A dish that is synonymous with so many things, childhood, comfort, and family gets made over.
No one knows cheese better than Laura Werlin, and now she’s applying her expertise to everyone’s favorite macaroni dish. Inside, you’ll find 50 recipes organized by fun topics, such as Classic and Almost-Classic Mac n’ Cheese, Porky Mac n’ Cheese, Decadent Mac n’ Cheese, Lighten Up Mac n’ Cheese, Veggie Mac n’ Cheese, Party Time Mac n’ Cheese, and Breakfast for Dinner Mac n’ Cheese. The 50 recipes are presented in a fun format, like her previous title, Grilled Cheese Please! She even includes an appendix that includes info on all the food trucks and restaurants that specialize in mac n’ cheese.
Classic Mac & Cheese
Fried Mac & Cheese Squares
Classic Mac & Cheese
This is a classic mac & cheese in every way but one. This one includes onion. I like the sweetness the onions add, but if you don’t like that idea, then simply leave them out. The dish will likely make it into your regular mac & cheese repertoire either way.
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces small elbow macaroni
5 tablespoons salted butter, plus more for baking dish
2 cups coarse, fresh bread crumbs (preferably homemade)
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
¾ cup finely diced yellow onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces medium or aged cheddar cheese, preferably orange, coarsely grated (cups)
6 ounces Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated (2 cups)
½ teaspoon mustard powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or eight 6 ounce ramekins). Set aside.
Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, about 4 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.
While the pasta is cooking, in a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until mixed well. Set aside.
Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until the onion is coated with the flour, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for about 2 minutes more, or until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture is just beginning to thicken and bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens. Add 1½ cups of the cheddar, the Gruyère, mustard powder, cayenne, and nutmeg and stir until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. Again, it should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking, stirring constantly, until it thickens.
Add the pasta and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of cheddar and top with the bread crumb mixture. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Bacon: Cook 6 to 8 slices bacon. Crumble and add after the cheeses have been added and the sauce is smooth, and/or Oven-roasted tomatoes: Add after the cheeses have been added and the sauce is smooth, and/or Arugula: Add 6 cups, a handful at a time, after the cheeses have been added and the sauce is smooth, and/or Roasted red peppers: Add ¾ cup coarsely chopped peppers from a jar along with the pasta.
Fried Mac & Cheese Squares
Makes about 10 dozen 1-inch squares
There’s only one thing better than mac & cheese: fried mac & cheese. Crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, it’s a dreamy textural sensation, not to mention a flavor-packed one. Best of all, it’s a spectacular use of leftover oven-cooked mac & cheese (stovetop mac & cheese won’t work here). The measurements for fried mac & cheese are entirely dependent on how much you have left over. This recipe is enough for a full 8-inch square pan. That’s for those of you who are making mac & cheese for the sole purpose of turning it into its fried counterpart.
1 (8-inch square) oven-cooked Classic Mac & Cheese or Buffalo Chicken and Crispy Skin Mac & Cheese (page 144), chilled for 24 to 48 hours
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups coarse, fresh bread crumbs (preferably homemade)
1½ cups canola, vegetable, or peanut oil, plus more as needed
Frank’s RedHot Sauce, for serving
Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and line another one with paper towels.
Cut the mac & cheese into large pieces, then cut each piece into 1-inch squares.
Place the flour, salt, and cayenne in a shallow bowl, and whisk to combine. Place the eggs in another shallow bowl, and put the bread crumbs into a third bowl.
Dip a mac & cheese square into the flour mixture. Tap off excess flour, then dip into the egg. Roll in the bread crumbs and set on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining mac & cheese squares.
Heat the oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. The oil is hot enough when it looks wavy. Test with one mac & cheese square. It should sizzle and begin to turn brown on the underside in about 30 seconds.
To cook, add as many squares as will comfortably fit in the pan without crowding. Using tongs, turn the squares just as they begin to brown on the undersides. Keep turning so that all sides are browned. Transfer to the paper towel–lined baking sheet as they’re done. Serve right away or place the batch in the oven to keep warm. Continue cooking the remaining squares.
Serve with Frank’s RedHot Sauce alongside.
—From Mac & Cheese, Please, 50 Super Cheesy Recipes, by Laura Werlin, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC