An Epic Mac & Cheese

There are recipes that make you feel like you could run a marathon, simply because of the energy and nutrition they provide you with. Then, there are recipes that make you feel like putting on sweatpants, getting comfy in front of the fire and never leaving the house. Chrissy Teigen’s Mac & Cheese is one of the latter.  It is heavy, rich, and unbelievably delicious. It makes boxed mac & cheese look like amateur hour in the kitchen. A word to the wise, this is in no way a recipe for the lactose intolerant. The amount of dairy in this thing is just outrageous.

With claims like that, it also requires a decent amount of prep work and organization. I was initially going to make this while working nights and I am SO glad I didn’t. Nights inevitably lead to a lack of motivation. This recipe requires a fair bit of it. It’s from Chrissy’s first Cravings cookbook, which has yet to let me down with a recipe.

Start by greasing a 9×13 baking dish and preheating your oven to 425F.

Then, in a heavily salted pot of boiling water add 1lb of pasta shells (aka about half a bag of your standard 900g bag of pasta. When cooked, drain it, rinse it, and toss it with a tablespoon of neutral oil (vegetable, preferably). “Mac” complete.

On to the topping: cheesy garlic breadcrumbs. In a food processor, combine 8 slices of your standard sandwich bread. Process it until it is…*drum roll*….breadcrumbs and then transfer them to a bowl. Then, in a large skillet, melt about a third of a cup of unsalted butter over medium heat. Add 6 cloves of finely minced garlic (about 3 tsps of that pre-minced garlic you can buy. Don’t be a hero. We all could use a shortcut here and there. Keep stirring your garlic until fragrant, but not browned. Add your breadcrumbs and continue to stir until nice a toasty and browned (almost ten minutes). Add 1 tsp of kosher salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Remove from the heat, transfer to a pan to cool and add 5 tbsp of grated Parmigiana-Reggiano. This is just the beginning of your cheeses.

Then on to the Cheese, which is somewhat of a roux. Melt half a cup of butter over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add five tablespoons of flour to your butter and whisk consistently until it is a nice brown colour and smells toasty.

Gradually add 5 cups of milk, while continuing to whisk and up the heat to bring it to a boil. Once boiled, turn down the heat and continue to stir until it thickens.

Time for the addition of the actual cheese: 3 cups of shredded cheddar, 3 cups of grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese and about 16 slices of your standard Kraft singles (aka American “cheese”). Add them a handful at a time, keeping a handful reserved for your topping. Keep on whisking until that baby is nice and smooth. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper and at least 3/4 tsp of cayenne pepper, more if you’re a spicy one!

Once that’s done, add your pasta to your cheese sauce and stir to coat it and warm it back up. At this point, you can add some more salt and pepper if your little heart desires.

Pour it all into the aforementioned greased baking dish and top with your reserved handful of cheese and your cheesy garlic bread crumbs.

Toss it into the oven until the topping is nicely browned – about eight minutes.

Again, effort required, but the payoff is unreal. I think it was even better on the second day.

It;s high on the hassle scale though. Maybe the highest of any recipe I’ve ever posted about here. This is like the macaron of dinner recipes. Many steps and lots of planning required. Or spend your evening running around your kitchen, furiously trying to grate cheese at the same time as you’re adding it.

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