Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Creamy Triple White Mac-n-Cheese

What is it with kids and mac-n-cheese?  For mine, unless it comes in a cardboard box and has a yellow power that supposedly passes as cheese, they aren't too interested.  Variety, apparently, is not the spice of their lives.  However, for those of us with more sophisticated palates, a bite of the boxed version only serves to remind us of our childhoods and forces us to remember why we really prefer the good stuff.

This mac-n-cheese is case in point.  Actually, I made it up on a whim, and after the first bite, declared to El Hub that I like it even better than its cheddar counterpart!  Score!  Havarti cheese might be a bit unknown to some; I happened upon it at Aldi, of all places!  I would suggest looking for it in the cheese section of your grocery near the deli.  It is wonderfully creamy when melted, which makes it perfect for grown-up mac-n-cheese!

Creamy Triple White Mac-n-Cheese
A Karla Original

8 oz. (1 lb. or 1/2 a box of pasta) small dried pasta, cooked according to package directions in salted water
salt for pasta water
2 tbl. unsalted butter
2 tbl. flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. smoked paprika
8 oz. package of jack cheese, shredded (I used my food processor to shred the block of cheese)
8 oz. package of creamy havarti cheese, cut into small-ish chunks
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 tbl. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 sleeve of butter crackers (like Ritz), crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Once boiling, add a generous amount of salt (this is the only chance to flavor the pasta, and salt brings out the flavor in pasta) and add the dried pasta.  Cook according to package directions until al dente.  Drain in colander.

Meanwhile, to make the cheese sauce, heat butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the flour to make the roux; heat until it starts to bubble.  Add the white pepper, garlic powder, and smoked paprika.  Slowly add the chicken broth, and whisk constantly to combine.  Add the milk and whisk until smooth and thickened.  Off the heat and add the three kinds of cheese, stirring to melt.

Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta; toss gently to incorporate and cover the pasta.  Transfer to a 3-quart glass casserole dish.  Combine 3 tbl. of melted butter with crushed crackers.  Evenly distribute over the tope of the mac-n-cheese.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes until heated through.  Remove lid and bake for 5-10 more minutes, until cracker topping is slightly browned and crispy.

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