There’s nothing more disappointing than a dry mac and cheese. On the list of Life’s Most Devastating Disappointments, dry mac is right up there with when the pizza you ordered doesn’t have enough cheese or getting a half-filled container of fries from the drive-thru. It’s like you were robbed of what you longed for and deserved.
In theory, pasta and cheese should always be a winning combination, but it’s not that simple. If the sauce is dry and crumbly, then all you’ve got is a flavorless pile of clumpy mush, and that ain’t appetizing.
I learned a long time ago that the best way to avoid Chronic Dry Mac & Cheese Disappointment Syndrome (CDMCD Syndrome) is to stop trusting restaurants’ macs or other people’s recipes. Occasionally, I find a good mac, but it’s not worth the 9 out of 10 times I don’t.
I specifically designed this Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Stovetop Mac & Cheese to be have a high sauce-to-pasta ratio, yielding a sea of super creamy, rich cheese sauce. I guarantee you’ve never had a mac this luscious in your life.
Here are the secrets to super sauciness: Firstly, I used an epic quantity of four kinds of cheese, each one specifically selected for its creamy meltibility (with the exception of the parmesan, which I chose for its strong flavor). Sharp cheddar is a must-have in a classic mac. Then we’ve got super smooth and soft Muenster and slightly tangy, crazy melty Monterey Jack. The complimentary quartet of cheese is then complimented by a secret ingredient: hot sauce. It doesn’t make it spicy; just a tiny touch adds a hint of something special to each bite.
My second secret to sauciness is making a slightly larger quantity of sauce than most mac and cheese recipes yield, so you get more creamy cheesiness for every noodle. I also used just a bit less than the whole box of noodles, unlike most recipes, so you again get more sauce per noodle.
The final secret is making the mac and cheese stovetop. Oven-baking is a common offender in drying out sauces or making them curdle, so we keep our sauce nice and velvety smooth on the stove. Best of all, this is a MAJOR time-saver, so you can have this indulgent, heavenly mac on the table in 30 minutes or less.
End result? Crazy creamy and gooey mac and cheese like you’ve only dreamed of, loaded with cheese and bursting with the perfect medley of flavors.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- Never made mac and cheese from scratch before? This recipe’s a great place to start.
- Get a visual on building the roux for the sauce with this quick video.
- You can switch out cheeses, but try to pick ones with good meltibility.
- Choose whatever pasta shape you like, but I highly recommend sticking to multigrain and whole wheat pastas. They have a more al dente texture, more protein and fiber, and personally, I think they taste better.
- Still want the breadcrumb topping you get with a baked mac and cheese? Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a small skillet. Stir in 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs and cook until toasted and brown. Sprinkle over the top of the mac!
- Need more awesome mac and cheeses? Try these:
- You’ll be surprised how much more delicious mac and cheese is when you don’t overcook pasta. People think you can boil it forever, but limp, mushy pasta is no good. Stop cooking when it has just a teeny bit of bite left in it; this is called al dente.
Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Stovetop Mac & Cheese
By The Smart Cookie Cook
- About 12 oz. cavatappi or elbow pasta (use ¾ of a 16-oz. box, it doesn’t have to be exact)
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 4 tsp. all-purpose flour
- 3 – 4 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
- 2 cups shredded Muenster cheese
- 1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. hot sauce
- In a large pot of salted boiling water over high heat, cook the pasta according to box directions. Drain.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until translucent and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the flour so that it’s free of lumps and let cook for one minute, continuing to whisk.
- Whisk in 3 cups cream and all the milk until free of lumps. Cover and let simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Do not boil.
- Once sauce is thickened, whisk in all the cheeses, salt, and hot sauce until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Test taste to decide if you’d like any more cheese. If sauce is too thick for your liking, whisk in more cream, ¼ cup at a time.
- Turn off heat and immediately fold in pasta until well-coated. Serve immediately.