This may be the BEST mac and cheese I have EVER had. By “may be”, I mean DEFINITELY IS the best mac and cheese EVER! So, as some of you know, my man just returned home last weekend from a LONG TIME away from home. As always, I make him a delicious, stick-to-your-ribs meal upon his return. By stick-to-your-ribs meal, I mean mac and cheese. Now, I have made many o’ mac and cheese recipes and this is my third Barefoot Contessa mac and cheese recipe. Girlfriend hit it out of the park on this one. Previously, my longstanding favorite Ina mac and cheese recipe was her Lobster Mac and Cheese, to which I subsequently added pancetta. I wanted to try something different this time, but this recipe was not found in one of her cookbooks, rather it was found on the Food Network website. I read a bunch of reviews of the recipe, most of which included high praises, so I thought I would give it a try.
Now, I will admit, finding the truffle butter is not the easiest task. I already knew Whole Paycheck, I mean Whole Foods, carried both white truffle and black truffle butters. I had used white truffle butter to slather my turkey last Thanksgiving, per Ina’s recipe for Perfect Roast Turkey. Expect to see a blog post on this next month! For those of you who don’t know, a truffle is a fungus like a mushroom. If you don’t like mushrooms, you probably won’t like truffles and you probably wouldn’t like this recipe anyway. However, if you are open to fungus eating and are willing to encounter a ka-pow-bang-boom of musky, earthy flavor, you will love the punch that the white truffle butter adds. The white truffle butter at Whole Foods comes in a 3-ounce container for around $11. I KNOW! It seems expensive, but the flavor payoff is worthwhile, I promise! I also purchased the pasta imported from Italy at Whole Foods, while everything else was obtained at Trader Joe’s.
Truffle Mac and Cheese (courtesy of Ina Garten)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Good olive oil
½ pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced ½-inch
½ pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced ½-inch
3 tablespoons cream sherry
1 pound pasta such as cavatappi
3 ounces white truffle butter, such as D’Artagnan
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, scalded
12 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 ½ to 3 cups)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1½ cups fresh white bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) sauté pan, add the mushrooms, and cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are tender. Add the sherry and continue to sauté for a few more minutes, until the sherry is absorbed. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until al dente. Drain well.
Meanwhile, melt the truffle butter in a large (4-quart) saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the white sauce is thickened and creamy.
Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1½ tablespoons salt, the pepper, and nutmeg.
Combine the pasta, sauce, and mushrooms in a large bowl and pour them into a 10 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish.
Sprinkle the crumbs over the pasta and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown. Serve hot.
You could get 8 servings out of this recipe. We’re big eaters in our house and we ate a little less than a third of the batch between the two of us the first night AND someone did go back for seconds. It makes great leftovers. I would reheat it in the same temperature oven until it is warmed through. This keeps the top and the edges crispy, which you know is the best part of mac and cheese anyhow. If you reheat in the microwave, you’re going to lose the crispy texture.
Also, I wasn’t going to buy a whole loaf of white bread just to use a couple slices for the topping and would end up going to waste in our house. I decided to use panko breadcrumbs. I actually think this is a better choice because you get an even crispier topping in comparison to the fresh breadcrumbs, which I have used in the past.
Please make this! You won’t be sorry 🙂 Enjoy!