“Heart Stopping” Mac and Cheese

This macaroni and cheese recipe is very flexible, in regards to flavor. You can use provolone, onions/peppers, and thinly sliced steak for a "Mac and Cheesesteak". Use mozzarella, parmesan, and your pizza toppings for a "Pizzaroni and Cheese". Or go for pepper jack, Cotija, lots of chili peppers, and cilantro for a Tex-Mex Macaroni y Queso. As long as you stick to the gooey-melty-flavorful-creamy ratio of cheeses, this recipe is pretty much foolproof.

Ingredients: 8-12 oz cavatappi, cooked to al dente 3T butter 3T flour 1/2 large shallot 1/2 – 1 tsp of garlic powder (to taste) 1 cup of half and half 1 cup chicken stock 4 oz white Velveeta or American cheese 4 oz shredded meltable cheese, like Monterey Jack or cheddar (plus some for topping) 2 oz flavor cheese, like Asiago or parmesan (plus some for topping) 2-4 oz cream cheese Any desired, pre-cooked add-ins (such as bacon, vegetables, or chopped meats)

~I add a pinch of salt/few grinds of pepper at each step~

Directions: Sauté shallot in butter, then add flour to make roux. Add garlic powder and liquids. Stir constantly until at a simmer.

Turn down heat, add cheese (starting with softest cheese and ending with hardest cheese) a little bit at a time.

Add pasta and any desired add-ins when cheese is completely melted.°

Bake in buttered dish at 375°F for about 15-25 minutes (until bubbly). Broil if you want a browner top. Let rest at least 10-15 minutes before sticking your spoon in it.

(°If using pesto, I recommend either draining off some of the oil OR cutting back 1 T of the butter and using the pesto to help build the roux.)

TIPS: Recipe scales up and down well.

For best results, do not remove/substitute the Velveeta/American cheese. It is what makes this mac so creamy and provides protection against the roux "breaking" during baking.

For a traditional cheddar flavored mac, add 1/2 tsp each of paprika and cayenne while sautéing shallot, 1-2 T of Dijon or grainy mustard when adding the liquids, and use American (the good American cheese can be found in the deli section), extraextraextra sharp cheddar, and Asiago for the cheeses.

I don't usually add a textured topping, such as breadcrumbs, to my mac and cheese but they're more than welcome here. In addition to the traditional Italian or Panko breadcrumbs, you could use small cubes of stale sourdough, lightly crushed tortilla chips, or crushed cheez-it/goldfish crackers. As mentioned at the beginning of this recipe, stick to the base ratios and the flavors are yours to choose.