I've been on the hunt for 'the perfect' macaroni & cheese for quite some time now. Don't get me wrong, though. When I was a kid, Velveeta Shells & Cheese was my absolutely favorite food for a long time. But I think there's something to be said about a really, really good homemade macaroni & cheese. I first checked Pinterest for the perfect recipe, but was sadly (and shockingly!) disappointed.
When I asked my Facebook friends for suggestions, a friend of mine from grad school gave me the perfect recipe. It's basically an enhanced version of this Land O'Lakes recipe. And I love it! It's the perfect side dish, although I'm pretty sure I could eat it as my entire meal.
MACARONI & CHEESE (serves 12)
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 stick + 3 T butter
3.5 T flour
1 quart half & half
4 T dijon mustard
8 oz cream cheese, cubed
2 c shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack, and colby jack)
1 t salt
pinch each cayenne pepper, garlic salt, nutmeg
1 c Italian style breadcrumbs
2 T fresh parsley
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. While pasta is cooking, melt 1 stick butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour. Cook for a minute, until bubbly. Add half & half, dijon mustard, salt, and other seasonings. Add in cream cheese and shredded cheese a little at a time. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes until sauce is thickened.
Stir cooked pasta into cheese sauce, then pour into a large glass casserole dish. Melt remaining butter in a small bowl. Add breadcrumbs and parsley and stir to combine. Spread evenly over macaroni & cheese. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.
**The real trick here is to combine many different types of shredded cheese. You can't go wrong with a good mix!