Okay class, pull out your pencils and write down this date: September 23rd. That, my friends, is the official start of autumn (or the Autumnal Equinox, if you want to be specific). What does this mean? Well, it means that we have T-minus 6 days to start dusting off our casserole dishes and crockpots, and rummage through our cookbooks for our favorite comfort food recipes. Yep, it’s the dawn of sweater season once again, which give us permission to start eating hearty pastas, starchy potatoes, and meats smothered in gravy. And what better way to kick off this food frenzy than with a good, old fashioned mac & cheese? But please, I beg you, put down the blue box with the atomic orange powder, in fact, just throw it away. You don’t want that. Trust me, you want this…
Four Cheese Macaroni
Serves 6 people (as a main course) or 10-12 people (as a side dish)
- 1 lb. dry macaroni noodles
- 2 Tbsp butter, plus more for dish
- 2½ cups milk (whole milk works best, but you could use 2%)
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 lb. sharp yellow cheddar cheese, grated
- ½ lb. sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
- ½ lb. gruyere cheese, grated
- ¼ lb. fontina cheese, grated
- 1 tsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Louisiana)
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¾ cups plain bread crumbs
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (technically this is the 5th cheese, but I’ve never been one for technicalities)
- ½ tsp paprika
- kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish, set aside.
Fill a large stock pot with 4 quarts of generously salted water (roughly 1 tsp of salt). Bring water to a boil then add macaroni and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid, then pour water and macaroni through a colander set in the sink. Run cold water over macaroni to stop the cooking process.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Once butter begins to foam, add flour and whisk to combine. Continue whisking and cooking until flour is brown and smells slightly nutty. Carefully pour milk into skillet (it will splatter) and whisk until flour clumps dissolve. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Add cheese to skillet, 1 cup at a time, stirring between each addition to allow cheese to melt. If mixture gets too thick, add 1-2 Tbsp of reserved pasta water to thin. Continue until all the cheese had been incorporated.
Add hot sauce, Worcestershire, dijon, and garlic powder to cheese sauce and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Add macaroni and mix until pasta is coated in cheese sauce. Again, if the mixture becomes too thick or dry, add 1-2 Tbsp of reserved pasta water to loosen it up. Your cheese should be nice and gooey like this…
Pour macaroni and cheese into prepared baking dish and smooth the top.
In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, paprika, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over mac & cheese, completely covering the top. Place baking dish in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and bubbly at the edges.