My Facebook friend Yvonne, a fellow schnauzer-lover and accomplished home chef, recently posted her latest mac and cheese dish to our closed foodie group. The key to its deliciousness, besides her skill in the kitchen, was Beecher’s Flagship cheese. Handmade in Seattle, available at retail if you can find it, for about $25/lb, or by mail order with shipping costs that can double the cost of a pound. There’s also a milder jack cheese component, and a surprising touch of both garlic powder and chili powder.
Upon seeing the photos Yvonne posted of ingredients, recipe on the package, and finished dish, I was determined to find a suitable substitute and try this out myself. Seeing that Flagship is a combination of nutty-flavored Gruyère and cheddar, I searched – where else – but at Trader Joe’s for some excellent cheese stand-ins.
Mission accomplished, my cheese en place included these:
The rest was simple, and seriously rivaled by longtime favorite Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese.
WORLD’S BEST MAC & CHEESE
(adapted from Beecher’s recipe)
12 ounces penne rigate
6 tbsp unsalted butter divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 lb Trader Joe’s Cheddar & Gruyere cheese combination, shredded
4 ounces Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio shredded cheese
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350º.
Butter a 9 x 13” baking dish.
Cook penne in 4-6 quarts boiling water about 9 minutes, until they’re cooked but still chewy. Drain and rinse in cold water; set aside.
Melt 4 tbsp butter in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and whisk in flour. Continue whisking for 2 minutes. Slowly add milk while whisking and cook until sauce thickens, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Add 14 ounces of the Cheddar/Gruyère, 2 ounces of the Quattro Formaggio cheese, salt, ¼ tsp chili powder and the garlic powder. Stir until everything is melted and incorporated.
Combine pasta and sauce in the saucepan and scrape into prepared baking dish. Melt remaining 2 tbsp butter and combine with the panko, the remaining cheeses and remaining 1/4 tsp chili powder. Sprinkle all over the top. Bake uncovered 30 minutes and let set 5 minutes before serving.
This will serve 6 hearty portions with a salad for dinner, or more as a side dish. Can be refrigerated and reheated or recipe can be halved.