The other night, it was raining and cold and I was tired and definitely didn't want to make a big meal for dinner. We had suddenly gone from 5 people around the kitchen island to 8 people eating with us on a Thursday night. We had already had a one dish meal this week (ravioli with meat sauce) and I wasn't sure if everyone would want pasta again. I spoke with Jeff and mentioned macaroni and cheese. That has been an alternative to some of our meals over the past few weeks but it never got chosen. We decided that if we made it we could put something else with it...ham, bacon, tuna? We decided on ham and I wanted to add diced tomatoes, but ham it was and I finally got macaroni and cheese.
Just recently, I had seen a great recipe for a 3 cheese macaroni and cheese but do you think I could find it? Not Thursday night! I jumped on-line and started searching for a 3 cheese macaroni. I landed at the Food Network and found a recipe that had been highlighted during Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. It was a 3 cheese macaroni and cheese recipe from Eveready Diner in Hyde Park, NY. I loved the recipe because it started with a basic roux base of butter and flour which was followed by milk and cream and then lots (or should I say loads) of cheese. It reminded me of the way my mother made her baked macaroni and cheese.
Some quick notes before you begin:
1. We used large shells instead of elbows. It gave the recipe more substance. We love elbows, but a larger pasta holds flavor better and doesn't get lost in the cheese.
2. We used a 1 pound ham steak, chopped it into one inch cubes and sauteed them for about 5 minutes. It gave them a great flavor before being mixed with the cheese and pasta.
3. We used half the salt, only because we were adding ham and that can be salty.
4. I wish we had added a can of drained diced tomatoes. I was looking for that ham, cheese and tomato combination, like in a grilled cheese sandwich. If you decide to be adventurous and mix a can in, I would toss it with the cooked pasta and then add the cheese. Also, tell me how it came out!
5. We used panko bread crumbs and Ritz cracker crumbs. We love the buttery flavor of the crumbs.
6. We used lots of Cheddar and Monterey because when we decided to double it we didn't have everything we needed. So, I think it was 2 pounds of cheddar, 2 pounds of Cheddar and Monterey jack cheese and 8 ounces of Romano.
Finally, served on the table, it was delicious. It is that great comfort food which made the cold and rainy day seem less miserable. Everyone loved the cheesy flavor, the addition of the ham and plenty of leftovers. They went out the door as lunch for at least two of my kids. Who says you can't bring macaroni and cheese to lunch when you are in high school!
- 1 tablespoon salt, plus more for pasta water
- 1 pound large elbow macaroni
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound white Cheddar, shredded
- 4 ounces Romano, shredded
- 4 ounces Asiago, shredded
- 2 cups bread crumbs (suggested: panko (Japanese) available at most markets)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
In large pot filled with water add 3 pinches of salt and the macaroni and place over high heat. Bring to a boil and let cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, melt butter. Sprinkle flour over butter and cook 2 to 3 minutes on medium heat, whisking until a roux or paste forms. Add cold milk and whisk vigorously until dissolved. Cook sauce on medium-low heat until thick and bubbly. Add heavy cream, all cheeses, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper. Cook until cheeses are fully melted, stirring occasionally.
Add cooked macaroni to cheese mixture and mix thoroughly. Place macaroni mixture in a 13 by 9 baking dish and top with bread crumbs. Place in the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Top with fresh parsley and serve.
For variations, add cooked lobster meat, truffle oil, bacon and/or garden fresh vegetables.
Note: This recipe feeds 4-6 people, but when we doubled the batch (having eight people) we had more than enough. One batch will definitely feed 6-8 people.