So, I’m a firm believer that macaroni and cheese should never be diet food. The very thought of a low-cal/fat mac&cheese just pisses me off. First of all, this isn’t something you should be eating every day. This is holiday, or special occasion food. I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who enjoy eating low-fat version, and more power to you — but I’m not interested in it at all. Considering I only eat this kinda stuff MAYBE 3x a year at max, it’s totally worth it to me. With that said, this is a very decadent and “made with love” version of mac&cheese the CarnalDish way — can you say version 3? You get to caramelize your own shallots, roast your own garlic, and make your own breadcrumbs as well as make a deliciously cheesy mornay sauce. There are a lot of steps here, but they’re easy steps. Lots and lots of photos to help you nail this recipe, and believe me — when you nail it, you’re going to love it.
What makes this dish special is that you’re really putting in a lot of effort and it absolutely pays off. If this is your very first time making mac&cheese, you may find this recipe to be extremely daunting and almost never-ending. I promise you, regardless of how many steps there are, they are very easy steps. I am walking with you holding your hand. If this isn’t your first time making mac&cheese (read: my most popular version), you should fly thru this recipe. Don’t be intimidated by roasting your own garlic or caramelizing the shallots, they require little effort and are done before you know it. You’ll be surprised at how little product you get, but their flavors are so concentrated that it makes up for the volume. You could roast as much garlic as you want and just save it for another recipe or use — it stores well in the fridge for a couple weeks. Same with the caramelized shallots, you could make a larger quantity and store the leftovers for something delicious down the road.
You guys, like…this is sinfully delicious. You all know I cannot stand bland mac and cheese. I recently had some from a “top rated” New York restaurant “known for their mac and cheese”. Visually, it was perfect. The right amount of cheese, perfect consistency, nice crust — it looked absolutely divine. Until I tasted it — correction, I couldn’t taste it! It had ZERO flavor. I was so pissed off, such a waste. Well, that problem just isn’t possible around these parts. Please get your life with this recipe. It’s pretty intense and it isn’t the cheapest recipe lol, so make sure it’s something you make for someone special or for the Holidays. I will say, it’s highly recommended you keep parmigiano-reggiano cheese, white wine,
Warning, this post is extremely pic heavy…
3 heads of garlic. Mine are pretty small, I couldn’t find any larger than this. Womp. I put them by my phone so you could compare their size lol.
1) Peel the loose outer paper from each bulb, keeping the tighter paper in tact. 2) Should look similar to this. 3) with a VERY sharp knife and a sturdy hand, carefully slice the first 1/4 of each garlic head off..just the tip lol. 4) they should all look like this
Place the garlic bulbs inside of a piece of foil large enough to fold over the garlic and close. Drizzle the tops with a little olive oil, making sure the oil gets in between each clove.
Wrap them up (not too tightly, just enough) and place them on a small baking sheet. I’m using a small cast iron skillet, use whatever you have. Place the garlic in a preheated 400 degree oven, on the middle rack, for 50 minutes.
Save the tips for another use.
We’ve got 3 large shallots, sizes compared to the iPhone 5 lol. Slice them in half lengthwise, peel back the gross n dirty outer layer, and chop into medium sized slices. Not too thin, not too thick.
Heat the olive oil and butter, add the shallots and sugar. Stir and cook for 8-10min. Covered.
Get a good pinch of Himalayan sea salt ready..
1) add the salt to the shallots. 2) Stir to combine. Notice they’re starting to brown up a bit. Stir them so none brown too quickly or burn. Let them cook another 8-10 minutes, still over medium-low heat. 3) After about 8 minutes, they start to become more straw colored. The sugar is helping them brown a bit faster for us. 4) Add 2 tbsp red wine vinegar to help deglaze some of the sugars deposited at the bottom of the pan. This will also balance out the sweetness as the shallots cook down.
1) Here’s what they look like after another 8-10min of cooking. They’re coming along. 2) Add some pepper, stir and let them cook another 8 minutes or so. 3) Lookin good. Vinegar is almost evaporated. 4) When the bottom of the pan looks like this, add 2 tbsp of water. Stir and continue cooking for another 8-10 minutes.
1) They’re really starting to concentrate and caramelize. Add another 2tbsp of water, stir and cook another 8 minutes. 2) Here’s what they’re lookin like so far. Continue cooking for another 5-8 minutes until the shallots have gotten thick and sticky, like this.. 4) Using a slotted spoon, scoop the caramelized shallots up, leaving the butter and oil behind and store in a small airtight container in the fridge until ready to use. This can be made several days ahead.
Take the cooled down heads of garlic and squeeze them from their base, almost like you’re trying to pinch it from the bottom — let the cloves fall into a small container. Mash the cloves with a fork to form a paste. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use. This can be made days in advance as well.
