The Absolute {Best} Mac & Cheese

I have committed myself to several lifelong quests.  Among them are learning to knit, and finding a pair of eyeglass frames that actually look good on my face.  But also = epic Mac & Cheese.  Deny it all you want, but if you see Mac & Cheese on a menu, aren’t you tempted to order it?

Comfort food extraordinaire, there are literally thousands of versions of our favorite cheesy bliss.  I’ve tried everything, including spaghetti noodles (don’t ask) and attempting to “improve” boxed versions with my own twist (don’t do that).
Homemade is definitely best, and after plenty of taste-testing by my apathetic-about-everything teenagers, we’ve decided this Mac & Cheese is the best so far.

  • 1 lb any fun macaroni of your choosing (curls, twists, and elbows will hold onto that cheese just a bit better)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 tbsp flour 
  • Approx 9 cups of freshly-shredded sharp cheddar, white cheddar, or (as we see here), both
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

I use my laminated cast iron Dutch oven for this dish (surprise!) which basically means I’m constantly washing it. And it’s like 10 lbs.  Totally worth it, however, for the perfect center and crispy edges.

Boil your macaroni to aldente in salted water, with a splash of olive oil (if you have it on hand).  Once boiled, I like to rinse pasta in cold water.  This stops the cooking process, and keeps your pasta from becoming sticky.  You’ll be tempted to skip it, but it’s 10 seconds that makes a difference.

Rub the sides of your Dutch oven with butter, and add back your rinsed pasta.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, add your milk and stir until warm.  Don’t let it boil or stick to the bottom, because that makes that gross skin and nobody likes that.

Add your sour cream to the milk, and continue stirring until it’s just below the boiling point.  Set aside.

Grab a larger saucepan, and toss in your 4 tbsp of butter.  Swirl around until fully melted and starting to cook, then add 2-3 tbsp of flour.  What you want is a smooth, flour-cream that thickens as it cooks (this is called a “roux”, because fancy).  You can cook your roux as long as you’d like – 3 minutes for a blonde (light) roux, or 7-8 minutes for a darker, nutty roux.  I go somewhere in the middle, and cook my roux for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add in your salt and pepper as you stir.

Once your roux is blonde or nutty (or something in between, like me), it’s time to add back your milk mix.  Slowly pour the warm milk and sour cream into the roux, and, stirring constantly, bring to a very low boil.

Then add your cheese!  All that beautiful cheese!  And delight in the glory of watching 9 cups of cheddar melt into creamy perfection.

Stir until melted over low heat, and then pour the whole gorgeous pan into your Dutch oven of macaroni.  Gently fold the cheese sauce over all those nooks and crannies.

Cover and cook at 365 degrees for 30 minutes.  Again, ovens vary, so don’t wander off.

I served mine with fried chicken last night.  Don’t judge me.

Add in-ideas:  leftover bacon, BBQ chicken, or ham.  Some people like a bread crumb topping, but I don’t.  It’s like sand in my Mac & Cheese, and I don’t understand that.  I also don’t understand why people are trying to substitute cauliflower.  Please don’t substitute cauliflower. 

Comfort and joy, friends.

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