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I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like mac and cheese. It’s impossible not to like it! Even the out-of-the-box kind tastes good. But with a few additions and a key piece of equipment, you can elevate mac and cheese from college dorm food to something special and worthy of celebration.
First, I implore you to invest in a cast iron skillet if you haven’t already done so. I waited years to get one and I wonder what took me so long. So many amazing meals are born from it – frittatas, burgers, pancakes, s’mores, panini, lasagne…
But what about a delectable mac and cheese? Yes, the cast iron skillet is ideal for this yummy, stick-to-your ribs meal that you bake in the oven rather than cook on the stovetop. This method is what you will see more often in the South, and I think it should be adopted countrywide.
What makes this recipe from The Kitchn’s Choya Johnson stand out is heavy cream spiked with butter and eggs is poured over the cooked pasta, plus both sharp and mild cheddar cheese are included in the mix. Avoid using pre-shredded cheese and it will be too dry – you want the creaminess. A box grater will be helpful to you here but use what you have if one is not available to you.
- 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
- 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese (not pre-shredded)
- 1 pound mild cheddar cheese (not pre-shredded)
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground white pepper
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 large eggs
- Cooking spray
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF.
Bring a heavily salted medium pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 1 pound dried elbow macaroni and cook according to package directions until a minute or two less than al dente. Meanwhile, grate 1 pound sharp and 1 pound mild cheese on the large holes of a box grater (about 4 cups each). Set aside 1 cup of each for sprinkling.
Drain the macaroni and rinse under cold water. Melt 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in the now-empty pot over medium heat. Turn off the heat. Return the macaroni to the pot, add 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and 2 teaspoons ground white pepper, and toss to combine.
Place 2 cups heavy cream and 2 large eggs in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Pour over the pasta, add the cheeses, and stir until combined.
Coat a 10-inch cast iron skillet or 8 or 9-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer the macaroni mixture into the pan and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with the reserved cheese.
Bake until the top is golden brown, 30 to 45 minutes. If a browner top is desired, move to a higher oven rack and broil until darker golden brown on top, but only for 2 to 3 minutes so it doesn’t burn. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.