We’re about to make bread crumbs! This is the bread I used, but feel free to use what you have. You want to use a thick hearty bread that will hold up in the food processor. Don’t use a flimsy sandwich bread like Wonder. Use a thicker sturdier Italian slice if you can.
we’re using 4 slices of hearty bread, trimming off the crust, and slicing it into large chunks. Use a serrated knife here, any other knife will just smash the bread.
Put the bread into a food processor, and pulse 5-10 times until you get good sized crumbs. Size of crumbs totally depends on your preference. Finely grate about 2-3 tbsp of parmesan cheese. Add the cheese, dried herbs, and seasoning to the crumbs. Toss with your fingers.
With a fork, toss the fresh parsley in. Pour 2 tsp of olive oil into 2 tbsp of melted unsalted butter. toss the crumbs to combine and set aside.
We’re going to make a quick bouquet garni. A bouquet garni is just a bunch of fresh herbs tied up and used in stocks, soups, marinades or whatever. Also, grate large cloves of garlic and set aside. We’ll use that later for the prosciutto/pancetta mixture.
Parmesan, Gruyere, Fontina, Mild cheddar, Extra Sharp Provolone.
Oh, and whole milk mozzaella. thats a total of 6 cheeses.
Just in case you’re curious, here’s the leftover cheese we didn’t use.
Smash another 3 large cloves of garlic and tosss them in the half & half with the bouquet garni. Add the white wine and seasoning. Stir together, bring to a boil then simmer over LOW heat for about 5 minutes to burn off the harsh alcohol and steep the bouquet. Turn the heat off, cover and keep warm until ready to use.
Meanwhile, salt your pasta water. Add the pasta and boil for about 5 minutes. reserve about a cup of starchy pasta water and set aside. Rinse the pasta in a colander under cool water for about 30 seconds to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
4 ounces of diced prosciutto, 4 ounces of diced pancetta. We’re only using half of the pancetta though (2 oz.)
In the same pot you boiled the pasta in, melt 1 tbsp of unsalted butter over medium heat. Add 4 oz of prosciutto and 2 oz of pancetta. Cook until crisp, about 8 minutes or so. Add the 3 grated garlic cloves and cook for only 30 seconds. Turn the heat off and remove the garlic/pork mixture from the pot. I didn’t have much fat leftover…but plenty of flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan!
with the heat turned OFF, melt 4 tbsp of unsalted butter.
Turn the heat on medium, using a wire whisk to scrape up the tasty browned bits from the bottom. the butter will help deglaze the pan a bit.
Once all the browned bits are released, and the butter is hot, add the flour and whisk to combine, breaking up any lumps. Work quickly here.
Keep whisking, cooking for about 2 minutes to get rid of that raw flour flavor.
Strain about 2 cups of the half & half mixture. Whisk vigorously to combine. It will turn into a thick paste. Once that happens, add the remaining half & half mixture thru a strainer, making sure you whisk away any lumps.
Whisk to thicken, while over medium heat. Add the roasted garlic and caramelized shallots to the bechamel. Once it coats the back of a spoon, it’s ready for the cheese.
Add the cheese, stir to melt thru. Add the pasta, tossing to coat evenly. Add half of the prosciutto/pancetta/garlic mixture.
Add half of the mac and cheese to the baking dish. With your fingers, combine the provolone and mozzarella and sprinkle half of the cheese over the first layer. Pour the other half of the mac and cheese on top, spread it all over, then add the remaining half of cheese. Use a spoon to swirl thru and gently combine. If your mixture is getting thick and gloopy, add a little of the reserved pasta water.
Sprinkle the remaining half of prosciutto/pancetta/garlic over the top half, then sprinkle the bread crumbs on top.
Voila. All ready for the oven!
Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove the foil and let the mac and cheese bake an additional 10-15 minutes for the breadcrumbs to brown. Alternately, if your dish is already bubbly and hot all the way thru after 30 minutes, you could turn on the broiler to toast the breadcrumbs.
Take it out of the oven and let it rest for at LEAST 20 minutes. The cheese needs to settle and congeal a bit, plus, you’ll burn the crap out of your mouth.
close up. She needs some herbs.
So sprinkle her with a little fresh parsley or basil.
Simply tie the fresh oregano, rosemary and thyme together with kitchen twine.
For the Roasted Garlic:
Heat your oven to 400 degrees, middle rack in place.
Remove the loose outer layers of each garlic bulb, leaving the tighter paper in tact. With a very sharp knife, carefully cut the very top of each head of garlic off (the first 1/4). Place the garlic inside of a sheet of foil. Drizzle olive oil over the tops of each, making sure the oil gets into the cloves. Sprinkle the tops with a little kosher salt. Close the foil to cover the cloves tightly but not too tight as to smush them.
Place the garlic on a small baking sheet and roast for 50 minutes. Remove, and set aside to cool. Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, gently squeeze the base of the garlic bulb to squeeze the mushy garlic cloves out of the paper (kinda like squeezing a tube of toothpaste). You could also use a small fork instead. Make sure you get all of the garlic out. Mash the garlic into a smooth paste and store in the fridge until ready to use.
