Pagina principale Mac & Cheese, Please!: 50 Super Cheesy Recipes

Mac & Cheese, Please!: 50 Super Cheesy Recipes

James Beard Award–winning author and cheese expert Laura Werlin brings her cheese-adoring audience the next-best thing to her fabulous grilled cheese recipes: 50 mac & cheese recipes to die for.

No one knows cheese better than Laura Werlin, and now she’s applying her expertise to everyone’s favorite macaroni dish. Inside, you’ll find 50 recipes organized by fun topics, such as Classic and Almost-Classic Mac & Cheese, Porky Mac & Cheese, Decadent Mac & Cheese, Lighten Up Mac & Cheese, Veggie Mac & Cheese, Party Time Mac & Cheese, and Breakfast for Dinner Mac & Cheese. The 50 recipes are presented in a fun format, like her previous title, Grilled Cheese Please! She even includes an appendix that includes info on all the food trucks and restaurants that specialize in mac & cheese. 
Anno:
2012
Editore:
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Lingua:
english
Pagine:
192
ISBN 10:
1449426468
ISBN 13:
9781449426460
File:
EPUB, 4.77 MB
Download (epub, 4.77 MB)
 
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contents


Introduction

Mac & Cheese Fun Facts . . . Achieving Mac & Cheese Perfection . . . Say Cheese . . . Pasta Primer . . . Turning Bread into Crumbs . . . Milk and Cream: Shades of . . . Difference . . . Getting Saucy . . . And Speaking of Gluten-Free . . . Dishing . . . The Next Day



Chapter 1 	Classic (and Almost Classic)

Chapter 2 	Mostly Cheese

Chapter 3 	Eat Your Veggies

Chapter 4 	Eat Your Protein

Chapter 5 	Breakfast for Dinner

Chapter 6 	Totally Decadent

Chapter 7	Lighten Up, Cool Down

Chapter 8 	Party Time

Acknowledgments

Appendix

Metric Conversions and Equivalents

Index





introduction


It all happened in an afternoon. Amidst the multitude of pots and pans I’d used to create my very first mac & cheese, I stood and waited in eager anticipation to taste it. I peered through the glass door of the oven and watched as the youthful pale orange glow of the casserole gradually darkened and bubbled, as if discovering its soul.

I continued to wait until its full transformation from cooking to completion and then carefully pulled the dish from the oven, my oven mitts doubling as burn protectors and nurturers of the molten creation. I set it down and watched as its rapid, bubbling enthusiasm slowed to a gentle murmur. I got eye level with it to study its lunar-like surface and see up close the kaleidoscopic colors of its underbelly, clear as day through the glass pan. It was a test of patience, studying rather than indulging.

Finally, I gently lifted my oversized spoon and cracked through the golden bread crumb crust that crowned the thick cheese foundation. Like a diver reaching toward a treasure, I guided the spoon into the depths of the casserole, extracting the creamy noodles as they oozed cheese from their tiny tunnels and remained prim-looking in their orange-colored shrouds. On the plate, the mixture steamed and whistled as I blew, ever so cautious about its heat and yet irrepressibly anxious to dig in.

Finally, it was time. I lifted the spoon to my mouth, and as I;  did so took in the heady aroma of melted cheese and hot butter. And then, the reward. The nuttiness of the butter-crisped crumbs and the sweetness of the melted cheese that rode piggyback on the velvety noodles transported me to a world of all that was good—warm, welcoming, enticing, and safe. On that day, I learned the true gift of macaroni and cheese.

I didn’t grow up with mac & cheese. My mom didn’t make it, and even if she had, I probably wouldn’t have eaten it. Or maybe I would have if I could have figured out how to extract the cheese sauce from the noodles. I hated noodles, so even if you called it macaroni and slathered it with cheese, I couldn’t warm up to it. I was the kid who ate the meatballs and Parmesan without the spaghetti, the ricotta and mozzarella in the lasagna but not the pasta layers. Give me the cheese, but please hold the noodles!

I don’t exactly know when it all changed, but I know that I’ve done my best to make up for lost time in my adulthood. Take the time I went to Italy for a cooking class. There, pasta-making inevitably played a major role. I left nary a noodle behind. In fact, I ate so much that I considered jogging home—from Italy to California, that is.

So while macaroni and cheese does not evoke a childhood memory for me as it does for most people, perhaps it represents even more. It is, in short, a revelation. That a dish could be so transformative both in its physical components—cheese shifting from solid to molten, bread easing from soft to crunchy, dried noodles submitting to their true nature in the presence of heat—and in the mind of its taster is proof that macaroni and cheese is far more than just something to eat. It is an experience.

I’ve learned that it is also a blank canvas. Cheese and noodles are its foundation, but the unlimited world of ingredients beyond that foundation allows for nearly infinite variations on the main theme. The fifty recipes in this book represent that notion, but I will be the first to tell you that there are innumerable options beyond what’s here when it comes to spiffing up the basic mac & cheese template.

Not that it needs spiffing up, mind you. Clearly my own first experience with macaroni and cheese proved that even the basic can be nothing short of transcendent. But so too is the addition of something simple like bacon or a less likely ingredient like hazelnuts, as you’ll see in the Smokey Blue with Leeks and Hazelnuts recipe. For me, different cheese combinations, vegetables, fruits, olives, and even wine and gin(!) served as inspiration for mac & cheese mix-ins, which is why many recipes in this book, while delicious as is, feature a suggested add-in or two. That means that while the recipe may not be written to include a particular ingredient, it may lend itself to the addition of that ingredient nevertheless.

In case you are concerned that there may be too many choices, rest assured that what I’ve tried to do is create mostly simple variations. Macaroni and cheese shouldn’t be complicated. It should be fun, and the work you go through to make it should be amply rewarded with the flavor combinations that result.

I’ve also made things easier by designing some recipes for the stovetop and others for the oven. For the stovetop versions, all that’s left to make after boiling the noodles is the sauce. Combine the two and presto, no waiting time. Because stovetop versions usually lack the seductive crunch that oven-cooked versions offer, many of the recipes I’ve devised include ways to achieve that essential texture (cheese crisps, anyone?).

While ease is the norm in this book, I discovered that mac & cheese can also be mighty sophisticated. This theme underlies the Totally Decadent chapter. Those recipes are just what the chapter title implies, and a few of them are more time-consuming than the others. But the results? Totally decadent becomes totally worth it.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve included a few lower-fat recipes too. These are decidedly not low-fat, just lower in fat. I did this not only to provide a reduced-calorie option but also to help ensure a place for mac & cheese in your year-round repertoire. It’s not just hearty fare for cold weather. For that reason, these recipes can all be made quickly on the stovetop. No hot ovens here. And the recipes themselves? They’re so good that you may find yourself making them regardless of their relatively healthy nature. But even if you’re against anything low fat in the dairy world (or anywhere else for that matter), I encourage you to make those recipes. Instead of skim milk, use the reduced-fat or whole milk, and instead of low-fat cheeses use regular ones.

In addition to the recipes, you’ll learn about the best cheeses for mac & cheese and the best method for making bread crumbs (and the breads to make them with). You’ll learn when to add the cheese to make a smooth sauce, and whether mac & cheese can be made ahead (yes!) and how to do it. I’ve also created simple recipes for enticing toppings and add-ins like salsa, guacamole, oven-roasted tomatoes, fried shallots, and more. And I couldn’t resist providing a recipe for the ultimate use of mac & cheese leftovers: fried mac & cheese.

Finally, I must admit that this is the first book I’ve ever written in which I’ve included Velveeta. My raison d’être is to promote primarily American artisan cheeses. So why the inclusion? Simply because I discovered that whenever I had the chance to eat Kevin’s Mac & Cheese, I found it totally compelling. I learned only later that the key ingredient is, yes, Velveeta. Then, as I queried people about their favorite childhood mac & cheese, the preponderance of people answered that it was always one made with Velveeta. They loved how it melted and how it created the proper cheesiness. Indeed it does.

I didn’t think I’d ever have an experience quite like my first mac & cheese–making one, figuring there’s nothing like the first time. But having created hundreds of mac & cheese dishes since, I now know that because of its inherent versatility, making macaroni and cheese is like doing it for the first time every time.





mac & cheese fun facts


Pasta and cheese recipes, precursors to today’s macaroni and cheese, can be traced back as early as medieval times.

Thomas Jefferson’s cousin Mary Randolph is credited with being the first American to memorialize mac & cheese in a cookbook. The year: 1824. The book: The Virginia Cookbook. No macaroni? She recommended soaking crackers in milk until soft to make what she called “mock macaroni.”

