truth be told, im not a huge fan of macaroni & cheese. it wasn’t a staple in my house growing up, which i think led to my lack of fascination with cheesy noodles.  the first time i can recall having macaroni & cheese that made an impression was at my friend greg’s family house in connecticut.  surrounded by my closest friends who feel like family, macaroni & cheese finally became associated with comfort!

this isn’t ordinary macaroni & cheese. its cheesy, yes; and noodley, yes; but its also savory, spicy, and full of umami.

recipe: wild mushroom macaroni and three cheeses with truffle oil (adapted from whatwe’reeating.com)

ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups sliced shitake mushrooms
2 tablespoon oil or bacon fat
1 1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
3 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoon flour*
3 cup whole milk, warmed or room temperature
4 oz herb chevre, crumbled
4 oz sharp white cheddar, shredded
4 oz parmigiano reggiano, separated in 2 2oz piles
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp fresh sage, minced
2-3 tablespoon white truffle oil, depending on how strong you like
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup panko
10 oz gemelli pasta*
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

directions:

1.  preheat oven to 400 degrees. place a large pot of water over high heat and cover. place a large saute pan with 2 tablespoon oil or lard over medium heat. once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms to the pan and saute for 7-10 minutes or until the mushrooms are fully cooked and slightly caramelized. toss or stir occasionally. season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper then deglaze the pan with sherry vinegar. allow all of the vinegar to cook out, then remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.

2.  begin the cheese sauce: add 4 tablespoon butter to a medium-sized sauce pan and place the pan on the stove over medium heat. once all the butter is melted and hot, whisk in 4 tablespoon flour. cook the flour, whisking, for about 30 seconds , just long enough to get rid of the raw flour taste, but not long enough for the flour to start caramelizing. add the thyme, rosemary, sage, and red pepper flakes. continue stirring and allow the herbs to saute for about another 30 seconds. slowly pour in the milk while whisking continuously, so the roux and milk incorporate smoothly and there are no lumps. allow the bechamel to come to a simmer (it won’t gain it’s full thickness until it does), stirring occasionally.

3.  while waiting for the sauce to come to a simmer start the pasta: liberally salt the pot of boiling water, almost to the point it tastes like sea water. add the pasta to the water and cook the pasta for a minute or two less than the suggested time on the box.

4.  once the bechamel has reached a simmer, stir in the chevre, cheddar, 2oz of parmigiano, and truffle oil until all the cheese has melted. turn off the heat and and taste the sauce for seasoning levels. season with salt and pepper as necessary (sharoni note: slightly on the salty-side creates a rounder flavor after casserole is baked). in small mixing bowl, mix together the panko and remaining 2oz of parmigiano reggiano.

5.  strain the pasta immediately once finished cooking. in a mixing bowl, toss the pasta, cheese sauce, and mushrooms together. pour the macaroni and cheese into a deep glass or ceramic loaf pan and sprinkle the panko/parmigiano mixture evenly across the top. bake the mac-n-cheese in the upper part of the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the topping is golden and the cheese sauce is bubbly.

6.  eat & enjoy!

* mac & cheese can be made gluton free by substituting pasta for quinoa pasta (and cooking exactly as directed on the box) and substituting flour in roux for an equal portion of sweet rice flour.

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