Gourmet Macaroni & Cheese Recipe from Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival
Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese
- 4 TBSP butter
- 12 CUP panko
- Coarse salt, to taste
Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese:
- 1 (16 OUNCE) cavatappi pasta or elbow macaroni box
- 3/4 CUPS butter
- 3/4 CUPS flour
- 8 CUPS whole milk
- 1 1/2 TSP garlic powder
- 1 1/2 TSP onion powder
- 1 TSP mustard powder
- 12 POUND white cheddar cheese, shredded
- 12 POUND yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
- 3 (5.2-ounce) Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs cheese wheels, divided
- Coarse salt, to taste
- White pepper, to taste
For Toasted Panko
- Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add panko and stir until combined. Toast in pan for3-5 minutes until golden brown. Remove from heat; salt to taste. Set aside.
For Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese:
- Cook pasta in salted water according to packagedirections. Drain well. Set asidekeeping warm
- Melt butter in 5-quart saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirringconstantly, until a blonde roux, approximately 4 minutes.
- Add milk, garlic powder, onion powder, and mustard powder and bring to boil. Reduceheat to simmer and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes, until thickened.
- Fold in both shredded cheddar cheeses and two Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs cheesewheels. Blend with immersion blender until cheese has melted and smooth.
- Season to taste with salt and white peppe
- Add hot, cooked pasta with cheese sauce and mix until combined and divide evenly into6-8 bowls.
- Cut remaining Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs cheese wheel into 6-8 pieces or crumble intoa small dish.
- Top Gourmet Macaroni and Cheesewith toasted panko and Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbscheese pieces or crumbles.
- Serve immediately.
What types of cheese work best – cheddar, gruyere, gouda, etc?
When making gourmet mac and cheese, the cheese choice is incredibly important, as it provides the primary flavor. Here are some of the best options to consider:
Cheddar – Aged cheddar is the quintessential and most popular cheese for mac and cheese. Opt for a good quality extra sharp cheddar, as the sharper flavor stands up well when baked. The aged nuttiness also pairs deliciously with pasta. One tip is to use a blend of white and orange cheddar for a more complex, nuanced cheese sauce.
Gruyere – This Swiss cheese is nutty and rich, with tiny eyes or holes throughout, which become melt-in-your-mouth delicious when baked into mac and cheese. Gruyere’s earthy flavors combine fabulously with cheddar as well. Even just a quarter or half of the cheese sauce made with Gruyere elevates the dish.
Gouda – Smoked gouda infuses mac and cheese in a unique way with its mellow caramel sweetness offset by smoky undertones. Meanwhile, aged gouda can mimic cheddar with a salty parmesan-like taste. Gouda and cheddar together make an unbeatable duo!
Fontina or Monterey Jack – Both fonts of Italian cheese melt exceptionally smoothly. They combine well with almost any cheese but particularly pair nicely with Gruyere and cheddar in mac and cheese. The mildness counters sharper aged cheeses.
In the end, don’t be afraid to experiment with different cheese varieties or combinations in gourmet mac and cheese recipes! The cheese sauce is adaptable to just about any cheese that melts well. Just be sure to use good quality, aged cheeses for the best flavor.
Should the cheese sauce be made with a roux or just cheese melted into milk?
Whether to make the cheese sauce for baked mac and cheese with a roux or by just melting cheese into hot milk is a common debate. Each method has its pros and cons:
Roux-Based: A roux-based sauce starts with cooking equal parts butter and flour together before slowly whisking in warm milk. This gradually thickens the sauce via the starch-fat absorption. Finally, cheese gets incorporated until fully melted. The benefit of a roux is that it less likely to break or curdle compared to the melted cheese method. The resulting sauce is thicker with less chance of watery separation. Roux-based cheese sauces also tend to bake up with a creamy smooth consistency. The downside is that some claim boiling the dairy post-roux gives a less delicate flavor.
Melted Cheese: This quick stove-top method simply has you melt your cheese selections down in heated milk, cream or condensed soup until smooth. It eliminates any starch and focuses on pure rich cheese flavor. Melting cheese straight into the hot liquid can yield delicious results a roux-based sauce cannot always match. However, the emulsion is less stable so watery separation is more probable. It may also not thicken up as much unless starch is added separately.
In the end, a hybrid approach often works best – lightly cooking flour in butter before finishing with milk and cheese. This helps stabilize and thicken while emphasizing that straight-cheese decadence. Play with both methods to discover your ultimate gooey mac and cheese!
What are good mix-in ingredients – ham, bacon, broccoli, bread crumbs on top?