Despite rumors to the contrary, Thomas Jefferson was not the first person to bring macaroni to the New World, even though he wrote about his passion for pasta fairly extensively. He probably helped popularize it, though, by serving it with cheese at a state dinner in 1802. It may have been macaroni pie rather than mac & cheese as we know it.

Macaroni pie is a mixture of noodles, milk, eggs, cheese, and spices poured into a pie plate and baked. In the Caribbean, where it is most popular, it is eaten as Sunday supper and at weddings, parties, and picnics.

Kraft Foods introduced boxed macaroni and cheese in 1937. The rest, as they say, is history.

Americans love their mac & cheese. In any given three-month period, approximately one-third of the United States population will eat macaroni and cheese at least once. About half of all children in the U.S. will eat mac and cheese during that time period.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest mac & cheese ever made was prepared on September 23, 2010. Cabot Creamery Cooperative of Vermont teamed up with Louisiana chef and celebrity John Folse to make the Cabot cheddar creation. They gathered in Fulton Square in New Orleans, where they shattered the previous record of 440 pounds. Their creation: 2,489 pounds.

July 14 is Macaroni and Cheese Day in the United States.

Crayola created a Macaroni and Cheese color crayon in 1993. It still exists today.

The most popular cheese used to make macaroni and cheese is cheddar.





achieving mac & cheese perfection


You’d think that a dish with just noodles and cheese would be pretty simple. And while it isn’t exactly complicated, it’s helpful to know a few things to ensure great results every time. Here are the essentials:

It’s the cheese

Milk matters

Pasta (size) matters

Salted water, yes!

Follow the bread crumbs

Butter, salted, please

Getting saucy

Plan (and make) ahead

Wait, wait





cheese, please


Needless to say, the significance of the role of cheese in a mac & cheese cannot be underestimated. Quite simply, the cheese is the key to greatness. Fortunately, almost every cheese lends itself to a great mac & cheese in some way or another. A creamy cheese like Brie becomes pure seduction when it’s part of a mac & cheese. (Just remove the rind before using.) A hard cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano won’t melt, but its cheesy crunch on top of a mac & cheese is legendary. A fresh goat cheese is not only creamy, but it also serves as the tangy yin to the casserole’s rich yang. And basically anything you would put in a grilled cheese sandwich or use in fondue is an excellent candidate for mac & cheese. The important thing is that if it’s a firm cheese, you must take the time to grate it. Slices of cheese just won’t do. You’ll more likely end up with cheese clumps instead of a smooth sauce.





nonfat, low fat, reduced fat—oh help!


Sometimes options are good, and other times they’re simply confusing. When it comes to today’s milk choices, it’s a bit of both. It’s nice to have choices, but how do you decide which to use when it comes to mac & cheese? The bottom line is this: Go for the fullest-fat choices that your waistline (and/or conscience) will allow. Almost all of the recipes in this book call for a combination of milk and cream, but the type of milk you use is up to you. More on this further here.





small is good


Just as there are infinite mac & cheese combinations, so too is there a seemingly infinite number of pasta shapes and sizes. But just because there are so many choices doesn’t mean they’re all good for mac & cheese. Quite the opposite. Large-size pasta is almost always a poor choice for a true mac & cheese. That’s because the focus becomes the pasta, not the cheese or the other ingredients that may be in the sauce. Also, you want pasta that will attract all that cheesy goodness, not repel it. Sometimes the larger pasta shapes insist on their independence and keep the cheese sauce at bay. That pretty much defeats the purpose of mac & cheese and instead makes it simply “pasta with cheese.”





salt the water, not the pasta


If you’ve ever made pasta in unsalted water and tasted it side by side with pasta that’s been made in salted water, you’ll instantly understand the difference. Pasta that’s been cooked in unsalted water is utterly tasteless. Salting after the fact just won’t do, which is why every recipe in this book asks you to put salt—lots of it—in the pasta water before cooking the pasta.





(bread) variety is the spice of life


Making a good mac & cheese isn’t just about what’s in it—it’s also about what’s on it. That’s why the bread crumbs you use are just as important as the casserole they’re crowning. Quite frankly, purchased bread crumbs are a bit like sawdust, so I strongly encourage you to make your own. Not only will your homemade ones be superior but you will also use up leftover bread. The main advantage, though, is that you’ll be able to achieve a coarse, rustic texture, which is key to a spectacular mac & cheese.





salty versus sweet (butter, that is)


Even though there’s plenty of salt in mac & cheese, that doesn’t obviate the need for salted butter. Think of it as one of the building blocks in the perfect mac & cheese. ’Nuff said.





stir it up


It’s easy to be impatient with mac & cheese. Who doesn’t want that cheesy goodness right now? But as with all good things, it’s about patience. In mac & cheese terms, this means getting the sauce to the right consistency before going on to the next step. That right consistency is pretty much like cake batter. You want it thick but pourable, which you achieve by stirring over a relatively low heat and waiting. It will tell you when it’s ready, even if that moment comes well after you are.





make it easy, make it ahead


Although there are a few steps to making mac & cheese, luckily any or all of those steps can often be done ahead for the oven-cooked versions. Unfortunately, there are fewer make-ahead options for the stovetop versions, but even elements of those can be done in advance.

For both versions, the cheese sauce can be made, covered with a layer of plastic wrap set against the surface of the sauce, and refrigerated overnight. Likewise, the cheeses can be grated ahead and stored either in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag and refrigerated.

For the oven-cooked versions, the whole kit and caboodle can be prepped and assembled ahead. Just cool the casserole before refrigerating and don’t top with the bread crumbs or other toppings until you’re ready to bake it.





did i say patience?


Waiting to eat anything with melted cheese is an exercise in sheer torture. Who wants to wait to dig into all that gooey goodness? But wait you must for maximum pleasure. Although most of the recipes in this book advise waiting 15 minutes before serving, the truth is that the finished dishes can sit for a whole lot longer and not only retain their heat but also develop flavor as they cool. The additional benefit to this is that it makes mac & cheese the ideal dish for company. No last-minute hustle, and all the enjoyment of good food and friends.





GOOD-TO-KNOW MEASUREMENTS


8 ounces dried pasta equals about 2 cups.

All but the Party Time recipes will serve 6 people, and all but the Mushroom, Bacon, and Eggs recipe can be doubled and put in a 9 by 13-inch pan to serve a larger crowd.

The Party Time recipes will serve 12 to 16 people.

Serving just one or two people? Cut the recipes calling for an 8-inch square (1½-quart) pan in half and cook them in a 4 by 8-inch loaf pan. It works perfectly. Likewise, you can cut the recipes in half for the stovetop versions.

Six 8-ounce ramekins is the equivalent of one 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish. Likewise, eight 6-ounce ramekins will yield the same amount, with a smaller portion size but more portions. This is a good size for a side dish.

“Coarsely grated” means shreds of cheese that are about ¼ inch in diameter. This is the same as the large holes of a box grater.

“Finely grated” means tiny shreds of cheese about the size of a thin piece of string, not pulverized cheese crumbs.

3 ounces coarsely grated cheese equals about 3 cups.

2 ounces finely grated cheese equals about 2 cups.

4 ounces crumbled soft cheese, such as goat or blue cheese, is approximately ¾ cup

4 sandwich-size slices of bread equals 2 cups coarse bread crumbs.

One 1-pound loaf of bread equals 7½ cups coarse bread crumbs.





say cheese


So now that you know the fundamentals, it’s time to put them into practice. Because mac & cheese is all about melted goodness, it’s essential to use cheeses that submit to their full glory when exposed to heat. In other words, use good melters! But those aren’t the only cheeses you can use to make great mac & cheese. Every cheese has its purpose. The following is a list of styles of cheese and how to use them for mac & cheese.





easiest-to-find melting cheeses


Asiago (fresh, not aged; often referred to as “fresco”)

Cheddar

Colby

Colby-Jack

Fontina (Danish)

Gouda

Gruyère

Havarti

Monterey Jack

Mozzarella

Muenster

Port-Salut

Provolone (mild or medium, not sharp or extra-sharp)

Swiss (including Jarslberg)

Velveeta (I know, I know—it’s not cheese)





best-tasting/harder-to-find melting cheeses


Equally good melters, but fuller in flavor. Although not available everywhere, these cheeses can usually be found at specialty grocery stores and, in many cases, local supermarkets and club stores. It’s worth going the extra mile to find them.

