What is better than macaroni cheese? Three Cheese Macaroni Cheese, of course! Made with a combination of cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan and finished with a crispy parmesan and panko breadcrumb topping, this version definitely takes mac n cheese to the next level!
I have to admit…I am a comfort food girl at heart and there are few dishes in this world that tick the comfort food box better than good ‘ole mac n cheese. My standard version is always a real hit (well except for my daughter who quite inexplicably doesn’t like macaroni cheese – I KNOW!!!) and is pretty popular on my blog too.
But I am always looking for ways of making good dishes better and I have a particular obsession when it comes to macaroni cheese…I have already brought you my Super Simple Macaroni Cheese, my Leek and Bacon Macaroni Cheese (which is INSANE btw) and my Butternut Squash Macaroni Cheese, plus I have a few other ideas in the pipeline, but this is my latest creation: Three Cheese Macaroni Cheese.
Because how to improve on macaroni cheese? Well add in more cheese of course! I typically make my family favourite mac n cheese with cheddar – it has just the right amount of creaminess to sharpness in my mind and is something I always have in the fridge…so perfect for throwing together when my dinner plans fall through or if we have unexpected guests.
So when dreaming about other cheeses to put in macaroni cheese, I tried to work on how my standard version could be improved. The thing about cheddar is it’s not oozy and stretchy…the best cheese for that, in my humble opinion, is mozzarella – so that needed to go into the mix. It adds a wonderful extra creaminess too.
And the other thing about cheddar is, although it’s OK as a topping, it’s not quite as good as parmesan, which for me is the best cheese to use as a topping, especially when mixed together with my absolute storecupboard favourite: panko breadcrumbs…so in that went too! And of course I kept the cheddar for flavour. I love a good strong cheddar, but go for a milder one if you prefer.
Of course, you could go to town with the three cheese theme if you like…I did toy with the idea of adding a blue cheese and I may still try that in the future…and I also quite like the idea of adding Red Leicester – mostly for the colour – orange mac and cheese would look pretty special wouldn’t it? And then of course you could go all out and stir in some soft garlic cheese like Boursin – I’m not at all sure how that one would turn out, but I feel it needs trying, don’t you?
But for now I am sticking with this cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan version because I think it’s pretty awesome! It’s also filled with cheeses that most people can actually get hold of (always a bonus!) and…well, it just works!
With regard to the mozzarella, make sure you buy the hard, dry mozzarella (usually sold pre grated for pizza), not the soft, squishy mozzarella that comes in a ball, packed in liquid. The soft, squishy version doesn’t work at all well in this (I did try – it just sticks together in globs and doesn’t do that cute picture-perfect stretchy thing, but rather that get in a total tangle stretchy thing. Not a good look!)
And if you are wanting to make sure this mac n cheese is suitable for vegetarians, you will need to use an Italian style hard cheese suitable for vegetarians as ‘proper’ parmesan is not veggie friendly. It is possible to buy mozzarella and cheddar that are suitable for vegetarians, but do obviously check the label!
I like to serve this Three Cheese Macaroni Cheese with a simple green salad tossed in my all-time favourite Honey, Mustard and Cider Vinegar Dressing. But other great options could be my Easy No Mayo Coleslaw or this rather awesome 5 Minute Mexican Salad! (Or you could just have this with baked beans like my son…who would cry if I served macaroni cheese with anything else!)
My favourite wine match for this Three Cheese Macaroni Cheese is a lovely crisp unoaked Chardonnay, which cuts beautifully through the richness of the cheeses, but a soft, ripe red, such as Grenache or Merlot would work well here too.
Three Cheese Macaroni Cheese
- 300 g macaroni (NOT quick cook)
- 30 g butter
- 25 g plain flour
- 500 ml milk
- Black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 100 g hard mozzarella cheese grated
- 50 g mature cheddar cheese grated
- 100 g parmesan cheese grated (75g for the sauce, 25g for the topping) or vegetarian equivalent
- 50 g panko breadcrumbs
- 100 g salad leaves to serve
- 1 quantity Honey, Mustard and Cider Vinegar dressing to serve
Pre heat your oven to 220C / 200C / gas mark 7 / 425F.
- Cook the macaroni in plenty of boiling salted water for about 3 minutes less than you would normally do it. This is important or your macaroni will end up soggy and stodgy. Drain reserving a little of the cooking water.
- Put the butter in an ovenproof saucepan or hob proof oven dish and melt over a low heat until starting to foam.
- Sprinkle over the plain flour and stir well, then add the milk very slowly, stirring constantly until thickened. When the sauce is roughly the thickness of double (heavy) cream, add in a few twists of black pepper, the Dijon mustard and all the cheese except for 25g of the parmesan. Stir until the cheese is melted and then turn the heat off.
- In a small bowl place the panko breadcrumbs and the remaining 25g of the parmesan cheese. Mix together to make the topping.
Tip the macaroni into the cheese sauce, together with about a tablespoon of the cooking water, and stir to combine. Scatter the panko topping evenly over the top and place in your preheated oven for 15 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve with a green salad.
If you don’t have an ovenproof saucepan or hob proof oven dish, simply cook the sauce in a regular saucepan and transfer the macaroni cheese to an oven dish before sprinkling with the topping and putting in the oven.
Whatever you do, do not make this with quick cook macaroni…or it will end in total disaster, AKA mush…you have been warned!!
Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
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