Boy have I got a good one for you today. This is probably the heartiest, most filling and most wonderfully tasting macaroni and cheese dish I’ve ever eaten. And it’s all because of a fine fellow named Jeff Rogers (aka The Culinary Fanatic). I found this recipe on Youtube a few weeks ago as I was wandering through videos in search of something that talked about the Lodge Dutch oven I was interested in at the time. By now, you all know I purchased that piece of equipment, so that part is history. What’s currently unfolding is all the food I’m cooking inside of it. I have to say, I dig it.
Jeff calls his recipe “The Ultimate Five-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese” and I’ll tell you, it is the ultimate and it certainly does contain five different types of cheeses. It’s awesome, but I will warn you – it’s a lot to eat. It’s legit. If you want to make something that’s going to warm your belly on a cold winter night though, go ahead and continue to read what I’m about to write below.
In this post, I’m going to go through the steps I took as I created Jeff’s recipe. I took lots of photos, so enjoy!
I’d like to tell you that I had an agenda before preparing this dish. Since I was already going through all the steps to make something like this, I asked myself why I wasn’t going to attempt to fill the entire 7 quart Dutch oven I recently purchased. I figured I should, so I had to adjust some of the quantities of ingredients below. If you have a smaller Dutch oven, please feel free to visit the original recipe and go from there (Jeff uses a 3 1/2 quart). You can do that, or simply adjust what I write below for your own situation. I also tweaked things a bit to my own taste.
1 Pound Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 Pound Mozzarella Cheese
1 Pound Monterey Jack Cheese
3 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
3 Tablespoons Romano Cheese
3 Pounds Elbow Macaroni
1 Stick Salted Butter
6 Cups Whole Milk
6 Large Eggs
4 Teaspoons Sea Salt
4 Teaspoons White Sugar
1 Tablespoon Dried Basil
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
By the way, the photo above shows a non-exhaustive list of the ingredients I used. There were simply too many of them to fit in the photo.
I thought I should tell you this up here, as you may not make it all the way to the bottom. As I was going through the preparation of this recipe, and especially after it was finished, I thought about how neat it would be if I had sauteed and browned some onion and garlic. I could have added those two ingredients to the blender (which I’ll explain below) and allowed them to soak into the macaroni. I’m just putting this out there for anyone who likes to dabble with recipes and who enjoys the taste of onion and garlic infused mac and cheese.
The very first task I completed when I began this project was to prepare all the ingredients. This isn’t a recipe that I wanted to put together on the fly. So, with that in mind, I shredded all the cheese and placed some salt, sugar, basil and paprika in small bowls. Basically, I took everything I would need and arranged it on the counter.
Boil Water & Add Macaroni
Once all that was finished, I began boiling my water. I added about a tablespoon of sea salt to the water as well as the tablespoon of olive oil. Now, it’s interesting, because just last night, I read a post put out by “The Reluctant Gourmet” who instructed that it wasn’t a good idea to add olive oil to water when boiling pasta. You can read that post here:
In that post, the author was referring to pasta that is going to be eaten with sauce, such as, in a bowl. Since this isn’t the case with us, we can add the oil.
To be honest with you, I’ve always been a bit suspicious of adding oil to water like this. I’m not sure it does anything. That may be my contrarian personality peeking through though.
After the water came to a rolling boil, I added the 3 pounds of pasta. Word of warning – if you decide to cook this much pasta, please be sure your pot is big enough.
Cooking the Macaroni
While cooking the macaroni, I was sure to keep an eye on the “doneness” of it. For this recipe, it’s important not to cook it all the way, as you would as if you were eating it directly. This pasta needs to be undercooked, as to allow for further absorption of later ingredients. I knew it was finished when it was just soft enough to bite into. If I could chew it and it was gummy, I knew it was done.
Drain Pasta & Add Butter
The next thing I did was to drain the pasta very well, right inside the same pot, and to add 3/4 stick of butter to it. I cut the butter into 3 pieces to give it a chance to coat as much of the pasta as possible. I stirred it up well until it was all melted.
Preheat Oven & Butter Dutch Oven
At this point, I went ahead and preheated the oven to 375 degrees. Of course, I had to remove one of the oven racks because with it still inside, I would have never been able to fit my Dutch oven.
I also buttered the Dutch oven itself by smearing some butter all over the inside of it. I was sure to put a nice coating on the sides as well as the bottom.
By the way, that’s not rust on the bottom of the Dutch oven. That’s the color of the light reflecting off the butter. Strange.
Add Some Macaroni
From here, I began building my layers. The first to go down was a thin layer of macaroni.
Add Some Cheese
Next up came the cheese. I added a thin layer of mozzarella, then cheddar and finally monterey jack.
These were fairly thin layers of cheese. I wish I had added even thinner layers because I ultimately needed more cheese up top.
The last thing I did for this first macaroni/cheese combo layer was to add some basil. I sprinkled a bit over everything.
To build up the macaroni and cheese ensemble, I repeated that first combo layer twice more, until I ran out of soft cheese. That was the very top layer.
As a quick note, if you decide to use a huge 7 quart Dutch oven like I did, you may want to go with a pound and a half of each type of cheese. I wish I had done that.
Add Romano & Parmesan
For the very top layer, after I finished up the soft cheeses, I sprinkled a layer of romano and parmesan cheese over everything. It’s up to you how much you want to add here. Use your best judgement. I’d say I added a few tablespoons of each.
Add More Basil & Some Paprika
Finally, to top everything off, I sprinkled some more dried basil over the cheese mixture. After that, I sprinkled a thin layer of paprika. I advise that you don’t go nuts with the paprika. It’s a tasty ingredient.
Combine Eggs, Milk, Sugar & Salt in Blender
You’re probably going to need a large blender for this. I have one, so I added the 6 eggs, the 6 cups of milk, the 3 remaining tablespoons of salt and the 4 tablespoons of sugar to it. Then, I blended until everything was all mixed up nicely and thoroughly. You may have to do this in batches if your blender isn’t large enough.
Pour Milk Mixture into Dutch Oven
This is where this dish gets its richness. When finished blending, I poured the milk mixture right into the center of the pasta in the Dutch oven.
I filled it almost right up to the top. I snapped a quick photo to show you what level it’s supposed to go to. Notice the milk at the edge.
Now you know why it’s important to leave the macaroni a bit undercooked. It needs to absorb all this milk.
Place In the Oven
When everything was ready to go, I placed the entire Dutch oven inside the real oven. I cooked it covered at 375 for 30 minutes. After that, I removed the cover of the Dutch oven and cooked it for another 30 minutes.
The Final Product
This is what it looked like when it was finished.
Like I said earlier, I wish I had a tad more cheese for the top. I also wish I had added some more romano and parmesan, as well as basil and paprika. It could have handled it. It sure did (and does) taste good though. Very rich and filling. We sure have a lot of leftovers.
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