Superbowl is almost here. Are you getting really excited? Are you cheering for your favorite teams and planning a big get together with lots of great snacks? Me, too! Um...OK...maybe just the food part. Seriously, I have watched football (the things you do for men), I understand football (sort of, in the sense that I know the rules of the game) but I'm really just here to eat.
So, let's discuss something I actually understand well, which is how to make the ultimate best mac and cheese, a football friendly food. Personally speaking, I have a tendency to take mac shortcuts when I'm busy but to really get that restaurant quality, OMG how do they make it taste this good, kind of flavor, we need to do it right.
That means a proper bechamel (fancy French term for a really easy sauce), high quality cheese that you grate by hand and the best bread for homemade breadcrumbs. Creamy mac is all well and good but it's just not the ultimate experience for me unless there's an ultra crispy and cheesy topping so the bread part is important.
La Brea Bakery breads. No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives and non-GMO ingredients. And, most importantly, an amazing taste! They're a weekly staple purchase for me and I especially like sourdough bread which makes a great topping. Just tear some pieces off and toss them in the food processor. Pulse a few times and you get wonderful, irregular, soon to be ultra crispy homemade breadcrumbs.
As for the cheese, I see recipes for 4 cheese mac, 6 cheese mac, etc. but I'm a one cheese purist and that's usually a really sharp, well aged cheddar. But, I could also make a strong case for smoked Gouda. Finally, a little hint of mustard in the sauce gives it that certain "how does the restaurant get that flavor" something.
Make this in one big pan or in individual ramekins, like I did, so everybody has their own little pot of perfect mac. This recipe makes four servings, unless you live in my house, in which case it's more like 2 servings. Feel free to double the recipe. Enjoy and...um...go team!
Ultimate Crispy Topped Cheddar Mac and Cheese
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Ingredients (4 Servings)
- 1/2 lb. Pasta (I used orecchiette)
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 Cloves garlic, grated
- 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 Cups whole milk
- 1 Cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 Teaspoon mustard
- 1/4 Teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 Teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 2 Slices crusty bread (I used La Brea Bakery Country White Sourdough)
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 Cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions and pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a large skillet and, on medium low heat, grate in the garlic. Whisk in the flour until fully incorporated and then slowly whisk in the milk. Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken and then stir in the cheese, mustard, salt and pepper.
Drain the cooked pasta and stir into the cheese sauce. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper, if needed.
Tear the bread into chunks and add to a food processor. Pulse until you have the consistency of course breadcrumbs. Don't over-mix. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the melted butter and 1/2 cup of cheese.
Add the pasta to either four individual baking dishes or one large gratin dish. Top with the breadcrumb mixture and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the top is a light golden brown and the cheese has melted. Serve hot.
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This recipe is sponsored by La Brea Bakery. Thank you for supporting the products I love and use in my kitchen.