Monday, March 12, 2007


Ultimate Mac & Cheese

This is not my recipe. I'm saying that first up, because as much as I would LOVE to claim that it is isn't.

But let me tell you why I am posting it anyway.

You know how you can search for eternity for the "perfect" version of something? Maybe it's a good haircut. Or a couch. (listen to act three there) Maybe it's a spouse (ha ha) or just a really comfortable pair of slippers.

Well, for me, the quest has always been for Mac & Cheese.

Something gooey and warm and filling and soothing. Something robust with flavor. Something that didn't come from a box. (I know that blue box is a classic. I know people love it. I don't hold it against you. I just think it's time for a change...and that time is now. Now that perfection is being offered to you.)

Since that is my quest, I have tried many a recipe. I've made my own, I've made the recipe of others. I've done so many of the durned things I started to wonder if the secret really was something as frightening and elusive like "processed cheese food."

Until last week.

There I stood confronted with another recipe for pasta with mornay sauce (that is what it is after all) and thought...well, might as well give it a try! It was in the January issue of Sunset magazine and since I have a deep love for their publication, I thought...why not give it a whirl.

And I did. And I am SO glad I did. Because I realize now, that there is such a thing as Mac & Cheese fulfillment. True transcendence. And this my sweet peaches, is it. This is so darned tasty that there is no going back. It's adult. It's glam. It's rich and warm. It's beyond compare. It is cheese and carbs bliss. And I say, bring it on...

So try this my loves, and enjoy!

Ultimate Mac ‘n’ Cheese by Amy Traverso for Sunset Magazine.

8oz macaroni, or other tube-shaped pasta
½ tsp coarse salt, plus more for cooking pasta
3 ½ tsp unsalted butter
½ cup finely chopped shallots
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups dry white wine (I used Charles Shaw Chardonnay)
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
7 oz. gruyere, grated
5 oz. aged gouda
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp. minced fresh chives
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp each cayenne and freshly ground nutmeg
4 oz. crusty sourdough bread (about ¼ loaf), torn into large pieces

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling, well-salted water until just cooked, around 7-12 minutes. Drain, and set aside.

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the shallots and cook until just browned, about 3 minutes.

Sprinkle the warmed butter with your flour and then cook, stirring continutously, for one minute. Add the wine and cream and stir well.

Pour in the cheeses, and stir until melted. Add 2 tablespoons chives, mustard, ¼ teaspoon salt, cayenne, and nutmeg. Stir cooked pasta into cheese mixture, then pour all into a shallow baking dish.

In a food processor, pulse bread with remaining 1 ½ tablespoons of butter, 1 teaspoon chives, and ¼ teaspoon salt until coarse bread crumbs form. Sprinkle bread crumbs over pasta and cheese and bake until top is browned and cheese is bubbling, 15-20 minutes.


Mornay Sauce: A basic béchamel sauce to which cheese has been added. It is sometimes varied with the addition of eggs or stock

In 1914 -- J.L. Kraft & Bros. Co. opened their first cheese factory in Stockton, Illinois. A year later, they begin producing process cheese in tins. In 1937 The KRAFT® Macaroni and Cheese Dinner is introduced with the slogan, "Make a meal for 4 in 9 minutes." -

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The ultimate Mac 'N Cheese? This I gotta try.
This is my favorite comfort food! And, I love trying various versions. I am all over this...Thanks!
this is basically both my grandmothers' recipe, except that they always used Keanes Dry English Mustard and tossed the bread crumbs in bacon rendering - now I will have to make it this week. Yummy!!
I made this the other night and it was phenomenal. As a college student, I don't get much practice in the kitchen. But even I didn't mess this recipe up! It's totally worth the effort!
Chelsea, that is great to hear! :-)
Hi! I found this recipe when looking for a recipe like the one I remembered from working at a bakery, which had haunted my dreams for the last few years.

I've made this three times in the last six months, each time for parties. And each time, people have licked the dish clean in minutes and begged for more. No one gets excited about mac and cheese until someone tries it, and then they make everyone else try it, and then you've got about five minutes until they're fighting over crumbs.

It makes a good double batch. Or a triple. Seriously. It also keeps in the fridge and reheats in the oven quite well (about 45min at 350, I think.)

I like smoked gouda (the smoke adds an almost meatlike, bacon-y flavor), but I've had fun experimenting with cheese combos. Also, I've sometimes used a little more cream and cheese -- I like it saucy. Maybe that's why I prefer to undercook the noodles a bit.

I think a sprinkle of parsley on top dresses it up a little, but this is also from the girl who's been known to substitute Ritz crackers for the crumb topping when crunched for time. (for shame!)
I am so loving the idea of you making something as homey and low key as mac n' cheese. There is just a certain charm to it I cant get over.

Hi Rachael-

Wow! I developed this recipe for Sunset back in '06 and I'm so happy that you liked it. It always feels like a huge honor to hear that people have added one of your recipes to their repertoire, especially for holidays and other family dinners.

Amy Traverso
Hi Amy!
I am really a fan of it. It just works perfectly and the flavors are amazing. I still make it all the time. So thank you, SO much! (And I hope it's okay I reprinted it!)
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