Last year I was contacted by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board to see if I would be interested in participating in their 30 Days, 30 Ways with Mac and Cheese blog event. You don’t really need to twist my arm to get me to make macaroni and cheese – I was immediately interested. This year I was contacted again and was thrilled to have the opportunity to take part again. This year the cheese I was given to work with was Muenster. Now, I’ve always loved Muenster cheese, but I’ll admit I was totally stumped as to what to do with it in a mac and cheese recipe. I did some reading to see if there is anything that Muenster is classically used for, but nothing really stuck out at me.
Muenster is a very smooth, mild white cheese and I knew there couldn’t be too many other things going on in the recipe or the flavor wouldn’t come through. As I continued to brainstorm, I remembered being fascinated by Muenster as a child because I thought the orange rind looked really gross and I was shocked that it actually tasted wonderful. My favorite way to enjoy it was simply on top of crackers for a snack. Ultimately, that childhood snack combo is what inspired this recipe – Muenster mac and cheese with a crushed cracker topping. I used Ritz® crackers because I loved them so much as a kid, but you could use whatever you like.
I did have to try a few variations on Muenster mac and cheese before I got it just right. Because Muenster is so mild, I found it needed to be the only cheese in the recipe or its flavor got lost. The final recipe was just as I had hoped – rich, creamy, allowing the Muenster to shine and the cracker topping bringing back childhood memories.
Just in case you missed it last year, my entry was spicy mac and cheese – still a family favorite! I am so excited to see all the entries this year. I have tried a good number of the versions from last year and all were delicious.
Muenster Mac and Cheese Serves 6 to 8
Ingredients: 16 ounces dry pasta, such as rotini
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces Wisconsin Muenster Cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cracker crumbs (such as Ritz® crackers)
Directions: Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large pot of boiling salted water,
cook the pasta according to the package directions until 1 to 2 minutes shy of al dente.
Meanwhile, dice 4 tablespoons of the butter and place in a large mixing bowl.
Warm the cream in a small saucepan or the microwave. Cover to keep warm.
Once the pasta is cooked and drained, add to the mixing bowl with the butter and
toss to coat well. Stir in the warm cream and the Muenster until the cheese starts to melt.
Mix in salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the mixture into a buttered 2-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl, melt the remaining
1 tablespoon of butter. Mix in the cracker crumbs. Toss with a fork to coat evenly with the butter.
Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the pasta in the baking dish.
Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately.