This extravagant dish was conceived while watching the UCONN Huskies dominate the Spartans this past Sunday afternoon. Mike and I were already going to be making fried chicken for dinner (yep… marathon training certainly brings out the healthiest choices!)- when we decided to continue the party back at Brian and Jenna’s house so that the pups could have a play date and Brian and I could get cooking.
To say that Brian was enthusiastic about making this macaroni is an understatement. This recipe ended up being a combination of his methods and mine- and it is SINFUL. There is NOTHING healthy about it, other than you are going to want to eat the entire tray.
Very simple set of ingredients: 1 pound of shells, 1 quart of milk, 6 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons flour, 1.5 sleeves ritz crackers (not pictured), 2 lbs of cheese (getting to that!), and truffle oil!
The secret weapon here: CHEESE ENDS! I had NO IDEA that this was a thing (I admittedly have been drinking the Whole Foods kool-aid, and have forgotten that things like cheese ends exist!). Brian grabbed a few packs of cheese ends (which were filled with yummy cheddar, American, muenster, swiss, and provolone slabs)- and taught me that one of the best mac ‘n cheeses I have ever eaten in my life does NOT need to be made with expensive Gruyere, aged cheddar, parm, etc- just grab a few of these <$1 packs of ends!!!
The method is fairly traditional:
When the flour is cooked out, add all of the milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a bubble, and begin adding cubed cheese ends. Our favorite additions were the American, provolone, swiss, and cheddar. I thought the American actually added a lot of flavor- which surprised my snobby butt because I had not considered American cheese outside of a grilled-cheese-and-white-bread… and the creamy, rounded flavor really added to the overall “cheesy” flavor.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package instructions, minus 2 minutes (because we are going to bake the pasta in the cream sauce). Also, melt the other 3 tablespoons of butter in a pan and add about a sleeve and a half of crushed ritz crackers (Jenna’s favorite part)- and toast until golden brown.
When the pasta is done, drain and set aside. Taste your cheese sauce for salt and pepper- it may not need much due to all of the cheese (1.5 POUNDS…. remember??)… and add 1 teaspoon of truffle oil. You DO NOT need more than that- it is quite flavorful. We added white truffle oil, you can use black. If real truffles are available and you are a baller, go for it. We fantasized about getting some truffles for this and decided… maybe, just maybe next time
By the way- if you have not had truffle oil or truffles- GET ON IT It brings such a unique umami flavor- heady and full- hard for me to describe- but go for it. And if you are in a fancy place and they are offering a truffle supplement and they happen to be shaving the REAL deal truffles over your food? Well? Go for it. DOOO it. You will not regret it.
- 1.5 pounds of cheese ends (mixture of American, swiss, provolone, cheddar, muenster, etc)- cubed into ½ inch pieces
- 1 pound shaped pasta (shells, elbows, rotini, etc)
- 1 quart milk
- 6 tablespoons butter (3 tablespoons for sauce, 3 for cracker topping)
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon white truffle oil, best quality available
- 1.5 sleeves of crushed butter crackers (ritz)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425. You will need a 9"x13" baking dish.
- Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan; add 3 tablespoons of flour and whisk until the flour is lightly golden brown and cooked
- Add the milk; whisk to remove any lumps. Allow to come to a bubble.
- Add the cheese; whisk to melt completely.
- Taste; add salt and pepper if necessary.
- Add the truffle oil.
- Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a pan; add the crushed ritz crackers. Stirring frequently, toast the crackers in the butter until golden brown.
- Add the pasta to the cheese sauce, stir. Pour the mixture into a 9"x13" casserole dish. Top with cracker crumbs.
- Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden. Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.
See that deliciousness with my chicken? Yes- it IS this amazing mac and cheese!