8-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese

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I have three words for you: ultimate comfort food.

Cover anything in cheese, and I’m generally a really happy mouse. The more cheese, the better. Eight cheeses? Now that’s my idea of heaven on earth.

Now, this is not haute cuisine (though if you tried, I suppose you could call this a sort of White Baked Ziti, or some such).

This is curl-up-on-the-couch-and-watch-a-movie-on-a-snowy-night-then-fall-asleep-happy cuisine. Which these days, is just our style.

This stick-to-your ribs, baked macaroni and cheese is made with veloute sauce, which is a basically a bechamel made with chicken stock instead of milk. (If you’ve ever wondered how to make a roux, read on…)

You can use any noodles you want. I like rotini, since all those nooks and crannies in the noodles really give the sauce something to stick to.

For some reason, I’ve never liked buttered breadcrumbs on top of my mac ‘n cheese. Go figure. If you do, though, you can certainly add them before baking. You could also toss in a little leftover roasted chicken.

So, bring on the carb coma. You certainly don’t want it often, but when you’re in the mood to overdose on cheese-y starchy goodness, these noodles do the job.

8-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese: A note on your casserole dish

You can bake this recipe in any kind of ovenproof casserole dish you have. Your choice should be all about how much browned cheese crust you want on your finished mac ‘n cheese.

The more you want, the larger dish you should use (so you have more surface area for the cheese topping to brown). If you want to keep the crust to a minimum, use a deeper bowl that’s not very wide.

8-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese: A note on the cheese

I used a shredded blend of six Italian cheeses (mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan, asiago, fontina, and romano)—topped with smoked gouda, American cheese, and more shredded mozzarella.

The gouda adds a wonderful smokey note, and the American cheese melts down into the noodles to add an extra level of creamy, gooey-ness to the sauce.

8-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese

1 lb. rotini (or other noodle)
2 Tbls. butter
2 Tbls. flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. white pepper
2 cups shredded 6-cheese Italian cheese blend (mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan, asiago, fontina, and romano)
kosher salt

For the topping (use enough to blanket the top of your casserole)
Sliced gouda
Sliced American cheese
Shredded mozzarella
Dried parsley

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Put a stock pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil.

8-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese: Cook the pasta

When your water comes up to a boil, add the pasta. Toss in a little kosher salt to taste.

Give the pasta a stir and let it boil over high heat until it’s cooked to your liking. In the meantime, put together the cheese sauce.

8-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese: Make the base for the cheese sauce

Start by making a roux (a.k.a. flour cooked with butter that forms a base to thicken your sauce).

Set a medium-sized sauce pot on the stove over medium heat. Add the butter and melt it.

When the butter has totally melted, toss in the flour.

Whisk the flour and butter together rapidly. At first, it will be pasty and full of lumps. Keep whisking.

After the butter and flour come together, the mixture will start to smooth out. Keep whisking.

After a minute or so, your roux should be bubbling happily, like this:

Let it cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Whisk occasionally.

Your goal here is to make a light (or white) roux.

That means that you want to cook the raw taste of the flour out of it, but stop before starts to change colors and get brown. (For more info, check out this excellent discussion of the different types of roux.)

Add the chicken stock. Whisk together to blend the roux into the stock. Raise the heat to high to bring the sauce up to a boil.

Add the garlic powder, white pepper, and parsley. Whisk to combine, then whisk occasionally until it comes to a boil.

When it comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium-high. Whisk frequently, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until it’s thickened slightly. If you taste it, it should taste buttery and chicken-y, and not at all like raw flour.

8-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese: Check on your pasta

By now, it’s likely that your pasta is cooked. When it is, drain it and put it back in the pot you cooked it in. Set it aside while you finish your sauce.

8-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese: Finish the sauce

When your base sauce has thickened, add the cheese in two batches to help ensure it melts easily and evenly.

Add 1 cup of shredded cheese.

Whisk to combine and melt the cheese.

After 1 cup of cheese, your sauce will be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Add the other cup of cheese and whisk to combine and melt it. Your sauce will be considerably thicker and cheesier.

At this point, taste the sauce. Toss in more kosher salt or pepper (or anything else) now if you think it needs it.

When you’re happy with it, pour the sauce over the cooked noodles.

Stir to coat the noodles well.

8-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese: Assemble and bake

Pour the cheese-y noodles into your prepared baking dish.

Spread the noodles out evenly.

Top with pieces of sliced gouda and American cheese, then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella. Use enough to cover the noodles. How much you add is completely up to you.

Sprinkle with a little parsley and kosher salt to taste.

Pop the pan into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on the size dish you used), until the cheese is melted and brown.

Keep an eye on it as it bakes. You want the cheese on top to brown a little, but you don’t want to leave it in so long that the noodles on the edges get hard and crisp.

I yanked mine out after 20 minutes, when it looked like this:

Serve hot and enjoy!


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Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse�/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

18 COMMENTS

  1. I love (or used to love anyway) a good cheesy mac, made with a scratch sauce. Then I found I am lactose intolerant. *sigh*

    I could still eat some, but very little or I would be in agony. This, even in a small amount, would double me over but it looks so amazingly good. I love the step by step- you do that so well. And I love the idea of comfort food on those snowy night, because….well, they are coming!

    • I have been lactose intolerant for years. There are little tablets, brand name is Lactaid, available at Target, Walmart, grocery stores, which enable the digestion of the lactose. Take it with the first bite of a diary product and there is no problem. You get about 60 tablets for around 10 dollars.

    • Certain cheeses are actually very low in lactose because the aging process brakes it down into lactase which we can process without the helpful little bacteria in our skmtacha that break it down for us. Cheddar is aged enough that it takes massive (I’m talking a couple pounds ingested I’m a single day) to give me issues, Parmesan as well. Most aged hard cheeses are safe. And I’m so lactose intolerant that even pasta cooked in milk and rinsed will make me vomit (and experience intestinal issues as well). I’ve experimented over the ten or so years since I became intolerant and found that cheddars and Parmesan are very safe, Gouda and Bree may cause me me a but of gas but not much beyond. Mozzarella will give me incredible gas with little other irritation. Some time and brave experimentation will help you find a Mac n cheese you can enjoy.

      If even real aged cheddar gives you problems than you’re provably allergic to milk rather than lactose intolerant.

  2. 8 friggin cheeses, that’s awesome. Decadent and surely comforting. I’ve always wondered, though, at what point does adding another cheese make no noticeable difference? I first wondered at those “21” or “24” ingredient chopped salads at vietnamese or burmese restaurants. I’m not knocking your recipe by any means, it looks incredible, but it’s just food for thought I suppose =)

  3. Voice of dissent:
    I have come to hate restaurant Mac & Cheese because my homemade product is so much better. I have come to believe that more varietals of cheese is not an improvement, though I’d consider this a three cheese version (really, 2 + American), since 6 are a blend… I am sure this is very good Jess, but I want to propose a different approach, what works for me and what has made the wife say that she will never get Mac & Cheese out again (I keep trying, but it continues to disappoint)… Any rate, submitted for your approval:
    Ingredients:
    3 eggs
    8 ounces cream cheese
    1/2 cup butter
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    1 lb grated extra sharp Cheddar (I liked a veined guy I get at Whole Wallet, but the Big brick of Extra Sharp from Costco works fine)
    8 ounces of aged gouda
    1 lb of pasta (spirals, penne rigate, whatever is gonna hold the sauce well)

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 2 quart baking dish with spray oil.

    Cook macaroni as directed on box, drain and set aside to cool slightly.

    In a blender, combine eggs, cream cheese, butter and heavy cream until smooth. Blend in cheddar and gouda. Fold this mixture into the cooked macaroni until well coated. Place in casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes or so at 350. As browned as you like the top.

    8 serves.

    The key, as always, is to use good cheese (I don’t consider American Cheese to be good cheese… or even cheese… I’m snobby like that).

    Thanks for the recipe, give this a try next time you want something like this.

  4. Thanks, all!

    Kate–Thanks! And, yes…winter is coming. I’m hoping we don’t have quite as much snow in Boston as we did last year, though…

    Nick–Hehehe, cheese philosophy! And you make a good point. For this one, I’m not sure more types would make a huge difference. The 6-cheese blend is well rounded in terms of flavor, then the gouda adds smokiness and the American cheese is there for the gooey, melt factor.

    Max–Whoa, cream cheese and eggs! Um, I’ll definitely try this next time. (It may take me a while, but I’ll let you know how it goes.) It sounds amazing. Thanks so much for taking the time to type all that out. 😀

    +Jessie

  5. This recipe will definitely stick to my ribs and my hips….and I wonder why I can’t lose weight. And Max’s recipe sounds equally great too. *control urge to go out and buy cheeses* Great recipe!

  6. I’ve never seen mac and cheese made with chicken stock. This is gourmet macaroni and cheese. Sometimes after I made the sauce, I split it and keep one just cheddar for the kids and one more “adult” for the hubby and me, but I’ve never used 8 cheeses. Have you ever tried it with gorgonzola. Love it!

  7. So, theoretically, if I wanted to make a gluten-free version of this recipe, and I already have a noodle solution… any ideas how to get around the flour in the roux? Can I just skip the roux altogether?

    • Arrowroot is a great thickener for lots of sauces, even a simple bit of pasta water and butter with arrowroot keeps the calories down from the butter. I am not positive it is glutten free but pretty sure check it out. The main difference seems to be that it creates a clear sauce as opposed to the flour sauce which is oppaque, taste is equally good.

  8. Thanks, guys.

    Fishheadned–I *think* it would work if you tempered a scrambled egg into the stock. I’ll figure it out for you. Let me mess around with it and I will report in if it works. 😀 (You could also try Max’s recipe above, as that appears to be gluten free aside from the noodles.) Anyone else have any ideas for gluten-free thickeners?

    +Jessie

  9. Jessie, I think this macaroni and cheese dish rocks!!! I commented on it in Facebook when you posted it in your status update, and I made a similar dish tonight. Just thought I’d let you know, it was great. 🙂 Happy, happy.

  10. I really like the pictures. I don’t cook, but felt very much a participant in the process. I might actually be able to do this!

  11. Jesse I just love your recipies, I too was taught by my mom the old fashioned scratch way. I especially love your pizza recipies. I am hunting italian recipies without tomato sauce or products as I have severe digestive problems but I’m an Italian girl and can’t live without pizza or pasta. I look forward to eating my way through your recipies. Thanks

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