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How to Make the Best Mac & Cheese

 

It’s tempting to call this an elevated, grown-up version of mac and cheese. It’s full of the zing of mustard and the bright, vinegar heat of green hot sauce — but not overwhelmingly so. In the end, it’s the cheese sauce and its perfectly creamy texture that wins the day, and of course, that’s what big and little kids adore. So it’s a mac and cheese for everybody!

It turns out that the secret to making the creamiest mac and cheese (ever) is using condensed milk, and then getting the ratio of the milk to the cheese just right. Doing so yields a thick sauce that stays smooth and creamy in the oven; it won’t dry out and harden on you. We do sprinkle a little cheddar and fontina over it, so you get a crispy cheese top too. 

Noodle shape is also extremely important here. Those little cavatappi corkscrews are magic because the creamy sauce hugs their curves — literally every noodle is perfectly coated in cheese. We challenge you to stop at one or two bites.

We like to serve mac and cheese for Sunday suppers with friends and little kids’ birthday parties. It’s a shoe-in for both because it’s such a crowd-pleaser. On the other hand, it’s also the dish we want to curl up with on a quiet Friday night. Come here, Netflix.  

 

Servings: 4 

 

Ingredients

 

1 lb cavatappi

1 tsp olive oil

3 cups heavy cream

1 5-oz can evaporated milk

8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated, plus more for topping

8 oz fontina, grated, plus more for topping

1 tsp dry mustard

2 Tbsp green Tabasco Sauce

Salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

 

Directions

 

  1. Prepare the cavatappi according to the package instructions, and then strain it, put it in a large bowl, toss it with the olive oil, and set it aside.

  2. In a medium heavy-bottomed pot, combine the heavy cream and evaporated milk, and heat the mixture over medium heat until it’s almost simmering, about 5 to 7 minutes.

  3. Add the cheddar cheese in four batches, sprinkling it over the hot cream and whisking continually. Note: Adding too much cheese at once will yield a gritty cheese sauce. Add it slowly, allowing the cheese to melt completely before you sprinkle more on — and you’ll have a smooth, heavenly cheese sauce.

  4. Whisk in the fontina cheese, using the same batching method as above.

  5. Whisk in the dry mustard and Tabasco Sauce.

  6. Combine the cheese sauce with the cooked pasta — it will be very creamy.  

  7. Transfer the mac and cheese to a baking dish, top it with cheddar and fontina cheeses, and broil it for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese has begun to brown and bubble.

  8. Allow the mac and cheese to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

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