Mushroom Mac & CheeseApr 25, 2023
Mushroom Mac & Cheese - Serves 4 to 6
I love mac & cheese that’s packed with mushrooms. By adding loads of mushrooms and possibly decreasing the pasta, you’ll promote lower cholesterol, fuel your brain, stimulate your gut, and support your immune system.
Try using varieties that you have not tried. Add colored mushrooms like yellow Chanterelles or chicken-of-the-woods. Or, use whatever mushrooms you can find! The sauce is a classic French cream sauce known as Sauce Béchamel. I often substitute chicken broth for milk for added collagen. With chicken broth, the sauce is called Sauce Velouté.
For the Mac & Cheese:
¾ Lb. or more mushrooms, depending on how mushroomy you’d like it to be. Mushrooms shrink quite a bit when cooked. Prep by slicing or coarsely chopping the mushrooms.
2 Tbls butter
12 ounces elbow, shell, farfalle, fusilli, or other short, tube-shaped pasta
Salt, white pepper, and nutmeg
1 Tbls fresh minced thyme or 1 tsp dried
3 Tbls unsalted butter
3 Tbls all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk or chicken broth, room temp or warm
8 oz sharp or white Cheddar cheese, grated
8 oz Gruyère or Fontina, grated
For the Topping (optional) - You can also just sprinkle the fresh parsley over the baked dish and a hint of fresh herbs.
1cup coarse bread crumbs, fresh or dried
4 Tbls melted butter or olive oil
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
½ tsp dry or 1 tsp fresh minced thyme
¼ cup fresh minced parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 ½ to 3-quart or 9 x 13-ish baking dish
Butter to grease your baking dish
To cook the pasta & mushrooms:
Preheat oven to 425ºF
Cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water large enough to keep the pasta from boiling over but small enough to use for sautéing mushrooms and making your sauce. This is just to avoid dishwashing. You can also use several pots and pans.
Cook the pasta until it’s barely al dente or slightly chewy. It will continue to cook in the oven. Drain and set aside.
In the same pot, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan and sauté the mushrooms until just tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the mushrooms to the pasta, setting some of the mushrooms aside for a garnish.
To make the sauce:
Don’t clean the pot but rather heat the 3 Tbls butter over medium heat.
Whisk in the flour and cook, constantly whisking, until the flour is foamy and just starting to turn a light golden, about 4 minutes.
Slowly whisk in the milk or broth and continue whisking until the sauce thickens and is creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste it to see if it’s pasty or tastes like flour. If so, whisk and cook for a few minutes more.
Season to taste with nutmeg, salt, white pepper, and thyme.
Turn off the heat and add the grated cheese, whisking to blend until the cheese is completely melted. (The sauce will seem thick at first and thin out as the cheese melts; it will thicken while it bakes.)
Add the cooked pasta and mushrooms, stirring to coat well.
Make the optional topping:
Combine bread crumbs, melted butter, and Parmesan, if using, and parsley in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and, using your hands, mix well to ensure the bread crumbs are evenly coated.
Finishing & Baking:
Transfer the macaroni and cheese mixture to your buttered baking dish, leaving the mixture “rustic,” with the pasta looking craggily. In other words, don’t flatten it.
Scatter the bread crumb topping, if using, evenly over the top. Place on a baking sheet that is covered with foil or parchment in case the sauce bubbles over.
Bake until the mixture is bubbling, has thickened, and is creamy. The bread crumbs should be evenly golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
Let cool slightly before serving.
Dust with fresh parsley.