Creamy Fontina Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Jessica Merchant, the cookbook author behind How Sweet Eats, loves riffing on classics. She got her start as a blogger and cookbook author by taking recipes she knew and loved and adapting them. Macaroni and cheese is one of those traditional favourites. In developing this recipe, she focused on an easy, creamy and delicious version that’s perfect for a decadent meal (or anytime, really).
For Jessica, who has no shortage of experience inventing delicious versions of the dish (see: Pizza Supreme Mac and Cheese!), her grandmother's mac and cheese set the standard to live up to. It’s a food memory that has rebuffed years of testing recipes said to be “the best mac and cheese ever.” Unfortunately, although Jessica watched her grandmother make her version of the dish for years, she never got the full recipe. “[My grandmother] went by the feel of the wooden spoon in the cheese sauce and how golden the bread crumbs looked on top, and would stir the dish in the oven to make sure it was creamy enough,” Jessica said.
We love that kind of intuition, but it’s not so easy to replicate. After “years trying to perfect her method,” this epic recipe is pretty close to recreating the magic, with “fontina and Parmesan giv[ing] this dish a sharp, cheesy flavour while melting perfectly,” and bread crumbs that make for “the perfect crunchy topping.”
This mac and cheese is a little different from other recipes you’ve come across — no cheddar or American cheese here! —but it taps into that same classic comfort in a way that’s really special. Baked in a cast-iron skillet in your Ooni oven, it takes only 10 minutes to get bubbly, ooey and gooey.
Jessica Merchant is a full-time recipe developer and writer who happens to be crazy passionate about all things food. She is the author of The Pretty Dish and Seriously Delish, and details her adventures in and out of the kitchen on her popular blog, How Sweet Eats, which is read by millions. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her family. Follow her on Instagram @howsweeteats.
serves 4 as a side
8 ounces (227 grams) short-cut pasta, cooked
2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (15 grams) all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups (300 grams) whole milk
8 ounces (227 grams) fontina cheese, freshly grated
2 ounces (57 grams) Parmesan, freshly grated
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ teaspoon (1 gram) fresh ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon (1 gram) ground mustard powder
3 tablespoons (21 grams) seasoned bread crumbs
Cook your pasta in salted boiling water according to the package directions. Take it out and set it aside when it’s still al dente since it will cook for a minute or two in the cheese sauce.
Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until it’s completely incorporated. (This will create a roux that will help to thicken the sauce.) Cook the roux until it’s golden in colour and smells nutty and fragrant.
Slowly stream in the milk, whisking the entire time. Cook, stirring the milk mixture until it thickens slightly.
Reduce the heat to low. In small batches, add in three quarters of the fontina. Start with a handful at a time, stirring after each addition until the cheese fully melts. Next, stir in the Parmesan, followed by a pinch of salt and pepper, along with the nutmeg and mustard powder.
Place your pasta in the cast iron skillet. Toss the pasta with half of the remaining fontina, reserving the rest for the topping. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss until fully coated.
Top the pasta with the breadcrumbs and remaining fontina.
Place the skillet in the center of the oven. Bake for 3 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for 3 minutes more.
Bake for an additional 1 to 2 minutes until the top of the mac and cheese is golden brown and crispy.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.