A Different take on Mac & Cheese
A good pasta and cheese dish made from scratch is essential to everyone’s dinner lineup. If you have another recipe, I would ask you to try this one and compare the two. While macaroni is the typical choice for pasta, I like to experiment with other shapes, such as Conchiglie (seashell pasta). Macaroni and penne tend to get overused, in my opinion. Using other types of pasta makes this dish more interesting, and with so many options out there, why not?
This recipe is based on a Swiss fondue technique to get a multi-layered flavored sauce. It’s mixed with the pasta of your choice, baked in the oven and topped with bread crumbs. It is delicious with just about any type of protein you wish to serve it with. You will see that this version is miles above the blue box variety of traditional American Mac n’ Cheese.
Use this recipe to explore different ways of making your own favorite versions. You can substitute one or more of the cheeses, add bacon and top with fresh chives upon taking it out of the oven, or add roasted diced Sandia Hatch chilies and Oaxaca cheese in substitution for the Monterrey Jack. If there is a better recipe for, basically, macaroni and cheese out there, I haven’t had it.
Conchiglie Pasta and Cheese
Most mac and cheese recipes begins with a Béchamel sauce. To make this version you will be, in effect, creating a Mornay sauce which is a slightly more fancy version of that same sauce. This technique starts as a Swiss fondue and can still be used for that purpose, the cheese is just a different kind and the splash of kirsch is omitted at the end.
- 1/4 cup garlic minced
- 1 cup shallots minced
- 4 tbsp butter divided in half
- 1/4 cup avocado oil substitute olive oil, canola, grapeseed
- 2 cup white wine
- 2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp black pepper ground
- 2 tsp chicken base like More Than Gourmet
- 2 cup half & half
- 2 tsp Tabasco style hot sauce
- 4 tbsp flour all purpose (add remaining butter-heat and mix separately)
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1/2 cup Provolone cheese grated
- 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese grated
- 2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese grated
- 2/3 lb or 10.5 oz Dry Conchiglie Sea shell pasta, cooked al dente
- Salt to taste (Season with salt if needed afterwards, all of these cheeses contain a fair bit of salt already)
- To make the topping:
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
- tbsp butter melted
- Salt to taste
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Combine all ingredients and mix well.
- The resulting bread crumb mixture should have a moist appearance and texture.
Sweat garlic and shallots in 2 tablespoons of butter and oil until translucent.
Add white wine and reduce to half, you should clearly see the shallots again at this point.
Add in heavy cream, black pepper, Tabasco style hot sauce, chicken bouillon and half & half.
Bring back to a simmer.
In a small saucepan, create a roux by melting the remaining 2 tablespoon of butter then whisking in flour. The roux will be a paste like consistency.
Whisk continually until very light blonde in color and cook briefly, approximately 1-3 minutes.
Whisk roux into simmering milk mixture to thicken.
Simmer for 5 minutes or slightly thickened
Add the cheeses (whisk in the cheese by 3 handfuls to incorporate-whisking in between) and bring to a simmer.
Add to the cooked pasta.
Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Allow to cool.
Add the panko bread crumb topping.
Add the pasta to a 1.5 Qt casserole dish and cover tightly, first with plastic wrap and then heavy duty foil.
Bake at 350º for 50-60 minutes or until the pasta is bubbling and pipping hot with an internal temp of at least 150-160.
Remove the foil and plastic wrap and broil on high (around 500 degrees) uncovered to crisp up the bread crumbs. This will happen fairly quickly so stay around to monitor the bread crumbs under the broiler. Promptly remove when the bread crumbs are golden brown.
Let cool for about 5-8 minutes.
Serve immediately or when desired. All the cream, cheese and pasta will stay hot for some time if you have other things to do. If you are not going to serve within 30 minutes place back in the oven on the lowest setting or a minimum of 140 to keep warm.
Casserole Dish: Corningware French White III Round Casserole Dish 1.5 Quart