The Ultimate Mac and Cheese

The Ultimate Mac and Cheese
Staff Writer

Thinkstock/iStockphoto

I call this the ultimate because of the sauce — it's perfectly smooth and creamy, just the way I like it. If you prefer a less smooth cheese or a different flavor profile, feel free to substitute your favorite cheeses in. Just remember what Laura Werlin says when it comes to cheese: an infinite number of cheeses can go into your mac and cheese, but what matters is the results you're looking for. Choose the cheeses that will give you those results. 

Ingredients

  • 1  Pound  cavatappi pasta, cooked to package instructions
  • stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2  Cup  all-purpose flour
  • 4  Cups  whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2  Teaspoon  grated nutmeg
  • 2  Cups  shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2  Cups  shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 4  Cups  shredded fontina
  • 1/2  Cup  breadcrumbs
  • 1/4  Cup  grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Add the cooked pasta to a greased 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. 

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the stick of butter over low heat. When the butter is melted, slowly whisk in the flour and whisk well until its evenly incorporated into the butter. Let the roux cook, while whisking, over low heat, until a buttery-baked smell permeates and the roux starts bubbling all over the surface. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly, and then increase the heat to medium. Season the bechamel with salt and pepper to taste, and then add the nutmeg. Let the sauce cook over high heat until boiling, and then remove from heat and add the cheeses (except the Parmesan). Stir well so that they're all completely melted. 

Pour the sauce over the pasta in the baking dish and, using tongs or a spoon, toss well so that each piece of pasta is coated well with the sauce. In a small bowl, melt the tablespoon of butter and add the breadcrumbs. Stir well, and then add the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the breacrumb mixture evenly on top. Bake the mac and cheese in the oven until bubbling and golden brown on top, about 30-45 minutes.

Nutritional Facts

Total Fat
62g
89%
Sugar
15g
17%
Saturated Fat
29g
100%
Cholesterol
141mg
47%
Carbohydrate, by difference
87g
67%
Protein
66g
100%
Vitamin A, RAE
283µg
40%
Vitamin B-12
3µg
100%
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid
6mg
8%
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)
3µg
3%
Calcium, Ca
1518mg
100%
Choline, total
17mg
4%
Fiber, total dietary
4g
16%
Folate, total
136µg
34%
Iron, Fe
6mg
33%
Magnesium, Mg
106mg
33%
Niacin
8mg
57%
Pantothenic acid
1mg
20%
Phosphorus, P
1191mg
100%
Riboflavin
1mg
91%
Selenium, Se
46µg
84%
Sodium, Na
3040mg
100%
Thiamin
1mg
91%
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)
1µg
7%
Water
148g
5%
Zinc, Zn
8mg
100%

Mac and Cheese Shopping Tip

If a piece of cheese smells strongly of ammonia, don't buy it. This is typically a sign of spoilage.

Mac and Cheese Cooking Tip

Allow cheese to come to room temperature before serving. This will accentuate the flavors and aromas.