When making gourmet mac and cheese, one of the most fun ways to dress up the basic recipe is with crave-worthy mix-in ingredients. These tasty additions lend bursts of flavor, texture, and extra nutrition. Some stellar options to stir in or top your mac and cheese creations with include:
Ham and Bacon: Pork products like chopped ham, bacon crumbles, or prosciutto revive any mac and cheese with shots of smoky, salty savor. Bits of meat also provide some protein balance. Just take care not to overcook already-fried bacon so it ends up unpleasantly stiff.
Broccoli and Veggies: Fresh broccoli florets or any chopped green veggies infuse mac and cheese with a lighter twist. Mix in bite-size foliage after the pasta cooks so it retains some crispness. But take a tip from kids everywhere who slyly love veggies baked under that bubbling cheese blanket!
Breadcrumbs: A flavorful coating of Panko breadcrumbs, Italian style crumbs or even cracker crumbs on top provides a delectable crunch contrast to the creamy pasta underneath. Toss the crumbs with olive oil or butter first for optimized golden crisping and irresistible richness.
Jalapeños and Hot Sauce: For daring cheese-lovers, dice up some spicy pickled jalapeño peppers or shake on your favorite hot sauce for extra heat. The tang plays perfectly against oozy cheese for a mac and cheese that’s trulyLit.
Get creative with mix-ins that complement or contrast the cheese sauce foundation of your mac and cheese. The options for elevating this comfort classic are nearly limitless!
What type of pasta holds up best when baking mac and cheese – elbow, shell, ziti?
When selecting pasta for baked mac and cheese recipes, you want a sturdy shape that can hold its texture under high cooking temperatures in a creamy sauce. Certain pastas perform better here than others. Consider these top picks that will best stand up to being baked into rich, molten cheese:
Elbow Macaroni: The quintessential pasta shape used for mac and cheese is still the best. Those narrow curvy elbow noodles retain integrity extremely well after simmering and lengthy baking. Their short tubular shape absorbs sauce nicely without getting overly mushy. The outsides stay saucy while the inside of elbow macaroni stays pleasantly al dente at the end. No wonder elbow mac is viewed as the gold standard.
Shells: For a fun update beyond elbows, medium-sized pasta shells do an excellent job. The concave scoops manage the extended oven time well and maintain a nice bite factor. Shells also cradle cheese sauce nicely in their cupped cavities. Smaller shells will work for those wanting more delicate casserole bites.
Rigatoni: These fat, tubed noodles have similar resilience to elbows with the addition of ridges to grip sauce. Bake rigatoni with a proper floured coating, and it won’t soften excessively or lose shape. The defining chewy-dense texture complements all that melted gooeyness flawlessly. Consider rigatoni an exciting way to break from tradition while enjoying all the creamy comfort.
Dare to bake with spaghetti, penne or other less-dense pastas, and you’ll risk mushy results. For peak gourmet mac and cheese with longevity, always go with short tubular durum wheat pastas. They’ll stay saucy, flavorful and hold that satisfying chew throughout.
How long and at what temperature should mac and cheese bake to get hot and bubbly?
Properly baking gourmet mac and cheese to hot, bubbly perfection without drying it out is an art. The right combo of temp and time depends slightly on ingredients and preferences. But here are some tips:
Oven Temp: Ideal temps for baking mac and cheese range from 350°F on the low end to 375°F for a quicker bake. Higher than 375°F risks overcooking the outside before the center condenses nicely. Lower than 350° runs the chance of not sufficiently heating the interior or browning the top.
Baking Time: Total oven time can vary greatly based on if you’re baking a large casserole, individual ramekins, using a deeper dish, etc. Generally, checkpoint times are:
– 20-25 minutes – smaller ramekin versions
– 35-45 minutes – deeper casserole pans
– Up to 60 minutes – for extra large quantities
You’ll know it’s properly baked when:
– The pasta is swollen and tender
– Sauce is thick and doesn’t run
– Natural browning and crisping on top
– Bubbly cheese activity throughout
Check mac and cheese 5 minutes prior to estimated finish times. Then keep a close watch so you pull it once the center is piping hot and browned enough for your taste. Let it settle for 5-10 minutes before serving your dynamite baked mac and cheese!
Should mac and cheese be allowed to rest and set up before serving?
Allowing baked mac and cheese to rest before serving is one of those little touches that makes all the difference in its finished texture and flavor. Here’s why you should let your masterpiece settle for 5-10 minutes post-oven:
Distribution: Fresh out of the oven, mac and cheese will still be bubbling and the pasta swimming in liquid cheese. Letting it sit allows the sauce and moisture to redistribute evenly back into the noodles for optimized creamy consistency throughout.
