This afternoon, my husband called me with a longing in his voice. After several minutes, I discovered that he and some coworkers had been discussing various mac and cheese recipes and he was craving what he calls my “Uber Mac and Cheese”. Ironically, I had been thinking of making it this week anyway, so it was settled, Uber Mac for dinner tonight.
Uber Mac has evolved over the last couple of years from an attempt at recreating Hard Rock Cafe’s Twisted Mac. There are several elements to this particular mac and cheese dish that I think set it apart from hundreds of mac and cheese recipes while staying true to a comfort food classic. They include using corkscrews instead of elbow pasta, adding spices with a kick, and a crunchy panko bread crumb topping. Tonight’s version only included sharp cheddar, but I love adding fontina when the budget allows. Hard Rock includes sautéed red pepper bites which I like to include, but it means another dirty pan and another 5-8 minutes of cooking time, so I tend to leave it out on weeknights. It does add fabulous color and flavor for a weekend dish.
While I am still refining my recipe, I’m willing to share the version I made tonight and I hope you can take it and make it your own.
Serves 6, makes great leftovers!
- 1 box Muellers corkscrew pasta
- 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup milk (I use fat free just fine, but have used whole with similar results)
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp butter or margarine
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp hot sauce (I used Tabasco, but use your favorite)
- 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
Grease a casserole dish with cooking spray or butter.
Preheat oven to 350.
Bring a 2 quart saucepan to a boil, 3/4 filled with salted water. Add pasta and cook for 8 minutes. While pasta is cooking, melt butter together with flour in a separate small saucepan over med-low heat until you have a good paste. (I don’t make a roux, but it does thicken the sauce a bit.) Let cook another minute to ensure flour taste has been cooked off. Add 1 cup of milk. Continue to stir constantly. Add spices, including some salt and pepper. Begin adding small handfuls of cheese, making sure to stir each into the sauce until melted. When all the cheese has been added, you should have a fairly smooth sauce, orange in color and it shouldn’t stick to the pan. Remove from heat.
Remove pasta once it has cooked its 8 minutes and drain.
In a small skillet, heat olive oil to medium heat. Add Panko bread crumbs and stir occasionally until they are a golden brown. Keep an eye on them, it will happen suddenly.
Put the drained pasta in the greased casserole dish. Add the cheese sauce and slowly mix until its incorporated into the pasta. This keeps you from dirtying another bowl. Top with the toasted bread crumbs. Slide into the oven, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Serve immediately or it can sit and wait remaining fairly hot for up to half an hour. I served with a salad, but have paired well with various chicken, pork and beef as the main course.
UPDATE: 1/9/2010 – Four Cheese Uber Mac
Last night, we had some friends over for comfort food. With leftover cheeses from the holidays, I decided to do another variation on Uber Mac. It was so rich and creamy! Here’s the variation on the sauce – make the same pasta with toasted panko bread crumbs:
Start with 4 tbsp butter and melt it well over med heat. Whisk in 6 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp at a time to make the roux. Make the roux over med heat. Add in 1.5 cups of milk (I used skim). Season with 1 tsp dry mustard, 1 tsp paprika, 1.5 tsps crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Whisk it all together over the med heat, but then turn down to low/med low. Make sure the sauce is a med thick sauce, not pulling away from the sides. If that happens, add a little more milk.
Slowly add 3/4 cup shredded havarti, allowing to melt completely before adding 3/4 cup shredded fontina. Allow that to melt completely, stirring constantly and then add 3/4 cup shredded gouda. When the gouda melts in, add 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar. When all cheese is incorporated and you are satisfied with the seasoning and taste, take it off the heat and mix it well with the cooked pasta. Put it in the greased baking dish and top with the toasted panko bread crumbs. Bake in oven set at 350 for 25 mins. Delicious!!