Mac & cheese is probably one of my all-time favorite foods. There's so many different ways to make it, and whatever method, pasta, or the cheese that is used, it's hard to resist the bowl of cheesy and creamy goodness. There's many labor-intensive versions that require making a bechamel sauce or using the broiler to form a crunchy crust, but this recipe allows you to achieve both the creaminess and the crunchiness in a short amount of time, using just one pot and one skillet! The added heat from the seasoning elevates the good old mac & cheese to another level, with the spices cutting through the richness of the dish. If you make a huge batch, you can reheat the pasta later, but make sure you keep the panko breadcrumbs in a separate container to keep them dry and crunchy. Feel free to add more cornstarch to achieve the consistency of your preference!
currently listening to:
2NE1- If I were you
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (1 Tablespoon in the beginning; 2 Tablespoons for later)
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese (or use 2 1/2 cups of a mix of the two)
1 Tablespoon cornstarch (+more if you wish to thicken the sauce further)
8 oz. fusilli pasta (about half of a typical pasta package) (you may use other pasta shape of your choice)
1 1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 Tablespoon cajun or creole seasoning (I used Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning; add more to taste if you wish)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
prep time: 10 min
cook time: 20 min
adapted from Damn Delicious
1. Melt 1 Tablespoon of the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the panko breadcrumbs and toast them lightly, for about 3 minutes. They will be crispy and golden brown in color. Stir in thyme, remove from heat, and set aside.
2. Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
3. In a mixing bowl, stir together the cheeses, milk, corn starch, and seasoning.
4. Once the pasta is done cooking, drain well. Immediately transfer the pasta back to the same pot (now without the water), and add the 2 Tablespoons of butter to the pot. Mix well. Keeping the heat on medium, add the cheese mixture, and continue stirring, making sure that the noodles do not stick and the cheese is well melted. Add freshly ground pepper to taste, and salt or more seasoning if desired.
5. Transfer to a serving bowl, and top with the panko breadcrumbs.