The last time I made a white Mac and Cheese, I winged it by using box of Kraft Mac and Cheese noodles (ditched the sauce) and mixed it with Brie and mozzarella cheeses. It was pretty good for winging a recipe and using the puny Kraft Mac and Cheese noodles.
This time around, I wanted an irresistible recipe to share with my readers and found inspiration at Grilled Cheese Social. This recipe uses white cheddar and includes a hefty amount of garlic in the roux to kick it up a notch. You can make a stove-top version or baked — my preference is always baked. It’s quick to make — you can bake the noodles in the same pot you used to boil them if you choose the right cooking vessel.
When making mac and cheese, or any noodle dish, really — you want to think carefully about your noodle choice. The best noodle choices for mac and cheese, IMO, are ones that have a bit of a hole in it where that silky, smooth cheese sauce can settle. Like shells. Or any variation of a shell. I didn’t happen to have any mac and cheese-friendly noodles on hand when making this recipe so don’t fret if you don’t have any either and don’t want to run out to buy any special shape of noodle. Elbows, penny, rotini, etc. – all will work fine in this dish.
My only complaint about this dish is that a layer of butter pooled to the top of the dish by the time I brought it out of the oven. It didn’t change the texture or the taste but I didn’t like the way it looked. I think an excellent way to play up this pool of butter would be to throw about ½ cup of bread crumbs on top of the cheese before baking. As is, this recipe yields a cheese crust. With bread crumbs added to the top you can achieve a crispy, cheesy, crusty top for your baked mac and cheese. Incidentally, Dad had no complaints about this dish!
- 3 T. butter
- 3 tsp. minced garlic
- 2 T. flour
- 1 c. milk or half-and-half
- 2 c. heavy whipping cream
- 16 oz hand-shredded white cheese (I used cheddar)
- 16 oz favorite shape of noodle
- hot sauce
Boil water in a stovetop to oven dish, such as a dutch oven. Add a few pinches of salt (I am heavy-handed here) and cook pasta until two minutes before listed as al dente on the package directions. Strain and set aside.
While the pasta is boiling, melt butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and pinch of salt and cook for 2 minutes or until garlic is softened but not browned. Whisk in flour to make a roux; let the roux gently cook for a few minutes — until the flour taste has disappeared. Whisk in milk and heavy cream and a few pinches of salt. Turn the heat to medium-low.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Let the sauce simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in half of the cheese, little by little, until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Add the hot sauce and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Mix in the pasta. You should have a significant amount of sauce here. Top with the remaining cheese and cook in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Turn the oven setting to broil and cook for five more minutes.
To convert this dish to a simpler stove-top version, cook the noodles until al dente (reserve some of your pasta water when draining) and reduce the amount of cheese to 12 ounces. Stir in 8 ounces of cheese while making the roux. After you have mixed the roux and the noodles together, mix in the remaining shredded cheese. If necessary, add some hot pasta water to the mixture – this will make everything come together and be creamy and smooth.