Appenzeller

Bel Paese

Burrata

Cheshire

Comté

Crescenza

Dubliner

Emmentaler

Flagship

Fontina (Italian)

Gloucester

Gruyère (cave-aged)

Mahón

Manchego (sheep’s milk cheese; not aged or “curado”)

Midnight Moon (goat gouda)

Ossau-Iraty (sheep’s milk cheese)

Parrano

Pecorino (fresh, not aged; often referred to as “fresco”)

Petit Basque (sheep’s milk cheese)

Pleasant Ridge Reserve

Point Reyes Toma

Raclette

Wensleydale





great and grate


These cheeses lend their signature saltiness when mixed with other cheeses in the mac & cheese–making process and their signature crunch and toasty flavors when mixed with bread crumbs for the topping or just sprinkled on top on their own.

Asiago (aged)

Coach Farm Grating Stick

Dry Jack

Gouda (extra-aged)

Grana Padano

Mimolette (vieille or aged)

Parmigiano-Reggiano

Pecorino (aged)

Piave vecchio

Ricotta Salata

SarVecchio





creamy, not stretchy


These will add richness, sumptuousness, and just plain goodness to your mac & cheese, but don’t ask them to stretch for you. Cheese calisthenics just aren’t their thing.

Blue cheese (all)

Brie

Camembert

Epoisses

Explorateur

Fresh goat cheese (also known as chèvre)

Fromage blanc

Fromager d’ Affinois

La Tur

Mascarpone

Mt. Tam

Ricotta

Robiola

Saint-André

Saint Marcellin

Taleggio





don’t ask them to melt, but . . .


These cheeses are in the small category of cheeses that don’t melt, though they do soften. What they do is add great texture and in the case of the saltier cheeses, flavor too. Sprinkle these on top of a mac & cheese or mix them in.

Feta

Halloumi

Paneer

Queso blanco





pasta primer


For the most part, macaroni and cheese is best made with smaller-size pasta. This allows the cheese sauce to play the starring role. If the pasta is too large, it will dominate. Simple as that. However, there are a few recipes here where I felt the larger-size pasta was a good foil for the particular sauce.

You also don’t want to choose thin, long pasta shapes like spaghetti or fettuccine either. That’s a different animal altogether, and while yes, you could break spaghetti into small pieces and use it that way, I don’t recommend it. Pasta that’s too delicate will make the cheese sauce seem heavy and clunky.

Judging by what’s on the pasta shelf these days, it seems as though mini pasta shapes are a growing segment. It had never occurred to me to use these for anything, but when I experimented with them for mac & cheese, I loved the results.

Although every store seems to carry different shapes of pasta, what follows is a list of the most commonly found ones (and their appropriate substitutes) that are best for mac & cheese.

Cavatelli (or medium shell pasta or penne)

Elbow macaroni, small (or mini farfalle or small shell pasta)

Elbow macaroni, large (for recipes with hearty and/or heavy ingredients; or large shell pasta, penne, or regular farfalle)

Farfalle, mini (also called bow tie, but not farfellini; or use small elbow or small shell pasta)

Farfalle, regular (also called bow tie; or use cavatelli, penne, or large elbow macaroni)

Fusilli (or rotini or strozzapreti)

Gnocchetti (or cavatelli, orecchiette, or medium shell pasta)

Orecchiette (or medium shell pasta, gnocchetti, or cavatelli)

Penne, mini (or pennette, mezze penne, or mini farfalle)

Penne, regular (or cavatelli, large elbow macaroni, or farfalle)

Radiatore (or fusilli or rotini)

Rotelle, mini (or mini farfalle or small shell pasta)

Rotini (or fusilli)

Shell pasta, small (also called conchiglie; or use small elbow macaroni, mini farfalle)

Shell pasta, medium (also called conchiglie; or use orecchiette, large elbow macaroni, or farfalle)

Strozzapreti (or gemelli, penne, or fusilli)





turning bread into crumbs


Although a food processor is the easiest way to make your own bread crumbs, it’s not the only way. If you are using a food processor, then simply put four sandwich-size slices of bread, crusts removed (optional), into the work bowl and whirl away. You’ll end up with 2 cups crumbs, which is what you’ll need for the 1½-quart pan that’s specified in almost all of the recipes in this book. (For the Party Time recipes, you will need double that amount.) If you don’t have a food processor, then you’re best off letting your bread get stale by tearing it into pieces, putting it on a baking sheet, and leaving it out overnight. Once it’s dry, you can put it in a resealable plastic bag and run a rolling pin or heavy can over it to crush the bread into crumbs. The more rustic, the better, so don’t worry if the crumbs aren’t uniform.

If you don’t have all night to wait, then put the torn-up pieces of bread in a very low oven for 20 to 30 minutes. You don’t want to toast the bread; you just want to dry it out.

Finally, if all else fails, then yes, you can toast the bread. Just do so as lightly as possible—long enough to dry it out but not so long that it darkens too much. Remember, these crumbs are going to get baked on top of the macaroni and cheese, so if you start with bread that’s too toasted, it will likely burn once it’s cooked again. Let the toasted bread cool and then crush away.





milk and cream: shades of difference


It takes a dairy dictionary to navigate the milk section of the grocery store these days. Milk comes in four different concentrations of milk fat—whole, reduced fat, low fat, and nonfat (also called skim). Cream comes in at least three different forms, not counting half-and-half. How does this pertain to mac & cheese? Two words: the sauce. First, a few definitions:





milk


Whole milk = 3.25% milk fat

Reduced fat = 2% milk fat

Low fat = 1% milk fat

Nonfat = no milk fat





cream


Heavy cream = no less than 36% milk fat (the best for mac & cheese)

Whipping cream = at least 30% milk fat and less than 36%

Light cream = at least 18% milk fat and less than 30%

Half-and-half = at least 10.5% milk fat and less than 18%



For the purposes of the recipes in this book (other than those in the Lighten Up, Cool Down chapter), I decided that the best combination of dairy to use is reduced-fat milk and heavy cream. I like how the lighter milk interplays with the cream to create a perfect sauce weight. Whole milk and cream play well together too. The fact is, you can use pretty much any combination of milks that you like, or just one milk. Just be sure that cream of some type plays at least a small role for maximum flavor and texture as well as cooking ease. Cream binds the ingredients together and makes a silkier sauce far more efficiently than milk does on its own. However, using all cream makes a mac & cheese a bit leaden, so I’d avoid that.





the lighter the dairy, the slower the cooking


In the Lighten Up, Cool Down chapter, the predominant milks in the recipes are reduced and low fat, and the cheeses called for are mostly reduced fat. That combination can make for tricky sauce making because low- and reduced-fat cheeses can clump. The way to avoid that is to be sure to cook the sauce over a medium-low heat and let it thicken slowly. Once the pasta is added, it should all hold together. If it does not, then add a little flour, 1 teaspoon at a time (you don’t want it to taste floury), while stirring continuously. This should help your cheese loosen up and become creamy once again.





getting saucy


While the majority of the recipes in this book call for making a simple white sauce, that is not the only way to make mac & cheese. In fact, many people quibble with the notion, saying that mac & cheese is supposed to be as basic as possible—just the macaroni, cheese, and a little milk to hold it together. In my opinion, that results in toasted cheese noodles that are the flavor and textural equivalent of paper. Therefore, I don’t recommend it. However, there are ingredients you can use to bind a mac & cheese without going through the sauce-making rigmarole. The added benefit to this method is that you don’t need flour, which should come as good news to the gluten-free crowd. Here’s how you do it:



For an 8-inch square (1½-quart) dish: Whisk 2 cups milk, 1 cup heavy cream, and 2 eggs in a large bowl. Add 2 cups grated cheese and 8 ounces cooked pasta. Pour into a buttered pan. Top with 1 cup grated cheese, and you’re good to go. Cook as directed for the Classic Mac & Cheese.





and speaking of gluten-free . . .


A few of the recipes in the book happen to be gluten-free. While the one with “gluten-free” in the recipe title is a dead giveaway about its content, the others are ones that simply don’t call for flour. These include the Smoky Silky Parsnip, Mushroom, and Espresso Mac & Cheese; Butternut Squash, Gruyère, and Brown Butter Mac & Cheese; and the Truffle Mac & Cheese. You can, of course, adapt almost any of the recipes in the book to be gluten-free by substituting the pasta and bread crumbs with gluten-free products, and using cornstarch, amaranth flour, or gluten-free all-purpose flour in place of the wheat flour.





dishing


One of the great things about mac & cheese is that you can change the vessel in which you cook it to create very different presentations.