For the Caramelized Shallots:
Bring olive oil and butter to a sizzle over medium-low heat. Just wait for the butter to start “talking” a little bit. You’ll know it’s ready. Add the shallots and sugar, and stir with a wooden spoon to coat and break up. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes.
Stir the shallots and add the red wine vinegar and salt. Toss the shallots around to deglaze the pan, and continue cooking (covered) for another 8-10 minutes. Add the pepper, stir to combine. If you start to develop “fond” (aka the browned bits at the bottom of the pan), add 2 tablespoons of water. Stir, cover and cook an additional 8-10 minutes. Check the shallots to see if they’re sugars are starting to develop and deepen in color. If the mixture is getting dry, add 2 more tablespoons of water and cook for another 8-10 minutes, covered.
Continue this step until your shallots have reached a deep molasses color, another 10-20 minutes. Adding water as needed. Once they’re perfectly caramelized, remove with a slotted spoon — leaving the butter and oil behind, into a small airtight container. Set aside or store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the breadcrumbs:
Cut the crusts off your bread and chop into large pieces. Place bread in the food processor and give it 5-10 1 second pulses, size of the crumbs depend on how you like them. I pulsed mine 10 times, for reference. Add the cheese, herbes de provence, dried parsley, dried oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Toss with your fingers to combine. Add the fresh parsley, and toss with a fork to evenly combine. Pour the melted butter and olive oil mixture over the breadcrumbs, toss with a fork to combine and set aside. The bread should NOT be soaking wet with butter and oil.
For the Holiday Mac & Cheese:
Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9×13 baking dish. Set aside.
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of cold water to a boil. Add a good amount of kosher salt, stir to dissolve. Add the cavatappi pasta and boil for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta into a colander and immediately rinse with cool water for 30 seconds. Do not move the pasta around. Set aside.
In a medium-sized pot, add the half and half, bouquet garni, 3 smashed garlic cloves and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, add the white wine and simmer for about 3-5 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching. Reduce the heat to low, add the black pepper, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, onion powder, garlic powder, herbes de provence and 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt. Stir to combine and cook for just 1 minute. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let this mixture steep for about 10 minutes until ready to use.
In the same pot you boiled the pasta in, melt 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter until foamy. Add the prosciutto and pancetta. Cook until crisp, stirring often, about 8-10 minutes over medium heat. Once crisp, add 3 grated cloves of garlic, cook and stir for just 30 seconds. Turn the heat off, remove the prosciutto /pancetta/garlic mixture with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel. There shouldn’t be much fat left in the pot, but if there is, remove it and keep only 1 tsp of it in there. You should have yummy golden brown bits at the bottom of the pan.
While the heat is still off and the pot is still very hot, melt 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter and using a wire whisk, scrape up those stuck-on bits. Turn the heat back on to medium, letting the butter melt even more and get nice and hot. Keep scraping those bits. Once the butter is hot but not burning, add the flour and quickly whisk to remove lumps. A nice smooth roux should form and you may see the flour/butter mixture foam and bubble — that is fine. Whisk for about 1-2 minutes to cook out the raw flour flavor.
Pour about 2 cups of the half and half mixture THRU A STRAINER into the roux (flour/butter mixture). Whisk vigorously to remove lumps and form a thick paste. Add the remaining half and half mixture THRU A STRAINER, and whisk to combine. Discard the bouquet garni and smashed cloves of garlic. Make sure you get all the lumps out. Add the roasted garlic and caramelized shallots, stir to evenly combine. The sauce will start to thicken pretty fast, so have your cheese on hand. Once the mixture is able to coat the back of a wooden spoon, turn the heat off. Add the cheddar, parmigianno-reggiano, gruyere, and fontina cheese and stir to melt thru. Add half of the prosciutto/pancetta/garlic mixture, stir to combine. If the mixture becomes gloopy instead of creamy, add a little of the reserved pasta water to thin it out. You may or may not need to.
Pour half of the mac and cheese mixture to your buttered baking dish. Layer with half of the mozzarella/provolone mixture. Pour the remaining half of the mac and cheese on top, followed by the remaining half of the mozzarella/provolone mixture. With a spoon, gently swirl the cheese thru so that it’s in every bite. Top with the remaining half of the prosciutto /pancetta mixture and the bread crumbs.
Cover loosely with foil and bake on the middle oven rack for 25-35 minutes, or until bubbly all the way thru (make sure the middle is bubbly too and not just the edges). When its nice and bubbly, remove the foil and let the bread crumbs toast and crisp up, an additional 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler to your oven and give the breadcrumbs one final blast of heat. They should be nice and crispy.
Remove the mac and cheese from the oven and let it cool for at least 15-20 minutes before you dig in. Enjoy!
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