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 to find 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 fatty 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; this macaroni with not one, not two, but five cheeses. FIVE. Um, preach!
Five 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
- ¼ cup cream cheese (I’m not counting this as a cheese)
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 2½ cups milk (whole milk works best, but you could use 2%)
- 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 tsp hot sauce (such as Frank’s or Louisiana)
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 lb. sharp yellow cheddar cheese, grated
- ½ lb. sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (technically they’re both cheddar, so this only counts as one cheese)
- ½ lb. gruyere cheese, grated
- ¼ lb. fontina or Gouda cheese, grated
- ¼ lb. Swiss or Emmental cheese, grated
- 2 slices of American cheese (trust)
- ½ cup plain Panko bread crumbs
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (okay, this does count as a cheese, but it’s for the topping, sooooo?)
- ½ tsp Old Bay Seasoning
- fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F and set aside a 9×13-inch baking dish.
Fill a large stock pot with 4 quarts of generously salted water (roughly 1 Tbsp 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 small bowl, whisk together Dijon, hot sauce, Worcestershire, garlic powder, and paprika; set aside.
In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, melt butter and cream cheese over medium-high heat. Once butter begins to foam and cream cheese breaks down, add flour and whisk to combine. Continue whisking and cooking until flour is brown and smells slightly nutty. Carefully pour milk into pot (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 Dijon/Worcestershire mixture and stir to combine. Add cheese to pot, 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. Season with fresh cracked 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 baking dish and smooth the top.
In a small bowl, combine Panko, parmesan cheese, Old Bay, 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.