You guys, this is my favorite recipe. Macaroni and cheese is not only my favorite food — duh, I'm from the Midwest and am an American — but it is downright amazing. It is so good. It is so creamy. It is all gone.
I've been toying with this recipe for a long time. I have bought dozens of pounds of various cheeses. Sacrificed so many calories. Tested it on so many incredibly willing participants. And now, my macaroni and cheese recipe has achieved perfection.
You see — a lot of people think you need to buy Velveeta to get achieve velvety-ness. This is simply untrue. Though I am not a Velveeta hater (again, American), there are just better cheeses out there, and they deserve to have their creamy, saucy day in the sun. Also, there are so many baked macaroni dishes out there that are just dry and sad. But baked does not have to mean dry (nor, clearly, does it mean healthy). The key to this dish is a successful roux — that French stovetop miracle that turns butter and flour into excellence. With it, some fresh, real cheese and these incredibly flavorful breadcrumbs, you're on your way to delicious macaroni town — and you'll never look back.
for the pasta
- 16 oz macaroni pasta (I like to use large sea shells)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup chicken broth (or white wine, if you like)
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella, shredded
- 8 oz fontina, shredded
- 8 oz fresh parmesan, shredded (I used grana padana, a popular cheese here)
for the topping
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- salt and red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary
- fresh lemon zest
- Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13 pan and set aside.
- In your largest pot, cook pasta 3-4 minutes less than the directions say (for example, ours said to boil the pasta for 11-12 minues, so I cooked it for 8). Drain water and set back into pot. Add a bit of olive oil to avoid sticky pasta.
- In a large pan, melt butter with salt and pepper. Once melted, add flour, stirring to combine and let cook for one minute.
- Add milk and chicken broth and bring to a boil, whisking continuously to avoid any crud on the bottom of the pan. Add cheeses, stirring constantly to combine until the cheese is all melted.
- Add cheese mixture to pasta and stir to incorporate. Add pasta to dish.
- In a small pan or pot, heat olive oil. Add garlic and let it cook for a minute until it starts to brown, then add bread crumbs with salt and red pepper to taste. Sprinkle in the rosemary and lemon zest and stir to combine. Cook until golden color, then pour on top of pasta.
- Place in oven and cook for 30 minutes until the sides start to brown and bubble.