In my experience, mac and cheese from a box tends to beat most of the recipes for homemade you’ll find on the Internet. This version starts with a standard Bechamel sauce, then adds some spices and three different kinds of cheese to give it a little more flavor and color. The addition of a few toppings give the dish some texture make it an acceptable meal for grown-ups. The kids and the guests alike will love it.
- 1 pound cavatappi, macaroni, or rotini pasta, cooked al dente
- 6 TBS butter
- 1/2 C all-purpose flour
- 4 C milk, warmed
- 3 oz Colby Jack cheese
- 6 oz Medium or Sharp Cheddar cheese
- 6 oz Muenster cheese
- 2 tsp kosher salt (1 tsp if using iodized)
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1/4 tsp Tabasco (optional)
- 1 C crushed Ruffles potato chips
- 1 C ham, petite diced (or cut into 1/8 ” cubes) (optional)
- 1/2 C grated Parmesan (don’t use the canned stuff, but pre-grated is fine)
- Heat oven to 350 F.
- Cook pasta al dente, per package directions, and set aside.
- Warm 4C milk (the microwave works great for this)
- Melt 6 TBS butter in a large saucepan or pot (3+ quarts) over medium heat. Add flour and stir constantly with a whisk for 2-3 minutes until you get some tawny color, but stop short of tan or brown.
- Slowly whisk in the warm milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly for the next 2 to 4 minutes. The mixture mixture will continue to thicken as the heat increases.
- While stirring, add in spices: salt, pepper, paprika, turmeric, mustard, nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, and (optionally) cayenne and Tabasco. (Note that with all the cheese, the cayenne and Tabasco won’t make the dish too spicy even for the kids, but then again, cayenne isn’t for everyone.)
- Stir in the Colby Jack, Cheddar, and Muenster cheeses until melted.
- Pour as much of the cheese sauce as you want (but probably not all of it) over the cooked noodles. Add mixture to a casserole dish.
- Sprinkle the chips, bacon, and Parmesan on top and bake for 35 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes and serve.