Suddenly it has become a little bit more like fall in the Midwest-the nights are chilly, the early mornings seem a little darker, and I’m craving all sorts of things in the realm of comfort food. Just kidding….I totally made this macaroni and cheese mid-August, hot and humid, and completely because I had seen Tara and then Annie post this recipe, and I was dead set on making some of my own. Who needs a reason to make macaroni and cheese? I certainly don’t.
I went all out here, folks. It’s a “in moderation” type of thing (except for the part where I ate the leftovers religiously for the next three nights..best leftovers ever.) This isn’t a recipe to make when you are trying to fit into a bathing suit in a few weeks (yay for fluffy sweatshirts and layering.) But, it’s a good, all-around dish to come home to.
As for the leftovers, this is what I did. I slowly reheated them in a saucepan over low heat, with added milk each time I reheated it. I found it made the dish more creamy and avoided the dreaded macaroni and cheese reheat greasiness that I despise.
Use whatever type of cheese you can get your hands on. I couldn’t find white American cheese (although I really wanted to), so I just used the orange American cheese from a local creamery. And then I added in some sharp white cheddar for a little pop with some smoked sea salt to balance it all out. In the way of seasonings, this dish is pretty forgiving, so throw in whatever you like.
It’s like Panera’s, I promise. That creaminess and soft cheese flavor is there. Holy Heaven.
Panera-esque Macaroni and Cheese
Servings: about 6-8
16 ounces cavatelli pasta, or whatever pasta you like
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup flour
1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 and 1/4 cups whole milk
4 ounces American cheese, chopped
8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon smoked sea salt
1. In a medium pot, cook the pasta according to package directions and drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water (you may or may not have to use this, depending on how thick and creamy you like your mac and cheese. *Go ahead and start your cheese sauce at this point to save time.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
3. Once the butter is melted and bubbling, add the flour and whisk, constantly, for about 1-2 minutes.
4. Slowly add the cream and then the milk, whisking constantly until smooth.
5. Decrease the heat to medium-low and let the mixture simmer, whisking frequently (make sure you get the bottom of the pan really well…..) until the mixture is thickened and smooth, about 8-10 minutes.
6. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the cheeses, stirring until smooth.
7. Add the mustard and the salt and stir until thoroughly combined.
8. Return the saucepan to the heat and carefully add in the pasta, mixing until thoroughly combined.
9. Let the mixture cook through completely, about 1-2 minutes, then serve immediately.