Admit it. You love mac ‘n’ cheese. It’s the ultimate comfort food because: A) It’s so damn familiar; B) It calls for stuff you already have in the pantry and fridge; and C) You really don’t need a recipe to make a good one. Really, you can make it however the heck you want—blue cheese and bacon? Kale? Topped with crushed chips? Why not? Plus, what’s better than transforming whatever you happen to have on hand into something so delightfully, pleasingly delicious?
Here’s one of my favorite riffs on this beloved dish. And with these basic proportions, you’re good to start creating your own.
Mushroom Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Serves 4 to 6
White Cheddar Cream Sauce
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk
½ cup white wine
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½-pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and torn
½-pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and torn
¼ dry sherry
1 pound pasta, spirals or linguine
To make the sauce: In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat and cook the garlic until pale, about 30 seconds, and whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook for about 2 minutes until it no longer tastes “floury.” Cook for about 2 minutes, then whisk in the white wine, and then slowly stir in the cheese, pepper, and nutmeg.
To saute the mushrooms: Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the sherry and saute until it’s absorbed, another 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the mushrooms into the sauce.
To cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add a little salt. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain.
Turn the pasta into the sauce with the mushrooms and serve, garnished with the chopped parsley.