Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

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This recipe was obviously created on one of my cheat days. My roommate introduced me to America’s Test Kitchen magazine a few months ago–I am officially obsessed. The particular issue she brought home was their 20 favorite american dishes–all the staples including my ultimate guilty pleasure, macaroni and cheese. There are infinite ways to make this favorite childhood dish, but rarely does it come out JUST RIGHT. With the whole premise of America’s Test Kitchen being that they’ve tested and tried every possible method for you and shared the best results, I just HAD to try their recipe. But I have to admit, I couldn’t even stick to their recipe as is. I have a habit of tweaking things even as I’m reading a recipe for the first time. My first issue is that they cooked the macaroni past the point of Al Dente, which I have been raised to believe is a SIN! According to the test results, they found that al dente pasta will release starch into the sauce as it continues to cook, giving the sauce a gritty texture, which makes good scientific sense. But I still couldn’t bring myself to intentionally overcook pasta. And I have to say, that my sauce was nowhere near gritty and the pasta was perfectly cooked. The verdict is still out on that one…

So after all, here is my own version loosely based on the results of their experiments. I would love to hear if anyone tries the original (found here). I will have to do that some dreary day when I am especially in need of some nostalgic comfort food.

The end result was a rich, creamy, decadent macaroni and cheese that I thoroughly enjoyed, not to mention, it was topped with bacon I just happened to have lying around. Yet I would still make some adjustments. This might be a lifelong venture for me to find a mac n cheese recipe that is just perfect. Though, I left the rest of it for my roomie to enjoy and she said it was just how she likes it! All in all, I’d say it was a success. My all-time favorite macaroni and cheese (and believe me,  I’ve tried A LOT of different versions), was at this wonderful gastropub in Cambridge, MA, Lord Hobo. I’ve come very close to replicating their heavenly cheddar, mascarpone and parmesan cheese sauce, but it still is not quite right. Don’t worry though–I will master it one day and I will of course share it with you.

Macaroni and Cheese (Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

(Difficulty-Intermediate; Makes 4 servings)

  • 1/2 stick butter, plus 1 Tbsp.
  • 1/2 pound organic pasta, I used organic imported Fusilli from Trader Joes
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 ounces Havarti cheese, grated or finely chopped
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 4 ounces parmesan, grated
  • 4 slices organic applewood smoked bacon
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

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Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente; drain pasta.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in now-empty pot over medium-high heat. Add flour, mustard, and 1 teaspoon salt,  and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Off heat, slowly whisk in all but a 1/3 cup of the cheeses until completely melted. Add pasta to sauce and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.

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Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a medium skillet and add panko bread crumbs. Cook, stirring occasionally until the crumbs are lightly toasted, about 6 minutes. Transfer mixture to 13 by 9-inch broiler-safe baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese and bread-crumb mixture. Broil until topping is deep golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile cook bacon strips in a skillet until crisp and crumble into pieces. Top macaroni with bacon crumbles. Cool casserole for 5 minutes before serving.

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