When it comes to the best homemade mac and cheese recipe ever, everyone knows mac and cheese reigns supreme, especially during Thanksgiving feasts. This isn’t just any mac and cheese, but arguably the thickest, creamiest one you’ll ever taste. Those giant cheese pulls? They’ll have everyone at the dinner table speechless. Beyond its status as a standout side dish, mac and cheese is a beloved comfort meal, offering solace and nostalgia at the end of a long day.
The creation of this recipe was born out of necessity after I misplaced my original one, passed to me by a dear friend. My inventive twist introduced crème Fraiche alongside the medley of cheeses. This addition takes the creaminess up a notch and infuses a delightful tangy undertone. This dish has become such a hit that it’s now my signature New Year’s treat for friends. Their affection for it was evident when I once received a 1 a.m. call, where they sang their praises—maybe they had too much to drink or were simply overwhelmed by the rich flavors. Either way, I’m excited for you to share this special recipe with your loved ones and relish the joy it brings!
Key Ingredients for the Best Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipe
- Elbow Pasta (or any of your favorites):Pasta serves as the comforting base of this dish, providing a neutral canvas for the rich cheese sauce. Its primary role is to provide the mac and cheese with a satisfying texture.
- Pancetta:Pancetta adds a savory and slightly salty flavor to the dish. It becomes crispy and imparts a delightful crunch and smoky undertones when cooked.
- Shallot:Shallots bring a mild, sweet, and slightly oniony flavor. They provide a more subtle essence than regular onions, ensuring they don’t overpower the dish.
- Butter and Flour:Butter and flour are used to create a roux, which serves as the thickening agent for the cheese sauce. Butter contributes a rich, creamy taste, while flour adds a subtle nuttiness.
- Whole Milk:Whole milk adds creaminess and a mild, sweet dairy flavor to the sauce. It’s a key component in creating a velvety texture.
- Gruyère Cheese:Gruyère cheese lends a nutty and slightly sweet flavor with a creamy, melting quality. It’s known for its exceptional melting ability, making it a popular choice for mac and cheese.
- White Cheddar Cheese:White cheddar cheese provides a sharp and tangy flavor profile. It contributes to the robust cheese sauce, balancing the richness with its zesty notes.
- Parmesan Cheese:Parmesan cheese adds a salty and savory kick to the dish. It also contributes to the sauce’s creaminess and enhances the umami flavor.
- Crème Fraîche:Crème fraîche brings a mild tanginess and richness to the mac and cheese. It offers a creamy, velvety texture and a subtle cultured flavor.
- Chili Powder:Chili powder introduces a gentle, smoky heat and a touch of complexity to the dish. It complements the richness of the cheese sauce with its mild spiciness.
- Topping (Bread Crumbs, Butter, Parmesan Cheese):The topping, made with bread crumbs, butter, and Parmesan cheese, adds a crispy, golden layer to the mac and cheese. It provides a delightful contrast in texture and an additional layer of cheesy flavor.
Together, these ingredients create a harmonious blend of creamy, cheesy, savory, and slightly smoky flavors, making this homemade mac and cheese a comforting and indulgent classic.
How to Make a Roux?
Creating the perfect roux is pivotal for achieving that luxurious, creamy texture in your homemade mac and cheese. Start by melting butter in a saucepan. Once it’s bubbling, whisk in the flour and your chosen seasonings. This roux will act as a thickening agent for your cheese sauce, ensuring a smooth and creamy consistency. I incorporate pancetta and shallots into the roux to elevate the flavors and make this mac and cheese stand out.
How Long to Bake?
Baking is the finishing touch when crafting the perfect homemade mac and cheese. While all components are pre-cooked, baking allows flavors and cheeses to meld exquisitely. I’ve found that 30 minutes is the ideal duration. It ensures that the macaroni remains al dente while letting the rich, cheesy goodness fully integrate, creating that unparalleled homemade taste.
Can You Freeze Mac?
Absolutely! This homemade mac and cheese recipe is perfect for freezing. It’s versatile whether you assemble and freeze it directly in the baking tray or freeze any scrumptious leftovers. Choose to freeze before or after baking based on your convenience. If you’re freezing a baked portion, simply section it into freezer-safe bags, then wrap it in foil for an easy reheat.
What to Do With Leftover Homemade Mac and Cheese?
Got some of this delicious homemade mac and cheese left? Turn them into delightful mac and cheese bites! Simply form the leftovers into small balls, coat them in breadcrumbs, and fry or air-fry until golden for a crunchy treat. Alternatively, layer the mac and cheese in a sandwich for a cheesy melt, or mix with some diced veggies and bake in a muffin tin for individual mac and cheese cups. Whichever method you choose, you’re in for a treat.
Reheat Mac and Cheese Without it Being Dry.
Reheating your favorite homemade mac and cheese recipe shouldn’t result in a dry or less appetizing dish. The secret? Add a splash of milk. Mixing in a little milk while reheating will restore its original creamy texture, ensuring every bite is as delightful as when it was freshly made.
Pair Your Homemade Mac and Cheese
Pairing suggestions for your homemade mac and cheese are abundant, making it a versatile side dish for your Thanksgiving feast. You can serve it alongside your herbed turkey or roasted whole duck, creating a harmonious blend of flavors. If you’re looking to balance the richness of the mac and cheese, consider adding some vibrant green beans or a refreshing beet salad with burrata. Don’t forget to include traditional Thanksgiving sides like cranberry relish, roasted Brussels sprouts, and roasted garlic mashed potatoes for a complete holiday spread. And when it’s time for dessert, enjoy the sweet notes of a deep-dish apple pie and a luscious pumpkin tart, rounding out your Thanksgiving meal with comfort and joy.
Tell Me How I’m Doing?
Loved this recipe or have a twist of your own? Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!