Introduction to Creating the Best Mac n Cheese
Mac n cheese has to be the ultimate comfort meal. It’s so rich, creamy, and unbelievably satisfying. There’s so many different ways to make such a simple dish, but my favorite way of making it lately has been seasoning it with Frank’s Red Hot and some cajun seasoning. It adds the perfect hint of spiciness and tanginess without making the dish spicy overall. I’ve also switched out the classic cheddar and gruyere combo with a Mexican Four Cheese blend from Tillamook and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to Mac n Cheese another way again.
Breakdown of the Ingredients
- Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
- Cajun Seasoning
- All Purpose Flour
- Tillamook Mexican Four Cheese Blend
- Pasta Water
- Chopped Shallots
The ingredients here are pretty simple, but I wanted to go over some basics and also talk about some substitutes. As far as the pasta you use, of course macaroni is what’s typically used in mac n cheese, but you can really substitute in any shape of pasta – I’ve also tried this with penne for example and it gives the mac n cheese a little bit of an elevated look.
For the seasoning I love using cajun seasoning! The one I use is from the Kroger brand at Fred Meyer and I absolutely love it. It includes chili powders, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt – all ingredients I’d end up using separately for mac n cheese any ways – so this really just makes life a lot easier.
I’ve seen so many recipes where people insist on grating their own cheese but I swear I absolutely cannot tell the difference, especially with a good quality cheese like from Tillamook (not sponsored by the way lol I just really like their cheese). Usually for mac n cheese people use sharp cheddar and gruyere or even mozzarella, but I’ve really enjoyed using a Mexican four cheese blend (which also includes cheddar by the way).
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Keys to Success
- Make sure not to add too much salt! The cajun seasoning I used here has salt in it already, and the dish will already be salted from the cheese and butter as well. So I didn’t end up adding an extra.
- Save your pasta water! Milk adds a really nice richness and creaminess to your mac n cheese, but don’t underestimate the power of pasta water. When you’re boiling your macaroni, scoop out a cup of the water before you drain the pasta and add it to your sauce. The starchiness in the water will make the cheese sauce super silky and creamy.
Mac n Cheese
- 1.5 c Macaroni
- 1 tbsp Frank's Red Hot Sauce
- 1 tbsp Cajun Seasoning
- 1 1/3 c Milk (whole milk is preferred or half and half, but I've tried this even with oatmilk and it's still fantastic!)
- 2 tbsp All Purpose Flour
- ~3.5 oz Butter (almost a full stick of butter)
- 3.5 c Tillamook Mexican Four Cheese Blend (tightly packed; 3 cups for the sauce; 1/2 c for the topping)
- 1 c Pasta Water
- 1/4 c Chopped Shallots
- Start by melting your butter on a medium-low heat.
- Add in your chopped shallots, and sauté for about a minute.
- Gently whisk in your all purpose flour and mix well.
- Add in your milk and cheese, and mix everything together. Make sure the heat is kept on low to medium. You don't want it to be too hot!
- Once the cheese has dissolved, you can add in your cajun seasoning and Frank's Red Hot.
- Cook your macaroni according to package instructions but subtract a couple of minutes from the cook time.
- Mix your cooked macaroni with your cheese sauce and pour the mixture into a baking dish.
- Add the remaining cheese on top of your mac n cheese and broil for about 2-3 minutes in the oven until the top is nice and crispy.