Friday, October 3, 2014

Hubby's 5 Star Blue Ribbon Mac & Cheese

How many ways can you make macaroni and cheese? Well... When I put my mind to it, if you count everything from the slightest variations, to your major transformations, my guess would be somewhere in the millions. Yup. I said millions. It's only human nature to want to put your own little stamp on something that you're creating via (or as you'll often see used around the food blog world "adapted from") someone else's formula. Especially something that you're serving to your beloved family and friends.

I have a tried and true "go-to" macaroni and cheese recipe that I've used for many years, but I've also tried at least 30 different versions of the dish at one time or another. It's not that we haven't enjoyed most of the versions that I've made, or that my old standby recipe isn't a pretty decent one. I blame it on a lifetime of going to potlucks, friend's dinner parties or family cook-outs and trying someone else's mac & cheese and thinking in that particular moment, that it might just be better than mine. You know how it goes, you eat something that someone else has made, you love it, you ask them for the recipe and then can't wait to go home and make it yourself. The problem, however, is that in most cases (at least in my experience, anyway) it rarely ever comes out tasting quite the same way that you remembered it.

Now, I have a theory about that and I'm not pointing an accusatory finger at anyone in particular, but I often wonder if the person giving you their "secret" recipe, might just be deliberately leaving one important little ingredient out. Maybe even two. And no... I don't do that. EVER. If I have a recipe that someone really wants, I just give it to them in its entirety. That being said, depending on the person asking, I do sometimes add just a teeny little disclaimer when I write it down for them. I simply state that I won't be held responsible for any kind of substitutions or changes that they choose to make. (you know who you are...) I think that's only fair, don't you?

So, as I mentioned earlier, the Hubbers has always been pretty happy with most of the variations that I've tried, with a few exceptions here and there. But this particular version was like no other mac & cheese that either of us had ever tasted before. And I mean that in a totally "knock your socks off" kinda way. The most incredible thing about it is that it doesn't have any bacon, or lobster, or white truffle oil in it. It was truly a happy accident. And, I simply can't take full credit for "recipe development" on this one, either. I have to share that distinction with, um, my refrigerator. Yeah... I guess I should explain that one, eh?

It happened on one of those nights where 1) you just know that you're not even thinking about entertaining the idea of going out to the store to buy a certain ingredient and 2) your brain kicks into gear and you start thinking, "Hmmm.... I wonder just how many different leftover bricks/bags of cheese I have in that meat & cheese drawer today?" You know the kind of concoctions I'm talking about. They're what I fondly refer to as "cleaning out the fridge recipes". And boy, oh boy... did this one ever work! The Hubster gave it 5 stars and a blue ribbon! And let me assure you my friends, that double distinction has happened only a handful of times in the last 32+ years. And that is why I call this recipe "Hubby's 5 Star Blue Ribbon Mac & Cheese".

Now don't be alarmed by the number of photos in this post. If you've been here before, you know you can just use the "Print Friendly" button in the footer of this post and remove any unwanted photos (or my rambling) before you hit that print button. And besides that, I can assure you that this Mac & Cheese recipe is easy peasy. (maybe I should have said easy cheesy. Hmm? What's tha... Uh, yeah.... right. No) Just remember: as always, make sure to get your mise en place done first and then in just a few short steps, you're about 30 minutes away from a big pan of hot, bubbly, creamy, gooey, cheesy, heaven on a plate!

Hubby's 5 Star Blue Ribbon Mac & Cheese
(serves approx 4 to 8, depending on serving size)
  • 16oz Elbow Macaroni, cooked according to pkg directions
  • 1 Small Onion, minced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbls Light Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbls AP Flour
  • 1Tsp Dry Mustard Powder
  • 1&1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 2 Cups Whole or 2% Milk
  • 1 Lg Egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 Cup Shredded Smoked Gouda
  • 1 Cup Shredded Fontina Cheese
  • 8oz Fresh Goat Cheese (Chevre)
  • 2 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
(Set aside about 1/2 cup of the mixture of shredded cheeses (not the goat cheese) for topping the Mac & Cheese before baking.)

1. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F. Saute the finely minced onion in a small skillet with the light olive oil over medium to medium-high heat until it just starts to become translucent. Add in the finely minced garlic and continue to cook, stirring often. Add in the 2 Tbls of flour and continue to cook until the mixture just begins to turn a light golden color and the oil is mostly dissipated.
2. Add in the dry mustard powder and continue to cook for about one minute, making sure that all of the onion and garlic pieces are coated and any oil that was still in the pan is mostly absorbed. Turn off the heat and spoon the mixture out into a large mixing bowl. Add the cup and 1/2 of heavy cream and stir to combine.
3. Next, slowly add the milk while stirring until everything is mixed well.
4. Shred your Mozzarella, Fontina and Smoked Gouda cheeses, if you haven't already done so. Also, crack the egg into a small bowl and beat it lightly with a fork. Pour the beaten egg into the cream and milk mixture and stir it well, to mix all of those ingredients thoroughly.
5. Cook your macaroni in a large pot of liberally salted, boiling water until it's al dente. (just barely tender) Empty the cooked macaroni into a colander, give it a couple of shakes and set it in the sink or over the empty pot to drain thoroughly.

**Kitchen Tip: If you overcook your pasta, it won't absorb as much of the cream and milk mixture while baking and your finished Mac & Cheese could turn out a bit soupy or runny.
6. Fold your softened goat cheese and the shredded cheeses into your creamy mixture. (making sure to keep out about 1/4 to 1/3 Cup of the shredded cheese to layer on the top before baking)
7. Add your onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper and stir well. Then pour the drained macaroni into the bowl and stir gently to combine everything thoroughly. The mixture will be runny or soupy at this point.
8. Once the cream mixture, cheeses, seasonings and macaroni are well combined, pour the entire mixture into a lightly buttered baking dish and sprinkle the remaining shredded cheeses over the top. Place the dish into your pre-heated 350°F oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until heated all the way through and the top is light golden brown and bubbly.

**Kitchen Tip: Sticking a butter knife into the very center of the dish and carefully touching it to your lip or your fingertip, is a good way to see if a casserole is fully heated all the way through.

9. Allow the macaroni and cheese to sit for about 5 minutes before serving. If it's going to be a bit longer than that before you're ready to eat, you can cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil and place it in your turned off oven, with the door open just a bit, to keep it warm.

10. Serve with a big tossed green salad or another vegetable of your choice and some crusty bread and you've got a delicious, comforting weeknight meal.

Or, you can always serve this as a side dish, accompanying a lovely baked ham, a juicy roast turkey or braised pork shoulder, or some crispy fried chicken as part of an awesome Sunday Lunch or Supper!



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  1. Wrote this recipe down several weeks ago and finally made it yesterday and OMG it is the BEST Mac and Cheese ever! It was the very first dish to run out with everyone wanting to know if there was more to come~I suggest if you're making this for a dinner gathering to triple the recipe

    1. Thank you so much for letting me know! It's great to know when other people agree with my hubbs, but even better to know that one of my recipes was able to be a small part of someone's enjoyable meal! I've made it several times since - at "the hubster's" request of course - and I have to say that it's become my favorite too!


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