The other day I was googling “layered+mac+and+cheese+casserole” for a completely different reason (than plain old mac and cheese) when I came across John Legend’s recipe. I also found a plethora of other recipes for layered mac and cheese. As I flipped through the internet pages searching the recipes, it dawned on me that I’ve never made layered mac and cheese. How is that even possible?! I’ll admit that after finding so many varying recipes for layered mac and cheese, I was intrigued. So I scrapped my original idea for a Thanksgiving mac and cheese casserole and decided to go with plain old mac and cheese instead. When it came down to which recipe I should follow, there was no contest. John Legend’s! Duh. While I didn’t follow Mr. Legend’s recipe very closely, the below recipe is modeled after his.
- 4 T. (½ stick) unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish (I used a whole stick but I think that was far too much butter)
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 1b macaroni, shells, penne or any other shape noodle you enjoy for Mac and Cheese
- 2 (12-oz) cans evaporated milk
- ½ c. whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- ½ tsp. garlic salt
- ½ tsp. seasoned salt
- 24 oz. grated cheese (mixture of cheddar and Monterrey jack or whatever mixture floats your boat)
- cooked crumbled bacon for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter a 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish; set aside. (I used a smaller, deeper dish and did not butter it, FYI.) Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt and macaroni. Cook until al dente according to package directions. Drain, and return to pot. Add butter, and toss until pasta is coated and butter has melted; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together evaporated milk, whole milk, and eggs. Add seasoned salt, garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; set aside. In another medium bowl, combine cheeses; set aside.
- Place 1/3 macaroni in an even layer in the bottom of prepared baking dish; cover evenly with 1/3 cheese. Repeat with remaining macaroni and cheese mixture. Pour milk mixture evenly over contents of baking dish. Sprinkle with bacon (if using).
- Bake until top layer is browned, 45 minutes. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
The way I layered my 7-cheese Mac was mozzarella and fontina on the bottom, brie and havarti next and Gruyère, white cheddar and Asiago on top.
I was anticipating this dish all night. All day, really. I love mac and cheese. I couldn’t wait to dig in to what I knew was going to be cheesy goodness. I had to bake mine for about 60 minutes instead of the recommended 45 because when I took it out at 45 minutes it was still incredibly runny. (This may have been because of the depth of the dish I used.)
When I finally dug into the noodle dish, I was annoyed to see curdles in the top layer. At first I blamed the curdles on the egg. I don’t think I’ve ever used eggs before in Mac and Cheese so that seemed the obvious scapegoat. But after I thought about it, I figured the curdles had to be the cheese. They were only floating in the very top layer, so I’d pinpointed the curdles to either Gruyère, cheddar or Asiago. (My bet is on Cheddar. I just don’t think cheddar melts nicely at all. Think back to the last time you made a grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar. Didn’t the cheese take FOREVER to melt? Plus the bottom two layers of the dish that used the nice melty cheese were sans curdles. In fact, when I dug into the dish the mozzarella at the very bottom stretched upward and outward as I lifted the creamy noodles onto my plate.
So this dish isn’t perfect. I guess next time I would nix the cheddar and but probably try the whole thing over again exactly as I did tonight, for the most part.
I did like how lazy you can be with this homemade Mac and Cheese. There’s no prepared sauce. No roux. Nothing. And yet the finished product (for the most part) comes out as a cohesive mac and cheese dish. I like it. This is definitely the lazy man’s homemade mac and cheese. (No offense, John Legend.)