There really isn’t any better comfort food than mac & cheese, am I right? There’s just something about the creamy, cheesey, warmth to it that makes it so delicious and happy. I think it’s one of those dinners that literally everyone loves. I really don’t think I have ever met someone who didn’t like mac & cheese.
That being said, there are all different types of mac & cheese out there. While homemade is always best (usually from a restaurant, because let’s be honest, how many people actually grew up on real homemade mac & cheese at home?) I feel like most people are used to mac & cheese from a box of some kind. Personally I grew up on Annies, the more ‘natural’ kind– white cheese covering little shells. It was the meal of choice when we had babysitters or needed a quick dinner before an evening activity. I never experienced the blue box- Kraft mac & cheese until much later in life, and those bright orange covered elbows. I have to say bright orange cheese never really appealed to me, I guess because I didn’t grow up with it. Then comes Velveeta, and not only is it bright orange but it comes already in liquid form (or a paste? gel? what would you even call that and how is it food?) that squeezes out of the package all ready to go. This one I never even came in contact with until I met my husband, for whom this is the mac & cheese of choice for some reason that I cannot comprehend.
Those are all a different species of mac & cheese than this real homemade version. This is a mac & cheese you can feel good about. I mean yes, it is made with an awful lot of full-fat cheese, and a bit of butter, but at least it’s real cheese and you know exactly where it comes from. I believe dairy is good for you and choose to ignore those who say cheese is unhealthy! Anyway, this is fairly easy too, as long as you get all your cheeses together beforehand and have them all grated and ready to go so that you can just add everything to the pot at once. The smoked gouda gives it just enough of a smokey flavor without being overwhelming, and the mascarpone makes it super creamy. I used medium shells because I like them and I like how much cheese they scoop up, but you can totally use classic elbows if you want. There’s even a dash of paprika which gives it a tiny bit of an orange hue in case you’re into that 🙂 And you can totally leave it out if you prefer your mac white.
Do yourself a favor and make this for dinner the next time you invite friends over. They will be seriously impressed. Also, it makes a lot, so it’s good to have people to share it with!
:Smokey Four Cheese Mac & Cheese:
1/2 stick butter
3 cups milk (I used whole)
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional)
2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 1/4 cups smoked gouda cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan (I use the pre-shredded kind, but fresh would be great too- parm is the only cheese I would use pre-shredded, other cheeses won’t melt as nicely unless they’re fresh)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (this comes in a tub and is often found in the specialty cheese section)
Grate all cheese and set aside.
Boil a pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions. Strain and set aside.
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add butter until melted and bubbly, then add flour and stir to combine. Lower heat to medium low and add milk, whisking constantly to form a thick sauce. Add all spices, and add the cheese, whisking until smooth. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and carefully mix into sauce until each piece is coated. Serve immediately.