Want individual servings? Put the makings for the oven-baked Classic Mac & Cheese (or almost any mac & cheese in this book except where otherwise instructed) into individual ramekins or other small baking dishes and cook according to the directions for the pan variety. The only difference is that you may want to check whether they’re done about 5 minutes sooner because their smaller size may make for a quicker cooking time.

For muffin-size mac & cheese, put the makings for the Classic Mac & Cheese (or almost any of the oven-cooked mac & cheese recipes) into four buttered 12-cup muffin pans (or better yet, use nonstick), set them on a rimmed baking sheet, top with the bread crumbs (or specified toppings), and bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.

Want crackling, crusty slices instead? Another option is to cook a half recipe in an 8 by 4-inch loaf pan (or a full recipe in two pans). Let it cool, then refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Cut the loaf into ¾-inch-thick slices. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the foam subsides, add enough slices to fit comfortably in the pan without touching. (You may need to do this in batches.) Cook undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the undersides are a deep golden brown. Flip the slices and lower the heat to medium. Cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve right away. (Note this method works best with the simplest macs & cheese. Too many additional ingredients may cause the slabs to fall apart.)





the next day


Few dishes lend themselves to reheating as well as mac & cheese does, or at least the oven-cooked versions. The stovetop ones can also be reheated, but with slightly less success because the butter or oil in the sauce can separate. You may be able to remedy this, though (see here).

The important question for many people is, can you microwave? The answer is a qualified “yes.” If you do it at a low power level (20 percent) for 1 minute for every cup of mac & cheese, you should be able to avoid making your pasta tough. The cooking time will vary depending on your microwave’s power.

Here’s how to make your leftovers new again:



To reheat an oven-cooked casserole, preheat the oven to 300˚F. Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the sauce is bubbling and the casserole is heated through. The amount of time it takes to heat through will vary depending on the quantity you’re reheating and whether you’re starting with a chilled dish or one that’s at room temperature. Either way, it shouldn’t take more than about 15 minutes or so.



To reheat a stovetop mac & cheese, put it in a saucepan set over medium-low heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally and making sure it doesn’t start to bubble or boil. Cook until heated through, about 15 minutes (depending on the quantity). If the butter (or oil) separates, make a small slurry by mixing equal parts cornstarch and water. Add the slurry by the teaspoon until the mixture starts to come together again. After that, dig in!





CHAPTER 1


classic (and almost classic)

Classic Mac & Cheese

Classic Mac & Cheese (Stovetop Version)

Gluten-Free Classic Mac & Cheese

Wisconsin Cheese, Brats, and Onion Mac & Cheese

Kevin’s Mac & Cheese (aka Velveeta, Baby!)

Cheddar, Bacon, Roasted Tomato, and Tabasco Mac & Cheese

Fried Mac & Cheese Squares





classic mac & cheese Serves 6

This is a classic mac & cheese in every way but it includes onion. I like the sweetness the onions add, but if you prefer, simply leave them out. The dish will likely make it into your regular mac & cheese repertoire either way.



1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces small elbow macaroni

5 tablespoons salted butter

2 cups coarse, fresh bread crumbs (preferably homemade)

2 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (about 1cup)

¾ cup finely diced yellow onion (about ½ medium onion)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

1 cup heavy cream

6 ounces medium or aged cheddar cheese, preferably orange,

coarsely grated (2 cups)

6 ounces Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated (2 cups)

½ teaspoon mustard powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

⅛ teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or six 8-ounce ramekins). Set aside.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 4 to 6 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

While the pasta is cooking, in a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until mixed well. Set aside.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until the onion is coated with the flour, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture is just beginning to thicken and bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add the Gruyère, cheddar, mustard powder, cayenne, and nutmeg and cook until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Add the pasta and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of cheddar and top with the bread crumb mixture. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.





Add-Ins


Bacon: Cook 6 to 8 slices bacon. Crumble and add after the cheeses have been added and the sauce is smooth, and/or

Oven-roasted tomatoes: Add after the cheeses have been added and the sauce is smooth, and/or

Arugula: Add 6 cups, a handful at a time, after the cheeses have been added and the sauce is smooth, and/or

Roasted red peppers: Add ¾ cup coarsely chopped peppers from a jar along with the pasta.




classic mac & cheese (stovetop version) Serves 6

	 Because this version of the classic isn’t baked, it’s a bit creamier than the oven-cooked one here. and unlike its baked counterpart, it doesn’t have the same cheesy crust. It’s still plenty cheesy and crunchy, though, because of the Parmesan bread crumbs. Plus, it’s especially great to make when you can’t bear to wait 45 minutes for the oven version to bake and cool.



1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces small elbow macaroni

5 tablespoons salted butter

2 cups coarse, fresh bread crumbs (preferably homemade)

1 ounce Parmigiano-reggiano or Pecorino romano cheese, finely grated (about ½ cup)

¾ cup finely diced yellow onion (about ½ medium onion)

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

½ cup heavy cream

6 ounces gruyère cheese, coarsely grated (2 cups)

6 ounces cheddar cheese, preferably orange, coarsely grated (2 cups)

½ teaspoon mustard powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

⅛ teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 4 to 6 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano and cook, stirring constantly, until the crumbs are a deep golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully because they can burn easily. The crumbs will continue to crisp as they cool. Remove immediately from the heat and set aside. (Note: These can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored at room temperature in an airtight container.)

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until the onion is coated with the flour, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture is just beginning to thicken and bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add the Gruyère, cheddar, mustard powder, cayenne, and nutmeg and cook until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens. Add the pasta and stir to combine.

Ladle the mixture into individual bowls and sprinkle with the toasted bread crumbs. Serve right away.





Add-Ins


Salami: Cut a 4-inch piece of your favorite salami into ½-inch pieces. Add to the cheese sauce along with the pasta, and/or

Hot sauce: Add 2 tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce along with the cheese, and/or

Italian parsley: Add ¾ cup coarsely chopped parsley leaves along with the pasta.




gluten-free classic mac & cheese Serves 6

This recipe really doesn’t differ much from the Classic Mac & Cheese here. Naturally, the pasta is gluten-free, and instead of flour, the thickener is cornstarch. There are other thickeners you can use instead, including gluten-free all-purpose flour or amaranth flour. As for pasta choices, there’s rice-based pasta, quinoa pasta, and myriad others. For that, you’re best off experimenting and finding the one you like the most. I think the quinoa variety works particularly well and acts the most like the flour-based pastas.



1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces gluten-free small elbow macaroni

4 tablespoons salted butter, plus more for baking dish

2 cups gluten-free, coarse, fresh bread crumbs (preferably homemade)

1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (about ½ cup)

¾ cup finely chopped yellow onion (about ½ medium onion)

¼ cup cornstarch

2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

1 cup heavy cream

6 ounces Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)

6 ounces cheddar cheese, preferably orange, coarsely grated (2 cups)

½ teaspoon mustard powder

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or six 8-ounce ramekins). Set aside.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 8 to 10 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano and cook, stirring constantly, until the crumbs are a deep golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully, because they can burn easily. The crumbs will continue to crisp as they cool. Remove immediately from the heat and set aside. (Note: These can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored at room temperature in an airtight container.)

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the cornstarch and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture is just beginning to thicken and bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add the Gruyère, 1½ cups cheddar, mustard powder, and cayenne and cook until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Add the pasta, and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared dish. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup cheddar and top with the bread crumb mixture. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

NOTE: For a stovetop version of this recipe, see here. Just remember to substitute cornstarch for the flour and gluten-free pasta and bread crumbs for the wheat pasta and bread.





Add-Ins


Bacon: Cook 6 slices bacon. Crumble and add after the cheeses have been added and the sauce is smooth, and/or

Oven-roasted tomatoes: Add after the cheeses have been added and the sauce is smooth, and/or

Arugula: Add 6 cups, a handful at a time, after the cheeses have been added and the sauce is smooth, and/or

Roasted red peppers: Add ¾ cup coarsely chopped peppers from a jar along with the pasta.





wisconsin cheese, brats, and onion mac & cheese Serves 6

Although popular at one time, Limburger cheese is now made by just one producer in the United States, Myron Olson of Chalet Cheese Cooperative. When it’s at its peak, it is not a cheese for the faint of heart. But Wisconsinites love it, and they especially love to put it on a sandwich of brown bread, mustard, and raw onion. This mac & cheese is a version of that, except that it also has another Dairy State favorite in it as well—bratwurst. If you can’t find Limburger or brick cheese (another Wisconsin original), then use Fontina, Havarti, or your favorite semisoft flavorful cheese.



