Featured Wisconsin Cheeses:
By The Brown Eyed Baker
Macaroni & cheese is a perennial favorite among kids and a safe fall-back for parents with picky eaters. However, most adults will tell you that they still consider the ooey, gooey dish to be one of the ultimate comfort foods. One of the best things I could have ever done was learn how to make homemade macaroni & cheese from scratch. No more blue box mac n’ cheese for this girl! I have made quite a few different variations (a basic recipe, along with a “grown up” version that includes bacon) and I have to say that this one is by far my favorite.
This mushroom-herb version was born out of a fondue dish that my Chief Culinary Consultant and I enjoyed during a snowy weekend last January while watching some playoff football. The fondue dish included Brie with a couple of other cheeses and a mushroom-herb paste mixed in; I took this idea and turned it into an insanely delicious baked macaroni & cheese recipe.
As with most homemade macaroni & cheese recipes, this one is based on a béchamel sauce that includes melted cheese. Wisconsin Gruyère and White Cheddar are two of my favorite cheeses and really complement each other well, so it was a no-brainer for me to use them in this dish. The addition of mushrooms and herbs truly makes this more of a glammed up, gourmet style dish that you could easily serve to company and feel confident about. I love the layer of bread crumbs on top; it keeps the pasta from drying out in the oven and adds a delicious crunch to each and every bite.
Do you have a favorite macaroni & cheese recipe? The thing I love about making it at home is all of the different variations you can try!
Mushroom-Herb Macaroni & Cheese
Serves 6 as a main dish or 8-10 as a side dish
11 tablespoons butter, divided
1 pound cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 shallot, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh chives, chopped
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) Wisconsin Gruyère Cheese, shredded and divided
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) Wisconsin White Cheddar Cheese, shredded and divided
1 box (12 to 16 ounces) small pasta, such as elbow pasta
1 cup breadcrumbs (plain, seasoned or panko will all work)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Set a large pot of water (for the pasta) over high heat, cover and bring to a boil.
In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and shallot; sauté, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have cooked down and are browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add vinegar and cook, stirring, until the liquid has cooked off. Turn off the heat and set aside.
For the béchamel sauce, in a medium-sized saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in flour and cook for about 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Add the herbs and, still whisking, sauté for an additional 30 seconds. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the milk. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.
Meanwhile, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook to al dente, or 1 to 2 minutes less than the box calls for.
Once the béchamel sauce simmers, stir in 5 ounces each (just over 1 cup) of the Gruyère and Cheddar Cheeses until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.
Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter with the breadcrumbs. Drain the pasta. In a large mixing bowl, toss pasta, sauce, and mushrooms. Pour into the baking dish.
Sprinkle with remaining 1 ounce each of Gruyère and Cheddar. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the cheese. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until browned and bubbly. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
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Cheddar, Gruyère, Macaroni & Cheese, Recipe, Wisconsin Cheese
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