Macaroni and cheese is one of the best comfort foods ever made. Recipes for mac and cheese have been passed down from generation to generation. My family is no different. My mom passed on her mac and cheese recipe to me when I started learning how to cook. I am sure it is the same recipe my grandmother passed on to my mom and her sisters.
Tradition is important when it comes to family and cultures. Without traditions our histories would not be as rich and wonderful. We would not know or understand the meaning of true love, sacrifice and success. Yes, traditions are important and each family has at least one tradition that is passed on and on. However, as new families are created so are new traditions.
Although I have made my mom and grandmother’s mac and cheese for years, I recently decided to try a new recipe. I was inspired by a show on Food Network where Giada featured a macaroni and cheese dish she loves. Giada’s macaroni and cheese included fontina cheese among other cheeses. I had never considered using fontina cheese in my mac and cheese. Fontina cheese is a semi-soft Italian cheese that has a rich and creamy texture with a slightly nutty flavor. My traditional mac and cheese called for extra sharp and sharp cheddar cheese period.
New traditions call for new ingredients. My new mac and cheese includes five different cheeses. After all, the main attraction in macaroni and cheese is the cheese. Bringing together several different cheeses raised the flavors to a new level of goodness. Also the various textures of cheese which were hard, soft and semi-soft made the dish extra creamy.
I will always love my mom’s mac and cheese but with my family I am creating new traditions to pass on to my children and grandchildren.
Macaroni and Cheese
2 cups medium pasta shells
5 oz Gruyere cheese grated
3 oz fontina cheese grated
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese grated
¼ cup pepper jack cheese grated
3 tbsp Velveeta cheese cubed
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp pasta water
¾ cup half and half
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Prepare pasta according to package adding 1 tsp of salt to the water. Drain and reserve ½ cup of pasta water. Stir 1 tablespoon of butter into the pasta to coat. Season with black pepper.
Spray a medium casserole dish with cooking spray. Sprinkle a tablespoon of each cheese in the bottom of the casserole dish. Add half of the pasta and half of the cheese. Add remaining pasta and cheese. Pour half and half along with 2 tablespoons of pasta water over cheese and stir to mix cheese into pasta. Make sure cheese is well blended into the dish. Sprinkle a little cheddar cheese and paprika on the top of the dish. Bake for approximately 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.