Thickening: Similarly, the residual heat will continue gently evaporating liquid after removed from the oven, concentrating and tightening up the sauce even more without risk of burning.
Cooling: While piping hot mac and cheese is often preferred, letting it rest gets it to just above room temp. This prevents burning impatient mouths while still keeping it plenty warm enough to enjoy.
Absorb & Set: As it cools slightly, the pasta will re-absorb excess moisture, plumping back up for perfect al dente texture. Likewise, the cheese solidifies its emulsified state for ultra smooth, velvety sauce.
Intensifying: Finally, inactive cooling time allows the complex flavors to settle in and meld together into an even more robust symphony of savory decadence.
Resist digging into freshly baked mac and cheese straight from the oven. Just a few minutes of patience lets it set into the ideal melty, gooey dish for your ultimate comfort food cravings!
What sides go well with mac and cheese – salad, veggies, meat dish?
Mac and cheese makes for a pretty hearty main dish, but certain sides can complement the rich, cheesy pasta perfectly. Some tasty accompaniments to consider pairing with gourmet mac and cheese include:
Green Salad: A fresh green or Caesar salad provides welcome contrast to all that carb- and cheese-heavy comfort. The bright acids and veggies balance out the richness. Add some croutons or bacon bits to tie the salad and mac together.
Roasted Vegetables: Earthy, sweet roasted veggies like brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots or asparagus make an ideal counterpart to mac and cheese. Roasting caramelizes the natural sugars to play off the creamy pasta.
Garlic Bread: What better accompaniment to ooey, gooey mac and cheese than crisp, buttery garlic bread? The sweet, toasted loaf adds textural variety to complement ultra-soft mac and cheese.
Chicken or Pork: Baked poultry, fried chicken cutlets, or pork medallions partner wonderfully with cheesy pasta. The mix of protein, fat and carbs in one meal can’t be beat! Bread crumb or bacon-topped mac plays especially nice next to meats.
As a general rule of thumb, balance out bites of indulgent mac and cheese with something fresh and bright. The pasta is already so heavy and rich on its own. Sides that have acid, crunch, vegetables or lean meat perfectly round out the meal.
- Does mac and cheese reheat well for leftovers? What is the best reheating method?
Leftover mac and cheese makes for possibly the best next-day meal. The great news is baked mac and cheese reheats beautifully, as the pasta and sauce have time to further absorb flavors overnight in the fridge. For reheating, there are a couple go-to methods:
Oven: The oven is ideal for larges amounts of leftover mac, reheating evenly without drying it out. Simply put it in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350°F until warmed through, 15-20 minutes. The covered time helps the pasta re-steam and soften.
Sauté Pan: For smaller amounts, a sauté pan on medium-low heat reheats mac and cheese nicely. Add a bit of milk or cream and stir gently to evenly distribute heat without burning the bottom. This also loosens up the pasta.
Microwave: The microwave works in a pinch by reheating intensely. However, uncovered microwaving can dry pasta out, so cover the dish or use a splatter guard, and stir a few times. Microwave in 30 second increments on half power until desired temperature is reached.
The good news is baked mac and cheese is very forgiving, and even leftover pasta reheats wonderfully no matter which method you choose. The cheese sauce easily revives its smooth, decadent nature to comfort and satisfy once more.
Are there any special tips for making stovetop mac and cheese vs baked mac and cheese?
Stovetop and baked mac and cheese achieve deliciously cheesy, creamy pasta through different techniques. Here are tips tailoring each method:
– Use more elbows or shell pasta with larger surface area to cling sauce
– Make highly emulsified cheese sauce that won’t separate, with roux-thickened base
– Stir pasta and sauce together vigorously over low heat so pasta absorbs maximum cheese
– Add cream or half-and-half for ultra rich, liquidy sauce
– Top with breadcrumbs or extra cheese before serving
– Parcook harder pasta shapes like rigatoni or ziti first
– Spread pasta in casserole to help bake evenly
– Pour extra thick cheese sauce over pasta, allowing to pool
– Top with cheese, breadcrumbs, etc to develop crusty top layer while baking
– Bake uncovered at 375°F to thicken and condense sauce without drying pasta
– Allow to rest before serving so moisture redistributes
The keys are extra stirring for stovetop to integrate noodles in loose sauce, while baking allows condensing denser sauce around pasta in oven. Master each method’s unique cheese delivery system for mac and cheese success!