Let me preface this post by saying that I’ve been searching for the perfect mac & cheese recipe forever. I love macaroni and cheese. But then, who doesn’t? It’s like the quintessential comfort food. My mom and my best friend both make awesome mac & cheese. But my mom doesn’t follow a recipe and Samantha’s recipe is a family secret. I do have one mac & cheese recipe by Paula Deen and it’s the first baked macaroni and cheese I ever made. It’s okay but not great, and I knew there had to be something better out there. So I started searching the internet.
Call me picky, but I also wanted something that didn’t require a hundred steps. Most of the recipes I found were either too far removed from good old-fashioned mac & cheese or they required a roux. A roux-based sauce is time consuming and something I’m not particularly good at. Yesterday, I got the brilliant idea to type “classic mac & cheese without a roux” into Google. Lo and behold, I found this recipe. Oh my God. Why couldn’t I have found this recipe sooner?! This is the best mac and cheese you will ever eat without using a more involved recipe. Only time will tell how well this freezes and reheats (part of the reason so many recipes call for a roux is that real dairy products do not like to be melted and then reheated. A roux acts as a binding agent and helps with reheating). But since it made a ton and is so good, I’m really hoping it freezes well! Anyway, I’ll stop rambling on and get to the recipe. I changed several things and totally forgot to add the milk. Oops! So definitely click on the above link if you want the original recipe. Here’s my version:
P.S. This is not a healthy recipe by any means, so save this for when you really need some comfort food!
1 pound macaroni (or any other noodle of choice)
1 1/2 pints heavy cream (3 cups) (for less fat, 2% milk might work in place of cream. But don’t quote me on that)
Approx. 1 1/2 pounds shredded cheddar cheese (I used 1 pound but eyeballed the last half pound)
1 10 oz. package Cracker Barrel extra sharp cheddar cheese, cut into pieces (smaller pieces melt better but it will all melt eventually in the oven)
Oregano and black pepper to taste (garlic powder, italian seasoning, dried basil, etc could work as well)
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Cook macaroni in salted water until al dente (approximately 1 minute less than the box recommends) and set aside
3. While pasta is boiling, melt butter and combine in a bowl with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Stir until well combined
4. In a large bowl, combine the salt and all cheddar cheese
look at all that cheese!
5. Pour the cream into a small sauce pan, and add the oregano and black pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Be careful not to scorch it!
6. Pour cream over cheese immediately and stir until cheese is melted (the cheese isn’t going to melt completely, but it will in the oven)
7. Add pasta to cream and cheese mixture and stir well
8. Pour macaroni into a baking dish and cover with bread crumbs (if you want to save even more time, skip the bread crumbs, this mac and cheese is wonderful on its own as well)
9. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown and cheese is bubbling
10. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving (I’m not entirely sure why/if this is necessary, but the recipe called for it so I did it. LOL)
* The leftovers taste great. But due to all the heavy cream, reheating creates a lot of extra oil. For best results, reheat slowly in the oven rather than nuking it in the microwave
* I tried making this with fat free milk to save some calories. And while it still tasted good, it definitely wasn’t as good as before. Aside from not being as rich, I ended up with noodles and clumps of cheese rather than a cohesive dish. Maybe I was going too fast and the milk isn’t to blame. But personally, I think I’ll stick with the original recipe and just save it for special occasions. However, I did like it better without breadcrumbs.