Featured Wisconsin Cheeses: Monterey Jack, Apple Jack, Sharp Cheddar
Macaroni and Cheese is one of those foods that instantly takes me back. My best friend and I lived on the stuff (yes, from the box, powder and all) in our adolescent and teen years. It takes me back to hot summers filled with really nothing to do but figure out who we were. For us, it was a lunchtime staple. In college, that same friend and I graduated to the more fancy macaroni and cheese. When we lived in the dorms together, the high pitched screaming of our made-up word “Velvs” meant we were having Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese for dinner, which broke all rules and forced us to use a hot pot in our dorm room. We lived on the edge, obviously. That wonderful cheesiness from the box (and the frequency in which we ate it) could also have been the catalyst for those combined 40 pounds we gained; I’m not really sure.
As an adult, that excitement for macaroni and cheese has admittedly fallen to the wayside. As I learned to cook, the super food of my youth sort of took the back seat to other things I learned how to cook well. So when I was asked to be part of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board’s launch of a macaroni and cheese blog where each blogger’s macaroni and cheese recipe would be featured, I panicked a little. I did not have a secret or famous recipe of my own. With that, the research began.
On my first go through, I picked Havarti Cheese for my pizza base – the macaroni and cheese – and it turned out incredibly greasy. I figured if I was going to make a good macaroni and cheese pizza, I’d have to have a good macaroni and cheese recipe first, so I tried making macaroni and cheese at least five times before I found success. First, I made a stove top recipe, which was what I was convinced I needed to top a pizza with. In hindsight, I simply do not think the temperature on the stove was high enough because the cheese didn’t melt fully and when I baked it on top of crust in the oven, the grease just sort of came out of it. It didn’t taste bad, but it didn’t taste good, either.
My next go around included my actual cheese selection – a flavored Jack; I chose tomato basil to try to bring out the flavors in the pizza through my cheese. The subsequent recipes also included my oven instead of the stove. In my final formula I also used a Sharp Cheddar, an Apple Jack (a combination of Swiss, Monterey Jack and White Cheddar) and a little cream cheese. I should also mention that all of my cheeses were locally purchased from Simon’s in Appleton.
The macaroni and cheese pizza was served at my best friend’s house, which seemed fitting due to our history with macaroni and cheese and it was truly a hit. Overall, the macaroni and cheese pizza was a nice twist on two traditions. It holds up well at a party and for my group of friends it sent us back a few years – straight to old high school and college stories. I’d say it was a success.
Wisconsin Macaroni & Cheese Pizza
Makes 2 14-inch Pizzas
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 slices bacon
8 ounces elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 cup (4 ounces) flavored Wisconsin Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
1/2 cup (2 ounces) Wisconsin Apple Jack Cheese*, shredded
1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded and divided
1/4 cup cream cheese
2 14-inch prepared pizza crusts**
Extra shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese as needed for sprinkling on top of pizzas
In a small skillet, sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until soft. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, fry the bacon until crisp, drain fat. Crumble bacon and add to onion mixture. Remove from heat and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add macaroni and cook to a little less than al dente. Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350°F. To make the cheese sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Slowly mix in flour and cook 6 to 8 minutes, stirring constantly, to make a roux. Slowly whisk in milk and cook over medium to medium-high heat until mixture thickens.
Add 1 cup flavored Jack Cheese, 1/2 cup Apple Jack cheese, 1/3 cup Cheddar Cheese and cream cheese. After cheese is melted and thoroughly combined, add in bacon onion mixture and cooked pasta. Pour mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish.
Top mixture with remaining 2/3 cup Cheddar Cheese.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let macaroni and cheese set up at least 30 minutes before transferring to pizza crust. (We even waited until the next day.)
When macaroni and cheese is ready, brush prepared pizza crusts with a small amount of olive oil. Spoon about half of the macaroni and cheese across one crust, topping with extra Cheddar Cheese. Repeat with remaining pizza crust, topping with macaroni and cheese, followed by Cheddar Cheese. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until crust is completely done and cheese is melted.
*If Apple Jack Cheese is unavailable, you may substitute Mozzarella.
** For the pizza crusts, head to your favorite local pizza place and ask to buy a ball of pizza dough. Not only will they be excited to sell it to you, but it will be good without the fuss. Oshkosh’s Glass Nickel Pizza sold me two balls of dough for $6. I prepped the crusts by rolling the dough into 14-inch circles and browning each side of the crusts lightly in a butter-lined cast iron pan. Then, I cooked on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes per side. If pizza dough is unavailable, you may purchase a pre-made pizza crust.
Print This Post
Cheddar, Flavored Monterey Jack, Macaroni & Cheese, Recipe, Wisconsin Cheese
Leave a Reply