My very good friend and longtime roommate, Dayna, and I have a special wintertime tradition. Every single year, the first time it snows, we set aside the evening to drink a bunch of wine and make homemade truffled macaroni and cheese. It all started five years ago when I found this recipe online and we decided to whip it up on an especially chilly Seattle night—coincidentally, the first night it ended up dumping snow all over the city. It was such a perfect comfort dinner, we vowed that we would cook it together at the first snow of every winter. And we’ve kept our promise every single year!
We ran into an issue this winter, though. I moved to Austin in March 2012, and Dayna ended up moving down here (into my house! Roomies again!) Around a month ago, we realized we had made a grave mistake: there’s almost never any snow in central Texas! Well, obviously we decided that we would have to break the vow and make the mac any damn time we pleased down here. Our First Snow Mac & Cheese became White Winter Mac & Cheese (white because it refers to the snow of years past, and also because this recipe uses all white cheeses : chèvre, white cheddar, gruyere, and parmigiano reggiano).
I can’t emphasize this enough: this macaroni and cheese is amazing. It’s the best homemade mac & cheese recipe we have ever used. I originally found it on the lovely What We’re Eating, but over the years Dayna and I have tweaked it to our preferences. Feel free to do the same —amount of truffle oil, spice, types of mushrooms, and type of pasta can all be modified to your liking.
White Winter Truffled Mac & Cheese
1c sliced crimini mushrooms
1c sliced shiitake mushrooms
1c chopped portobello caps (stems removed)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp cooking sherry
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
3c whole milk
4 oz chèvre
2 oz aged white cheddar, shredded
2 oz gruyere, shredded
4 oz parmigiano reggiano, shredded, separated in 2 2oz piles
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp fresh sage, chopped
2 tbsp white truffle oil
1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup panko crumbs
10 oz rigatoni, boiled for 2 minutes less than recommended
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet, throw in the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, and saute for about 10 minutes. Deglaze the pan with sherry and set aside, off the heat.
Make your delicious cheese sauce by starting off with a bechamel: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat then quickly whisk in the flour. Add the herbs and red pepper flakes and stir everything together. Pour in the milk while whisking (I usually have Dayna pour the milk while I whisk, teamwork is awesome!) You need to pour and whisk at the same time so the sauce doesn’t become lumpy. Let it come to a simmer, then stir in the all the cheese (but reserve 2 oz. of parm). Once the cheese has all melted in, add the truffle oil, red pepper flakes, and salt & pepper to taste. This sauce should be tasting amazing by this point.
Toss the rigatoni and cheese sauce together and put it in a glass 11×7 baking dish. Top it with the panko crumbs and remaining parm cheese, then bake in a 400° oven for 15 minutes. After that, turn on the broiler for just a couple extra minutes to get the top all browned and crispy (but plllease keep an eye on the mac while it’s under the broiler so you don’t burn your glorious mac & cheese creation!)
After you’ve baked and broiled, take it out of the oven and let it rest and cool for a few minutes. It should look like this:
And if you are anything like me, you’ll want to dig in immediately! But seriously, wait a few minutes so it can set up. Also because you’ll burn your mouth if you try to eat it right away. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.
After about 10 minutes, though, this mac is yours. I’m jealous of anyone making and eating this, because yes, it is THAT GOOD. Like I said, it’s my tradition. I plan on making this every winter forever, and I hope you’ll join me.