Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Piggyback Mac & Cheese

I have been trying for years to create a classic restaurant style mac & cheese.  Using the best cheeses & the ideal pasta shape to get exactly what I would consider the ultimate mac & cheese dish.  I also wanted a nice basic recipe to add different toppings to & this is perfect.  Here are a few of things I learned along the way & want to share with you about how to create the perfect Mac & Cheese dish.  

#1 Shape matters: Typically we think of elbow noodles for this dish but orechetti is ideal, because it perfectly holds the cheesy sauce inside it's little round ears (see pic below).  You get better creamy coverage both inside & out than you would with elbow.  Plus, it holds up better than elbow, when baked. 

#2 Use creamy, melting cheeses: I discovered on may occasions why cheddar is just not ideal for this dish, it's way too heavy & grainy.  You need creamy cheese combinations, like Fontina & Comte/Gruyere.  And equal amounts of cheese & pasta are required.  So, if you have 8oz pasta you need at least 8oz of cheese.  More is always fine, just avoid using less.  You will see, I used a total of 11oz cheese & 8oz pasta.  

#3 Salt your water: your water should taste like the sea.

#4 Versatile: want to get fancy, add some lobster.  Or a night in with the kids, toss in some cut up hot dogs.  You can easily make this your own.  

8 oz orechetti pasta
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 oz Fontina cheese, grated
3 oz Comte cheese (similar to Gruyere), grated
2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
4 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled 
6 ritz crackers, crumbled

Bechamel Sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups half & half (or whole milk)
couple grates nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste (suggestion 1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp white pepper)

In a 5 1/2 qt dutch oven, add 1 tablespoon salt.  Bring to a boil, add your pasta.  Cook for 2 minutes less than it says on the package, drain & set aside.  Meanwhile, return your pot to the stove, turn down to medium & melt butter.  Add flour & whisk for 1 minute.  Slowly add your half & half, whisking until thick.  Reduce heat & add your cheeses & seasoning.  Continue to stir until everything is incorporated.  Add your pasta to your sauce, stir til coated.  Add garlic.  Taste & add any additional seasoning, if needed.  Top with crumbled bacon, sprinkle with parmesan & cracker crumbs.               

Bake at 350F (covered) for 20-25 mins or until bubbly.

Makes about 4-5 servings


  1. It looks perfect!'Loving the bacon bonus!

  2. This looks so delicious Ang! Yum...

  3. Oh my gosh that looks fantastic! There is no way my 21year old college son would allow there to be 4-5 servings of this. He will think he died and went to heaven!


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