If you're a mac and cheese lover (who isn't?), give this delectable one a try! Bountiful amounts of three cheeses make it full on decadent; smoked gouda for earthy richness, cheddar for sharpness, and mozzarella for that stringy, cheesy goodness! Hearty enough as a main dish, add proteins if you like. I served this at a dinner party, adding crabmeat, and people raved. Let me know how you make it your own!
Prep Time: 20-30 minutes Yield: 8 servings
12 ounces of pasta, penne used here, after boiling, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water from the cooked pasta to add to sauce*
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup pasta water *
3 cups whole milk
3 cups freshly shredded smoked Gouda cheese
2 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese - divided (1 1/2 cups reserved for top)
2 cups freshly shredded mozzarella cheese - divided (1 1/2 cups reserved for top)
2 teaspoons lemon juice (the acid balances and brightens the rich sauce)
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
a scant few grains of cayenne pepper (optional)
Cook pasta according to package directions, however cook 2 minutes less than time indicated, since we will finish the pasta in the oven. Drain pasta and return to original pot, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooked pasta water to use in the cheese sauce. Stir in 1 tablespoon of butter to the pasta to coat it until mixed with the sauce.
While pasta is cooking, make the sauce, and PREHEAT OVEN to 450 degrees.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter, then vigorously whisk in the flour. Whisk and cook for a minute, then add the pasta water and 1 cup of the milk. Whisk well to incorporate, then add the other 2 cups of milk. Cook, whisking regularly, until sauce is the consistency of heavy cream, approximately 4-6 minutes. The sauce is perfect when it coats the back of a spoon. Reduce the heat slightly if sauce begins to bubble.
Stir in the 3 cups of gouda cheese, 1/2 cup of cheddar, and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, then remove from heat. Continue stirring to incorporate the cheese, note it all does not need to be melted because it will go in the oven. Stir in the lemon juice, salt (to taste), white pepper, red pepper flakes, and cayenne.
Pour the sauce into the cooked pasta and stir well. Transfer mixture to a greased oven-safe casserole dish. Scatter the remaining 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar and 1 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbly. I like the top to be very brown, so I finish the dish by setting the oven on broil and cooking for an additional minute or two, watching it carefully so it doesn't burn.
Remove from oven, place on wire rack to let rest a few minutes, then serve!