Macaroni and cheese has been around longer than 1937 when the Kraft Company put it inside a small blue and yellow box. Traveling back in time to Italy again, remember, those Romans invented meatloaf, with two versions of the origin.
13th Century Neapolitan cooks were using a recipe called “de lasanis”, sounds a lot like lasagna and for good reason. Fermented dough sheets were cut into two inch strips, boiled in water, drained and tossed with grated Parmesan cheese. Whole sheets were also used as a layer between other layers of cheeses and spices, an early version of lasagna.
However, Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Mary Randolph, is credited for making the American version of macaroni and cheese. After visiting Italy, Jefferson brought back a pasta making machine, and a recipe for a pasta dish, using Parmesan cheese. His daughter changed the recipe and substituted Cheddar, as Parmesan wasn’t readily available in Virginia. Jefferson was fascinated with Italy’s culture and cuisine, and named his home Monticello (pronounced Mont-eh-chello (like the musical instrument – Cello). Its translation is “hillock” or “little mountain; in 1888, founding residents of Monticello, Utah (there are 16 Monticello towns in the USA) adopted the name for their town, but its pronunciation is Mon-ti-sel-o. What can I say, Americans are hooked on phonics!
Why do we love macaroni and cheese so much? It goes back to basic needs for nurturing and comfort. The taste, smell, texture allows our brain to remember memories long past of being held, comforted, protected. Then again, put a load of chilies or hot sauce in macaroni and cheese to kickstart memories of wild times that felt just as good as the comforting ones.
Basic recipe for macaroni and cheese typically uses one cheese, but my recipes usually aren’t typical. Depending on how creative I feel like being, it could be 2-3-4, even 5 cheeses; made in a pot on the stovetop, or baked in the oven for a slight browning and crisping on top. No matter how many cheeses used, it always begins with the making of a roux (fat plus flour), adding milk to create béchamel sauce (white sauce), then the mixing in and melting of the cheese(s).
The recipe I’m going to be giving is for the stovetop, but can always be spread into a baking dish for getting that browned, crispy topping. I named this version of my mac n' cheese "Heart Attack Mac n' Cheese" for a very good reason; anyone who tried it said, "Eat this mac n' cheese every day, and you'll end up having a heart attack!" I used a friend as a guinea pig, who shared some with her son; she asked if there was any way she could get more. I considered that request a great complement in itself, so of course gave her another container full. By the way, I break a rule on making the roux by not using equal parts fat with flour, but once you taste this, forgiveness is easily given. One more thing, as I'm making the sauce I'm also cooking up the elbow macaroni; that way it all comes together piping hot and fresh.
Ready for a heart attack?
Heart Attack Mac n' Cheese
16 Tbsp. salted butter
1 cup flour
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp paprika
4 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 cups shredded, extra sharp Cheddar cheese
6 cups cooked large elbow macaroni
In a large saucepan, melt the butter on medium-high heat (make sure to watch and not let burn or brown); begin whisking in the flour until well incorporated. Continue whisking for five minutes as the roux begins to turn a golden color. Add in the black pepper, sea salt, paprika, heavy cream and milk; bring to a boil.
Immediately add in the Monterey Jack cheese and begin whisking until smooth; add in the goat cheese, whisk until smooth; repeat with the Cheddar cheese, but one cup at a time.
If you took my advice and cooked the macaroni while making the sauce, drain it, but put it back into the pot it was cooked in. Once you begin adding the cheese sauce, the heat from the pot will keep it from clotting around the drained pasta.
Mix it all together gently; you don't want to smash or break apart the macaroni. Now serve it up and enjoy; and we found out that even eaten cold, it was delectable! Servings? Good question and I'm going to estimate 12 to 16. While I could only eat a half cup before going into "this is so good!!!" shock, Roy was able to eat a whole cup full and still want more.