with magic dust that you mix with milk and all of a sudden you have a delicious gourmet dinner. What kind of WIZARDRY??
But as I grew and my palette got a little more sophisticated (I literally ate mac-n-cheese, cereal, and pizza exclusively as a kid, so that’s not saying much), I found out that there’s better and CHEESIER mac-n-cheese than the kind you get out of the box.
The Cheesiest Indulgent Mac-N-Cheese Tips & Tricks
Use a Block of Cheese
I know. It’s a whole extra step. Why grate your own cheese when the grocery store sells perfectly packaged cheese that is already shredded? Well, pre-shredded cheese has extra preservatives to keep it from sticking together. And as a self-prescribed (but independently verified) cheese-aholic, I can TASTE the difference.
I have made this recipe with both, and freshly hand-shredded blocks of cheese undoubtedly produce a creamier, cheesier, fresher tasting mac-n-cheese. Not convinced? Read all about it here.
Green tip: Shop organically if you can. Organic farms rely on biodiversity to generate rich soil, avoiding the use of pesticides and fertilizers, which means no toxic runoff. This is still true for cheese!
It’s All About That Roux
You’ve heard me preach the power of a proper roux in my Vegetarian Broccoli Cheddar Soup and Hearty Mushroom Gravy recipes, and guess what? Your mac-n-cheese loves a good roux, too. Consistency is key.
The roux sets the stage for a crème de la crème consistency, allowing each elbow to get evenly coated, and avoiding that greasy, split cheese sauce that plagues a roux-less mac. I guess roux-less is now a word in my vernacular. That was unexpected.
Anyway, always melt your butter over low heat, whisk in your flour, and stir until there are no lumps before moving on to the next step.
Green tip: For all of the millions of tons of food waste that occurs in the U.S. annually, it is estimated that 50% of waste happens at home. Flour has an average shelf life of 8 months, and the great news is, you can freeze it! Stick it in the freezer in an airtight container and extend the life of your flour another 6 months to a year!
Patience Is A Virtue…
…that I don’t always have. But when it comes to mac-n-cheese, low and slow is the way to go. Keep your heat on low and stir frequently when adding your cheese. The last thing you want is for your sauce to split. Take your time and taste test along the way (just because you deserve it).
In life and in mac-n-cheese. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup – 1 cup half & half because depending on your heat, you may need to add extra liquid to achieve the perfect consistency.
Start with 1/2 cup half & half, and after adding your pasta, decide whether adding more is necessary. Your mac should look a little something like this:
It’s Never Enough Cheese
This recipe calls for a whopping 16 ounces of cheese and honestly, I would add 12 more ounces if it wasn’t absolutely outrageous. So optimizing the cheese you use is key. Use 2/3 of it in your cheese sauce and reserve the rest to stir in after you remove the mac n cheese from your heat.
You may even want to serve it with a little extra cheese on top!
Should You Have Leftovers
On that note, unless you’re having a dinner party (or maybe you just have an impressively big appetite?), you WILL have leftovers.
Have some extra milk and cheese on hand for reheating. Add a dash of milk and a handful of cheese to your serving, cover it with saran wrap, and reheat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. It’ll make all the difference in the texture of your leftovers.