Cooking time: 25-30min
Easy - for beginners
"Macaroni & Cheese has been a staple on the dinner table for decades! The creative blend of cheeses in this comfort food is so smooth and delicious that any cheese lover will find it irresistible." - Cheryl Hart, Tillamook Cheese cookbook
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Butter and set aside a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. To make the topping, melt 4 Tablespoons of butter with a 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic powder. Place the bread cubes in a medium bowl. Toss the melted garlic butter with the bread cubes and reserve.
Combine 1 cup of the Vintage White, 1/2 cup of the Swiss, and 1/4 of the Romano in a separate small bowl. Reserve for the topping.
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt and the pasta. Cook, according to package directions, to the al dente stage. Drain in a colander and reserve.
Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking. Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually add the half-and-half and milk, and bring just to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer, whisking often, until the sauce slightly thickens, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Stir in the remaining garlic powder, salt, pepper flakes, and nutmeg. Add the remaining Vintage White, Swiss, Romano, and Sharp cheeses, stirring until the cheese is melted. Remove the pan from the heat. Fold the pasta into the cheese sauce.
Pour the mixture into a prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the reserved cheese. Top with the bread-cube mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the top begins to brown. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with the chopped parsley.
MY notes: Prepared and served this at our neighbor’s annual Halloween party, and it was a big hit. I actually used a little more extra sharp cheddar and swiss, and slightly less romano, just because that’s the ratio/taste I prefer. Though it comes from the Tillamook Cheese recipe book, you needn’t use all Tillamook products to pull it off. But make sure it’s good quality cheese, so it will melt more smoothly.
You’ll want to be sure your milk and cream are at room temperature, or when you add them into the pan to make the sauce, it could seize and turn lumpy. Won’t affect the taste, but it does change the texture.
We omitted the pepper flakes (since little goblins were going to be enjoying this dish, too) this time and skipped the parsley, since we were out and it’s more of a garnish. You could use other pastas, as the sauce is one that would be good with just about anything. But the shape and size of the rigatoni is perfect, because the cheese gets trapped inside the tubes of pasta and makes each bite even more decadent.