In my life I’ve surely tried a dozen macaroni and cheese recipes or more, ranging from boxed mac and cheese (of which I’m a bit of a connoisseur) to the real, made-from-scratch deal (of which I’m striving to be a better connoisseur).
I never get sick of the instant comfort macaroni and cheese provides, and how adaptable it is. But I still view it as a homey, curl-up-on-the-couch kind of food, not the type of dish you’d serve when entertaining.
Leave it to Ina Garten (and a twist or two of my own) to change my opinion.
Garten’s Grown Up Mac and Cheese is perfectly named. With a mix of Gruyere (or Swiss), cheddar, and blue cheeses, it has a very sophisticated taste. I love the complexity of the three cheeses combined. They’re all very sharp on their own, so together it’s quite a whopping flavour combination, with nuttiness from the Swiss cheese and saltiness from the blue.
I can see why it’s for grown-ups – I don’t know if my niece’s or nephews’ palates are developed enough for this recipe!
I omitted the bacon, used whole wheat macaroni, stirred a bit of truffle oil into the macaroni and cheese, and sprinkled panko bread crumbs and grated Parmesan on top. I loved these changes, especially the earthy truffle flavour. I also believe this recipe serves 3, not 2 as Ina says, because a recipe with this much cheese just cannot be served, in good conscience, to only two people.
Truffled Grown Up Mac and Cheese
(Original recipe here)
2 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp truffle oil (optional)
Approximately 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
Add the macaroni to a large pot of boiling salted water and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. You could also microwave it in a bowl or measuring cup at 20 second intervals, until it is hot. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a few minutes more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Swiss, Cheddar, blue cheese, truffle oil, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a buttered 8x8” or 9x9” casserole dish.
Turn on your oven’s broiler. Sprinkle panko bread crumbs (about 1/3 cup or to taste) over the macaroni, and then grate parmesan over the bread crumbs.
Place casserole dish in the oven, watching it carefully so it doesn’t burn. When the cheese has melted and the panko crumbs are slightly toasted (they don’t tend to darken much), remove the dish from the oven. Serve immediately.