We. Love. Macaroni. And. Cheese! Who doesn’t? From using Cheese Whiz or Velveeta as the main event, to adding bread crumbs or even bacon grease as a special ingredient, there are so many varieties and methods of making mac’n cheese, especially when it comes to family recipes. Some folks make a cheese sauce first as their base, but we prefer the mixin’-all-in-a-big-bowl method. After draining the noodles, pour them back in the same pot they were cooked in and mix all the ingredients together. The hot noodles and pot hot will melt the butter, soften the cheeses, and create its own sauce right there. Easy.
It’s also easy to add a gourmet flare to any variety of mac and cheese. Just swapping out the typical elbow with a different noodle, for example, creates a fancier appearance. We love using the large screw cavatappi noodles for this purpose. And try adding protein to your favorite mac and cheese dish. Even if it is Grandma’s holiday recipe, throwing some sausage, bacon, or even portobellos will kick it up a notch–not that anything’s wrong with Grandma’s version, just tell her you wanted to experiment. Using Fresh herbs, baking individual servings in ramekins, exploring cheeses that don’t come in a pre-packaged zip-lock bag, all will enhance any version of macaroni.
For this particular dish, we stuck with white cheeses. As you’ll see below, there are actually 6 in this one. At first glance, we admit, that does seem like a-whole-lot is going on. To our defense, there’s less amounts of each of the cheeses to balance this out. And, well you need cheese in macaroni and cheese, so there! We actually don’t like massive amounts of cheese in macaroni. Many of the recipes we’ve come across from famous cooks (Paula Deen, we know who you are) or family members, or that spring from southern tradition use pounds upon of pounds of cheese for this same very size dish. That’s too much. If, though, you are a fan of more cheese, we certainly won’t judge you if you add a few more types–or cups–to your version of macaroni. Promise you’ll share.
Macaroni and Cheese with Pancetta and Portobello Mushrooms – Serves 6
1/2 package cavatappi pasta noodles
1 large shallot, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/4 cup pancetta
1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, diced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, rough chopped
1/2 cup asiago cheese, shredded
3/4 cup gruyère, shredded
1/2 cup pecorino romano, shredded
3/4 parmesan, shredded
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup fontina, shredded
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup pasta sauce (We used a vodka sauce.)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium pot, boil noodles in salted water with a bit of olive oil until al dente, about 5-7 minutes. Drain and return to the same pot used to cook noodles.
2. While noodles cook, heat one tablespoon butter in a large, flat pan over medium-high heat and sauté shallot for about 2 minutes. Add pancetta, mushrooms, tomatoes and oregano. Cook until mushrooms soften, an additional 4-6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In the pot with the pasta, stir in remaining butter, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes until butter melts. Slowly stir in cheeses, reserving mozzarella and 1/4 cup of gruyère and parmesan cheeses. Spoon in hot mushroom mixture, other herbs, and stir until cheeses begin to melt. Add sauce, milk, and more salt and pepper if desired.
4. Transfer mixture into a medium baking dish brushed with olive oil and top with remaining cheeses. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted and golden brown.
Click HERE for the printable recipe.