1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

8 ounces small elbow macaroni

4 slices dark rye bread, crusts removed (or use marble rye or pumpernickel)

5 tablespoons salted butter

1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped (about 1½ cups)

4 fully cooked 3-ounce bratwursts, cut into ¼-inch pieces (or use bockwurst or boudin blanc)

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

1 cup heavy cream

10 ounces Colby cheese, coarsely grated (about 3 cups)

6 ounces Limburger cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes (or use aged brick, Havarti, or Fontina)

2 tablespoons sweet-hot or spicy brown mustard, plus more for serving

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ small red onion, sliced paper-thin (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or six 8-ounce ramekins). Set aside.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, about 4 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

Put the bread slices in a food processor and process until the crumbs are coarse. Set aside. If you don’t have a food processor, then toast the bread ever so lightly, just to dry it out. Put the bread in a resealable plastic bag and use a rolling pin or heavy can to crush the bread into crumbs.

In a medium nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Wipe out the skillet.

Using the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and heated through, 8 to 10 minutes. Add black pepper to taste. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Set aside.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add 2 cups of the Colby and Limburger and cook until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, just continue cooking until it thickens. Add the pasta, onion, sausage mixture, mustard, and cayenne and stir just until incorporated. Pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup Colby and top with the bread crumbs.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until the mixture is brown and bubbly. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. When ready to serve, garnish with the sliced onion, if desired. Serve with extra mustard alongside.




kevin’s mac & cheese (aka Velveeta, Baby!) Serves 6

My dear friend Kevin Donahue has brought this version of mac & cheese to our friend Faye’s New Year’s Eve party for more years than he can count. It’s always the crowd favorite, probably because it follows in the spirit of the evening: indulgent. Or maybe it’s because there’s a touch of wine in the sauce. Either way, it may be old-fashioned (it calls for Velveeta, after all), but it provides plenty of inspiration for the inevitable resolutions that follow the next day. Note that the assembled casserole needs to rest for about an hour (and up to one day) before baking, so plan accordingly.



1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces elbow macaroni

½ cup sour cream

4 tablespoons salted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

8 ounces Velveeta, cut into 1-inch cubes

¼ cup white wine

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon mustard powder

⅛ teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or six 8-ounce ramekins). Set aside.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, about 4 minutes, and drain. Place the pasta back in the pot and add the sour cream. Mix until the pasta is well coated. Spoon the pasta into the prepared dish. Rinse and dry the pot, but there is no need to wash it thoroughly.

Using the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and stir until the mixture has thickened and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add the Velveeta, wine, cayenne, mustard powder, nutmeg, and black pepper and cook until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Pour over the pasta in the baking dish. Let the casserole sit for at least 1 hour before baking to allow the pasta to absorb some of the liquid and to allow the flavors to meld. (Note: You can make this up to this point 1 day ahead and refrigerate it. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.)

While the casserole is resting, preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.





cheddar, bacon, roasted tomato, and tabasco mac & cheese Serves 6

You can surmise from the word Tabasco in the recipe title that this is a spicy one. A good one, too. Bacon, cheddar, hot sauce—how could it be better? Here’s how: Poach a few eggs and perch them on top of each helping of the mac & cheese. The creamy yolk drizzles down into the pasta to make a sumptuous, spicy, delectable meal.





oven-roasted tomatoes


1 pint cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper





mac & cheese


1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

8 ounces small elbow macaroni or small conchiglie (shell) pasta

4 tablespoons salted butter

2 cups coarse, fresh bread crumbs (preferably homemade)

6 slices bacon

¾ cup coarsely chopped red onion (about ½ large onion)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

12 ounces cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 4 cups)

2½ teaspoons Tabasco sauce, plus more for serving (or use your favorite hot sauce)

½ teaspoon mustard powder

For the tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Put the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, salt, and black pepper to taste. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are slightly shriveled. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 375˚F.

For the mac & cheese: Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or eight 6-ounce shallow baking dishes). Set aside.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 4 to 6 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

In a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the bread crumbs and cook just until coated and slightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer the crumbs to a small bowl. Wipe out the skillet.

Using the same skillet, cook the bacon until brown and crisp. Drain on a paper towel–lined plate, reserving 1 tablespoon of the fat in the skillet. When cool, crumble the bacon into bite-size pieces.

In the same skillet, cook the onion in the bacon fat over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add 2½ cups of the cheddar, the Tabasco, and mustard powder and stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens. Turn off the heat and add the pasta, bacon, and tomatoes, stirring gently to combine. You want to keep the tomatoes intact as best as possible. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1½ cups cheddar and top with the bread crumbs.

Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Serve with extra hot sauce alongside.





Add-Ins


6 eggs: Only if using ramekins, fill the ramekins to within 1 inch of the rim. After the mac & cheese has baked for 20 minutes, remove them from the oven and break an egg into each of the dishes. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper and cook for 10 minutes more, or until the whites have set, or

6 poached eggs: Top each serving with a poached egg. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper and drizzle with a little hot sauce.





fried mac & cheese squares

Makes about 10 dozen 1-inch squares

There’s only one thing better than mac & cheese: fried mac & cheese. Crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, it’s a dreamy textural sensation, not to mention a flavor-packed one. Best of all, it’s a spectacular use of leftover oven-cooked mac & cheese (stovetop mac & cheese won’t work here).

The measurements for fried mac & cheese are entirely dependent on how much you have left over. This recipe is enough for a full 8-inch square pan. That’s for those of you who are making mac & cheese for the sole purpose of turning it into its fried counterpart.



1 (8-inch square) oven-cooked Classic Mac & Cheese or Buffalo Chicken and Crispy Skin Mac & Cheese, chilled for 24 to 48 hours

1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups coarse, fresh bread crumbs (preferably homemade)

1½ cups canola, vegetable, or peanut oil, plus more as needed

Frank’s RedHot Sauce, for serving

Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and line another one with paper towels.

Cut the mac & cheese into large pieces, then cut each piece into 1-inch squares.

Place the flour, salt, and cayenne in a shallow bowl, and whisk to combine. Place the eggs in another shallow bowl, and put the bread crumbs into a third bowl.

Dip a mac & cheese square into the flour mixture. Tap off excess flour, then dip into the egg. Roll in the bread crumbs and set on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining mac & cheese squares.

Heat the oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. The oil is hot enough when it looks wavy. Test with one mac & cheese square. It should sizzle and begin to turn brown on the underside in about 30 seconds.

To cook, add as many squares as will comfortably fit in the pan without crowding. Using tongs, turn the squares just as they begin to brown on the undersides. Keep turning so that all sides are browned. Transfer to the paper towel–lined baking sheet as they’re done. Serve right away or place the batch in the oven to keep warm. Continue cooking the remaining squares.

Serve with Frank’s RedHot Sauce alongside.





CHAPTER 2


mostly cheese

Spanish Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese Meets Grilled Cheese (The Ultimate Comfort Food)

French Cheese and Savoy Cabbage Mac & Cheese

Sonoma Mac & Cheese

Smokey Blue with Leeks and Hazelnuts Mac & Cheese

Garlicky Italian Mac & Cheese




spanish mac & cheese Serves 6

Like Spain itself, this dish is very vibrant. Smoked paprika, piquillo peppers, and extra-crunchy Marcona almonds conspire to create flamenco in your mouth, and the iconic sheep’s milk cheese called manchego brings it all together. If you can’t find piquillo peppers, use roasted red peppers instead.



1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

8 ounces medium shell pasta (or use orecchiette)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2½ cups whole or reduced-fat milk

½ cup heavy cream

12 ounces manchego cheese, coarsely grated (about 4 cups)

1 teaspoon hot or sweet (“dulce”) smoked paprika (pimentón)

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¾ cup green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

½ cup Spanish piquillo peppers, coarsely chopped (or use roasted red peppers)

½ cup Marcona almonds, coarsely chopped (or use skinned almonds, toasted)

Freshly ground black pepper

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 8 to 10 minutes, and drain.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft but not brown, about 2 minutes. Cook, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and the oil’s aroma is released. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add the cheese, paprika, and cayenne and cook until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens. Add the pasta, olives, and peppers and stir to combine.

To serve, ladle the mac & cheese into bowls and scatter the almonds on top. Sprinkle each with a couple of twists of black pepper and serve.





