I have been making Parmesan cheese broth and freezing it for months. Broth is, as I’m sure many of you astute Takeout readers already know, a delightful flavor enhancer. I have been bearing the fruits of this liquid gold, or more accurately, liquid cheese, during the cold months of winter. Now, it’s spring, and I’m still drinking Parm broth. And when I add it to mac and cheese, the results are stunning.
In my humble opinion, mac and cheese is best when it’s wet. I don’t like baked mac. Breadcrumbs and an oven just get in the way of a deliciously smooth, velvety, horned-up mac and cheese. The best version of mac and cheese, I firmly believe, adheres strongly to the Italian principles of pasta.
Pasta and sauce demand to spend time being cooked together, in unison, so that they become infatuated with one another like annoying teens. (It’s okay to have relationships outside of each other, pasta and sauce. Good lord, you’ve forgotten completely about your friends.) Mac should feel smooth, wet, and cheesy like cacio e pepe. And you wouldn’t finish cacio e pepe in an oven, right? You would only rob the dish of its iconic creamy consistency.
A few months back, I sought to make mac and cheese on a date night. It was a new relationship, maybe our third date.* Often how I cook is I research recipes online, then gradually alter the ratios, ingredients, and methods to my liking. I saw a bunch of mac and cheese recipes calling for water or stock in addition to milk and butter, and I thought, why not replace that water with Parmesan cheese broth? Why not permeate every bite of shells with a delicious, all-encompassing cheese flavor?
There’s often talk surrounding certain recipes as “food that gets you laid,” and I would like to add mac and cheese to that sexy-time canon. Mac and cheese sloshing around in a pot is always a carnal, X-rated sound. Moreover, who doesn’t like mac and cheese? It’s simple, but hard to get right. In that way, it’s an incredibly impressive date night meal. And this recipe for mac and cheese is maybe the horniest of them all. See for yourself.
*We broke up after two months.
- 1 (16-oz.) box of pasta shells
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1½ cups Parmesan Cheese Broth
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 1 lb. American cheese slices
- 6 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
For the roux: In a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir continuously with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula for 3-5 minutes until the texture is smooth and the smell is nutty. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking at a close-to-vigorous pace, making sure the roux is completely dissolved in the milk. Next, add the Parmesan cheese broth and whisk to incorporate. Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat, adjusting if the liquid is close to boiling.
Note: I store Parm broth in my freezer in a Ziploc bag and defrost in the fridge for a day or two before I want to use it.
Next, take your slices of American cheese and start to gently incorporate them into your hot, cheesy, milky liquid. Each time a slice of American cheese hits the pot, stir it in with a rubber spatula. Do this for the entire pound of American cheese.
You can do this while you’re dissolving cheese. Cook the pasta to package directions in a pot of well-salted boiling water. Drain the pasta. Cool with cold water if your sauce isn’t ready quite yet.
Add the pasta into the cheese mixture. Stir to incorporate. Add the Dijon and Worcestershire. Stir. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. Stir again. Now add shredded cheddar cheese. Stir off the heat for a minute or two. I like to add the cheddar last so that the cheese doesn’t turn greasy. Cheddar cheese, after all, is an emulsion, which can easily separate if the heat gets too high.
If you want, you can stir in some more cold butter here, too, and finish it like a nice French sauce.
Keep stirring, and take in those X-rated mac and cheese sounds. If the mac doesn’t feel creamy enough, add a little pasta water, or more Parm broth, and stir. Serve in the pot you cooked it in.