Add-Ins


Spanish chorizo: Slice 6 ounces chorizo ¼ inch thick and add along with the pasta, or

Serrano ham: Cut 2 ounces thinly sliced serrano ham into bite-size pieces and add along with the pasta.





mac & cheese meets grilled cheese (the ultimate comfort food) Serves 8

Imagine using a gooey, cheesy sandwich to scoop up its fork-friendly kindred spirit, mac & cheese. This recipe represents the best of the two in one bowl. All you need to do is make sure you get your sandwich nicely crisped in order to create the perfect textural contrast with the creamy macaroni. Can you spell comfort?





mac & cheese


1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces small elbow macaroni, about 2 cups

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2½ cups whole milk

12 ounces cheddar cheese, preferably orange, coarsely grated (about 4 cups)

6 ounces Fontina cheese (preferably Italian), coarsely grated

½ cup mascarpone cheese





sandwiches


2 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

8 sandwich-size slices sourdough bread

8 ounces orange cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2½ cups)

Preheat the oven to 300˚F.

To make the pasta: Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 4 to 6 minutes, and drain.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add the cheddar, the Fontina, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and the cayenne, and cook until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens. Add the pasta and mascarpone, and stir to combine. Cover and keep on the stovetop on the lowest heat setting, stirring once or twice while you prepare the sandwiches.

To make the sandwiches: In a small bowl, mix the butter with the cayenne. Butter one side of each slice of bread with the butter mixture. Turn 4 slices of bread, buttered side down, on your work surface. Distribute the cheddar on the bread and top with the remaining bread slices, buttered side up.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Put the sandwiches into the pan, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown. Turn the sandwiches, pressing each one firmly with a spatula to flatten slightly. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, until the undersides are well browned. Turn the sandwiches once more, press firmly with the spatula again, cook for 1 minute, and remove from the pan.

Turn the heat to medium under the mac & cheese just to warm it through.

To serve, cut each grilled cheese sandwich into 4 triangles. Ladle the mac & cheese into bowls and insert 2 grilled cheese triangles on the edge of each bowl. Serve right away.





Add-Ins


Tomatoes: Top the cheese in each sandwich with a lightly salted center-cut tomato slice before cooking, or

Oven-roasted tomatoes: Add to the mac & cheese along with the pasta, and/or

Smoked paprika: Replace the cayenne pepper in the sandwich, and/or

Pancetta: Cut a 4-ounce piece of pancetta into 1-inch long and ¼-inch wide “sticks” or batons ¼-inch long, and cook in a skillet until crisp. Drain and add to the mac & cheese along with the pasta.




french cheese and savoy cabbage mac & cheese Serves 6

I love to use savoy cabbage in combination with cheese, especially rich and full-flavored cheeses like the French ones called for here, and any starch, potatoes or pasta. Savoy is not bitter like its cabbage brethren, and it makes for a great textural and flavor contrast to the starch and dairy. Although readily available in most grocery stores these days, if you can’t find savoy, regular green cabbage makes a fine substitute.



1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

8 ounces medium shell pasta (or use orecchiette)

6 tablespoons salted butter

1 small baguette (about 12 inches; or use half a full-size baguette), made into bread crumbs (see here)

1 medium onion (about 8 ounces), coarsely chopped

1 large head savoy cabbage (about 1½ pounds), cored, large stems removed, and coarsely chopped (or use half of a regular green cabbage)

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1½ cups whole or reduced-fat milk

1 cup crème fraîche

12 ounces Comté cheese, coarsely grated (about 4 cups) (or use Gruyère)

8 ounces double-cream Brie cheese, rind removed and cut into ½-inch chunks (this is easiest to do if the cheese is cold)

4 ounces Roquefort cheese, broken into small chunks (or use other creamy but flavorful blue cheese)

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

⅛ teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or six 8-ounce ramekins). Set aside.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 6 to 8 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

While the pasta is cooking, in a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs. Stir until mixed well. Transfer to a small bowl and wipe out the skillet.

Using the same skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cabbage and cook until the cabbage is tender and wilted, 5 to 7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, crème fraîche, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in 2½ cups of the Comté, Brie, Roquefort, cayenne, and nutmeg and stir until the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Add the pasta and cabbage mixture and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining 1½ cups Comté and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and cook until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.





Add-Ins


Cooked ham: Cut a 4-ounce piece of cooked ham into 1/4-inch pieces. Add along with the pasta and cabbage.




sonoma mac & cheese Serves 6

For those who don’t know, Sonoma County in northern California is unquestionably one of the most beautiful places on earth. It’s home to many of America’s best wineries and has other vast agricultural expanses as well. That’s why many cheese makers have long called it home. That bounty and beauty inspired this recipe. Naturally, I’ve listed substitutes for any hard-to-find cheeses so that you can enjoy this whether or not your cheeses are Sonoma-made.



1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces small shell pasta

4 tablespoons salted butter

2 cups toasted or stale sourdough bread crumbs (preferably homemade)

2 ounces dry Monterey Jack cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup; or use Parmesan)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

1 cup heavy cream

12 ounces Point Reyes Toma cheese, coarsely grated (about 4 cups; or use Monterey Jack)

8 ounces Laura Chenel’s Chèvre (goat cheese; or use your local fresh goat cheese brand), pinched into 1-inch pieces

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

⅛ teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

1 wheel Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese (about 14 ounces), rind removed and cut into 1-inch pieces (this is easiest to do when the cheese is cold; or use another triple-cream cheese such as Marin French Triple Crème Brie, Saint André, or a double-cream Brie)

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or six 8-ounce ramekins). Set aside.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, about 4 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

While the pasta is cooking, in a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs and dry Jack. Stir to combine, and set aside.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add the Toma, goat cheese, cayenne, and nutmeg and stir until the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Add the pasta, and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and distribute the Mt. Tam over the top. Return to the oven and cook for 15 minutes longer, or until the Mt. Tam has softened and the crumbs are golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.





Add-Ins


Rosemary: Add 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary along with the cheeses, and/or

Honey: Add 1 teaspoon along with the cheeses, and/or

Golden raisins: Add ½ cup along with the pasta.





smokey blue with leeks and hazelnuts mac & cheese Serves 6

I created this recipe to showcase one of my favorite American cheeses, Smokey Blue, made by Rogue Creamery in Oregon. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a cheese that’s just like it sounds—a smoked blue cheese. Although it’s become fairly widely available, don’t despair if you can’t find it. Instead, just use your favorite blue cheese and substitute smoked mozzarella or smoked scamorza for the regular mozzarella. The hazelnuts, also primarily an Oregon-grown product, are the crowning glory on this unusual but delicious mac & cheese.



1 tablespoon plus 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt

8 ounces small elbow macaroni

5 tablespoons salted butter

2 cups coarse, fresh bread crumbs (preferably Italian or sourdough)

3 leeks, white part only, sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

12 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated, or chopped if water-packed (about 4 cups; or use smoked mozzarella if using regular blue cheese)

8 ounces smoked blue cheese (such as Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue), crumbled (about 1½ cups; or use regular blue cheese)

¼ teaspoon mustard powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¾ cup hazelnuts (preferably skinned), toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or six 8-ounce shallow baking dishes). Set aside.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, about 4 minutes, and drain.

While the pasta is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet. Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs, stirring to coat. Set aside.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Stir in the milk and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in the mozzarella, half of the blue cheese, the mustard powder, and cayenne and cook until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Add the pasta, and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining blue cheese, followed by the hazelnuts. Top with the bread crumbs. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.





garlicky italian mac & cheese Serves 6

You might think you’re eating fettuccine Alfredo when you taste this, but instead, it’s an ultra-cheesy and garlicky celebration of some of Italy’s best cheeses. But like fettuccine Alfredo, this one is rich. Unlike fettuccine, the pasta in this dish, cavatelli, is short and a little toothsome, making it a wonderful sponge for all the cheesy goodness. If you can’t find it, use small or medium shell pasta instead.



1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces small cavatelli pasta (or use small or medium shell pasta or penne)

¼ cup olive oil

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

2 cups fresh ciabatta bread crumbs (from either a 4-inch square roll or a 4-inch-wide piece from a loaf; no need to remove the crust)

2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2½ cups whole or reduced-fat milk

½ cup heavy cream

6 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated (1½ cups)

4 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, coarsely grated (1½ cups)

4 ounces Taleggio cheese, rind removed and cut roughly into ½-inch pieces (or just double the Fontina)

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

⅛ teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Oil an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or six 8-ounce ramekins). Set aside.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 10 to 12 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until soft but not brown. Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir to combine, and set aside.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add all of the cheeses, the cayenne, and nutmeg and stir until the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Add the pasta, and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish and top with the bread crumb mixture. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.





Add-Ins


Prosciutto: Cut 2 ounces paper-thin slices crosswise into ¼-inch-wide strips. Add along with the pasta and/or

Leeks: Coarsely chop the white parts only of 3 leeks. Sauté in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt. Add along with the pasta, and/or

Sun-dried tomatoes: Boil 2 ounces slivered sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed) along with the pasta during the last 4 minutes of cooking. Add along with the pasta.





CHAPTER 3


eat your veggies

Truffle, Cream, and Mushroom Mac & Cheese

Zesty Kale Two Ways and Fontina Mac & Cheese

Eggplant Parmesan Mac & Cheese

Indian-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower and Spinach Mac & Cheese

Spring Vegetable and Whole-Grain Mac & Cheese

Broccoli, Cheddar, and Crispy Shallot Mac & Cheese




truffle, cream, and mushroom mac & cheese Serves 6

Truffles and mushrooms are kindred cousins, and so truffle-flecked cheese paired with mushrooms makes a perfect mac & cheese. But not everyone has access to truffle cheese. If that’s the case where you live, then use manchego. Or if you can’t find that, use Monterey Jack or even Gruyère. You can also drizzle a few drops of truffle oil on top if you have it. But even if you don’t, the two cheeses in this recipe, one of which is an indulgent triple cream, will likely make this one of your favorite mac and cheese dishes, no matter what.



1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

8 ounces cavatelli pasta (or use penne)

5 tablespoons salted butter

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 pound mixed wild mushrooms (or use cremini mushrooms), stemmed and cut into ½-inch pieces

1½ teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

½ cup heavy cream

12 ounces black truffle cheese (such as Boschetto al Tartufo, Moliterno al Tartufo, or Sottocenere), coarsely grated (about 4 cups; or use pecorino, manchego, Asiago, or Gruyère)

8 ounces triple-cream cheese (such as Saint André, Explorateur, Brillat-Savarin, or triple-crème Brie), rind removed and cut into ½-inch pieces

¼ teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 10 to 12 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

In a medium skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until soft and creamy in texture, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the thyme and a generous amount of salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add the cheeses and nutmeg and stir until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is smooth. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Add the pasta and mushrooms and stir until the mushrooms are warmed through and mixture is combined. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with more black pepper. Serve right away.





zesty kale two ways and fontina mac & cheese Serves 6

Kale seems to have become the vegetable of the moment, which is good news for kale lovers like me. In this mac & cheese, the hearty vegetable appears two ways: mixed into the casserole and also as a crispy topping. Because of this, it almost seems like it’s two different vegetables, which makes this not only delicious but also fun to eat.



1 tablespoon plus 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt

8 ounces cavatelli pasta (or use small shell pasta)

12 ounces curly-leaf kale (about ½ large bunch)

5 tablespoons olive oil

¾ cup coarsely chopped yellow or red onion (about ½ medium onion)

1 medium clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup; or use Parmesan)

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2½ cups whole or reduced-fat milk

½ cup heavy cream

12 ounces Fontina cheese, coarsely grated (about 4 cups)

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Coat the inside of an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or six 8-ounce ramekins) with olive oil. Set aside.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, about 8 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

To prepare the kale, remove the stems. Cut 4 whole leaves into quarters and coarsely chop the rest. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the chopped kale and garlic and cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon of the salt and set aside.

Place the quartered kale leaves in a small bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, half the pecorino, and salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining ¾ teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add 3 cups of the Fontina, the remaining pecorino, the cayenne, and nutmeg and stir until the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Add the pasta and chopped kale mixture, and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining Fontina on top. Distribute the quartered kale leaves over the top. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.





Add-Ins


Dried currants: Soak ½ cup currants in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain and add to the sauté pan with the kale and garlic.




eggplant parmesan mac & cheese Serves 6

I absolutely love fried eggplant, so I’ll use almost any excuse to make it. My love for the vegetable and its signature showcase, eggplant Parmesan, came together to inform this recipe. Time-consuming? A bit. Worth the effort? You bet. To make things simpler, make the tomato sauce ahead of time. Or even easier, simply buy your favorite kind. Note that this dish requires a large cake pan or other 2-quart dish.





chunky tomato sauce


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion (about 6 ounces), coarsely chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces

1 clove garlic, minced

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, hand-crushed and all juices reserved

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper





eggplant


2 large eggs, lightly beaten

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup fine bread crumbs

¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

½ cup vegetable oil

1 small globe eggplant (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick slices





mac & cheese


1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

8 ounces medium shell pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

1 cup heavy cream

12 ounces water-packed mozzarella cheese, drained and coarsely chopped (or if using vacuum-packed, then coarsely grated)

2 ounces Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1 cup)

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

For the tomato sauce: Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and their juices to the pan. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until thickened. The liquidy juices should be nearly gone. The mixture will thicken as it cools. Add the basil and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. (Note: This can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated. Or it can be frozen for up to 1 month.)

For the eggplant: Place the beaten eggs in a shallow bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper.

In another shallow bowl, mix the flour, bread crumbs, Parmesan, salt, and black pepper to taste together. Line a large plate or baking sheet with paper towels.

Heat the oil in a 3-quart skillet over medium-high heat. Dip the eggplant slices into the egg and then into the flour mixture. Place in the oil (you will have to do this in batches) and cook, turning once or twice, until golden brown. Transfer to the paper towel–lined plate to drain.

For the mac & cheese: Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Oil a 2 by 9-inch (2-quart) round cake pan or other 2-quart baking dish or pan. Set aside.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 6 to 8 minutes, and drain.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, heat the oil over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add all but ½ cup of the mozzarella (reserve the rest), ½ cup of the pecorino, and the red pepper flakes. Stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens. Add the pasta, and stir to combine.

To assemble, spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the prepared dish. Lay enough eggplant slices to cover the bottom of the pan in one layer. Pour the pasta mixture over the eggplant. Put the remaining eggplant on the pasta. Spread the remaining tomato sauce over and top with the reserved mozzarella. Sprinkle with the remaining pecorino.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.





Add-Ins


Ground lamb or ground beef: In a medium skillet, cook 1 pound ground lamb or ground beef over medium-high heat. Use a wooden spoon to break it into small pieces and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is no longer pink. Season with salt and black pepper. Add along with the pasta to the cheese sauce. (The addition of lamb makes the dish a bit like the Greek dish moussaka.)





indian-spiced roasted cauliflower and spinach mac & cheese Serves 6

Because cheese isn’t a big part of Indian cuisine, it may seem unusual to find an Indian-spiced dish in a book about macaroni and cheese. But East meets West beautifully here with the garam masala–spiced cauliflower, the two cheeses, and the easy-to-make tomato jam. Luckily the garam masala, a blend of spices, is easily found in grocery stores, and queso blanco or halloumi makes a fine substitute for paneer if necessary. If you don’t want to make tomato jam, then use purchased tomato chutney or jam instead. Coarsely chopped and salted ripe tomatoes, drained of excess moisture, will also do.



1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

8 ounces medium shell pasta

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 teaspoons garam masala

1 small onion, about 6 ounces, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-wide slices

2½ cups bite-size cauliflower florets

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

1 cup heavy cream

12 ounces Havarti cheese, coarsely grated, about 4 cups

6 ounces paneer, cut into ¼-inch pieces (or use queso blanco or halloumi)

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 serrano or green Thai chile, seeded and minced (optional)

6 cups baby spinach leaves (about 5 ounces)

Tomato Jam (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 8 to 9 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

In a medium bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of the butter, 2 teaspoons of the garam masala, and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Add the onion and cauliflower and toss to coat. Transfer the vegetables to a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned around the edges, about 20 minutes.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smells a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add the Havarti, paneer, the remaining 1 teaspoon garam masala, the ginger, and cayenne. Continue to cook until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Add the pasta, cauliflower mixture, and chile, if desired, and stir to combine. Add the spinach in large handfuls, stirring until each handful wilts a little before adding more.

To serve, ladle into bowls and top with a generous spoonful or two of the tomato jam.





tomato jam Makes about 1½ cups


1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2½ tablespoons sugar

Salt to taste

Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. The mixture should bubble ever so slightly but not boil. Cook for about 45 minutes, or until the jam has thickened and most of the liquid has evaporated. Let cool. (You can make this up to 1 week in advance. Store in the refrigerator.)





Add-Ins


Cashews: Sprinkle coarsely chopped roasted cashews over the tomato jam before serving, or

Fried shallots: Sprinkle over the tomato jam before serving.




spring vegetable and whole-grain mac & cheese Serves 6

This dish is the epitome of spring, with its bounty of vegetables and fresh herbs. The goat cheese contributes to the liveliness of the dish, and the Gruyère ties it all together with its legendary melting qualities and nutty flavor. Make sure that you buy sugar snap peas, not snow peas. Then again, if you accidentally get the snow peas, just use ’em. They’ll be good too!



1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

8 ounces whole-grain rotini pasta (or use fusilli)

4 tablespoons salted butter

¾ cup coarsely chopped spring onion (about 2 large onions; or use 1 small yellow or white onion)

8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and quartered

1 cup fresh or frozen peas (no need to defrost if frozen)

6 medium asparagus spears, cut into ½-inch lengths

4 ounces sugar snap peas, strings removed if necessary, halved crosswise

1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon, plus sprigs for garnish

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

½ cup heavy cream

10 ounces Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated (about 3½ cups)

6 ounces fresh goat cheese, cut or pinched into small pieces

½ teaspoon mustard powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

⅛ teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, about 4 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

In a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook just until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and tender. Add the tarragon and salt and pepper to taste.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add the cheeses, mustard powder, cayenne, and nutmeg. Stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Add the pasta and vegetables and stir to combine. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with a little black pepper. Garnish with the tarragon sprigs and serve.





Add-Ins


Artichoke hearts (quartered): Sauté ½ cup frozen thawed or canned and drained with the other vegetables, and/or

Ham: Cut a 4-ounce piece of smoked ham into ½-inch cubes and add it along with the pasta and vegetables to the cheese sauce.





broccoli, cheddar, and crispy shallot mac & cheese Serves 6

I don’t know about you, but whenever I was anywhere near a broccoli-cheddar casserole growing up, it was the fried onions on top that I made the beeline for. That memory came to the fore when I was creating this recipe, figuring that the ridiculously good crunchy topping would be even better on mac & cheese. Even though I’ve provided a recipe for making your own fried onions (or shallots, in this case), feel free to use the canned kind instead (if you go this route, you will need 2 cups). They not only work great, but they also retain the retro spirit of the dish.



¾ cup vegetable or peanut oil, plus more as needed

6 shallots, cut crosswise as thin as possible, separated into rings

1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

8 ounces penne pasta (or use medium shell pasta)

4 cups broccoli florets, cut into ¾-inch pieces (or use frozen)

4 tablespoons salted butter

¾ cup coarsely chopped yellow onion (about ½ medium onion)

12 ounces mushrooms, quartered (large mushrooms, cut into 6 pieces)

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

1 cup heavy cream

12 ounces cheddar cheese, preferably orange, coarsely grated (3½ cups)

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon mustard powder

⅛ teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Line a large plate or baking sheet with paper towels.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add a handful of shallots to the skillet and cook just until browned and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes (they will continue to crisp as they cool). Place on the paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining shallots, adding more oil if needed. Season lightly with salt and set aside. (Note: These can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.)

Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or six 8-ounce ramekins). Set aside.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. After 8 minutes, add the broccoli. Cook, stirring once or twice, until both the pasta and broccoli are tender but firm, 3 to 4 minutes more. Drain, and reserve the pot.

In a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft and creamy in texture, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and whisk constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue whisking for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add 2½ cups of the cheddar, the cayenne, mustard powder, and nutmeg and stir until the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Add the pasta-broccoli mixture, and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Distribute the shallots (or canned onions, if using) over the top, and top with the remaining cheddar.

Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.





Add-Ins


Chicken: Cut 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast into ½-inch pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and cook the chicken, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Using a slotted spoon, transfer along with the pasta to the cheese sauce, and/or

Bacon: Cook 8 slices bacon until crisp. Crumble into bite-size pieces and add along with the pasta to the cheese sauce, and/or

Sun-dried tomatoes: Cut 2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed) into thin strips and add with the broccoli to the pasta water to reconstitute. Add the pasta-broccoli-tomato mixture as directed.





CHAPTER 4


eat your protein

Cheddar, Ham, Apple, and Spiced Pecan Mac & Cheese

Salami, Fennel, Pepper, and Mozzarella Mac & Cheese

Spicy Reuben Mac & Cheese

Vermont Cheddar Mac & Cheese with Ham and Maple-Pickled Onions

Sauce-and-Meatballs Mac & Cheese with Burrata

Andouille, Colby, and Mustard Mac & Cheese

Prosciutto and Pine Nut Mac & Cheese




cheddar, ham, apple, and spiced pecan mac & cheese Serves 6

Cheddar and apples are a classic combination, and so too are ham and cheddar. I decided to put them all together in this mac & cheese and give them a Southern twist by adding pecans. The combination ends up being as homey as any mac & cheese can be.





spiced pecans


2 teaspoons canola oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

⅛ teaspoon ground cumin

⅛ teaspoon ground coriander

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup pecan halves





mac & cheese


1 tablespoon plus 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt

8 ounces small shell pasta

6 tablespoons salted butter

2 cups toasted or stale bread crumbs (preferably homemade)

2 large shallots, finely chopped

1 tablespoon apple cider

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

1 cup heavy cream

12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (4 cups)

1 (4-ounce) piece Virginia ham, cut into ¼-inch pieces

2 medium tart green apples (such as Granny Smith or Pippin), peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch pieces

1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

For the pecans: In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, salt, cayenne, cumin, coriander, and black pepper. Add the pecans and stir to coat. (It won’t look like much coating, but don’t worry. It is enough.) Spread the pecans on a small baking sheet and bake until the nuts start to release a cooked nut aroma and begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. (Note: The pecans can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature, or frozen for up to 1 month.)

For the mac & cheese: Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or six 8-ounce ramekins). Set aside.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, about 4 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

While the pasta is cooking, in a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs. Stir until mixed well. Set aside.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring constantly, until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cider and cook until all but a teaspoon or so has evaporated. Turn the heat to medium and add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining 1¼ teaspoons salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add 2½ cups of the cheddar, and cook until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Add the pasta, ham, apples, mustard, and black pepper. Stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar and pecans. Top with the bread crumbs. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and cook until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.




salami, fennel, pepper, and mozzarella mac & cheese Serves 6

This recipe calls for fennel seed and fresh fennel along with the salami. However, if you are able to find fennel salami (called finocchiona), then by all means use it. Just eliminate the fennel seed (not the fresh fennel) in the recipe, and enjoy! Balsamic syrup is often located next to the balsamic vinegar.



2 ounces Pecorino Romano or your favorite Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces mini farfalle pasta (or use small shell pasta)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small red bell pepper (about 6 ounces), seeds removed and sliced into strips ¼-wide and 1-inch long

½ medium fennel bulb (about 8 ounces), cored and cut into strips ¼-inch wide and 1-inch long

1 small onion (about 6 ounces), cut into strips ¼-inch wide and 1-inch long

1 (4-ounce) piece salami, cut into ¼-inch cubes

1 medium clove garlic, minced

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

12 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated (about 4 cups)

1 teaspoon fennel seed

2 tablespoons balsamic syrup

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Measure out 2 tablespoons of the pecorino. Make a shallow pile with the cheese on the baking sheet. Smooth into a 2½-inch round. Continue with the remaining pecorino, spacing the piles about 3 inches apart. Place in the oven and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to loosen the cheese crisps. Set aside to cool completely.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, for 5 to 6 minutes or until tender but firm, and drain. Reserve the pot.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the fennel, onion, and salami and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and just beginning to darken around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in the mozzarella and cook until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.

Add the pasta, the vegetable-salami mixture, and the fennel seed and stir to combine. Ladle into individual serving bowls and position a cheese crisp vertically about ½ inch deep into the center of the mixture. Drizzle with the balsamic syrup and serve.





spicy reuben mac & cheese Serves 6

This mac & cheese is unquestionably unusual, but I hope that you’ll find it unusually good. The spice in it is the Asian chile-based condiment Sriracha, and it stands in for the Russian dressing typically used on Reuben sandwiches. The fiery “Asian ketchup” has become so popular that most grocery stores now carry it. As for the sauerkraut, it lends essential tartness, while the smoky cheese and pastrami put the rich exclamation point on this East-West version of a decidedly Western classic.



1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces small shell pasta

2 cups sauerkraut

2 tablespoons salted butter

¾ cup finely diced yellow onion (about ½ medium onion)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flou