I started writing this recipe two years ago. Reader: today is your lucky day.
I love mac’n’cheese. Ask anyone what my favourite food is. They’ll probably say mac’n’cheese. (Or gin. But that’s not food.) However, around 3 years ago I completely ruined the entire concept of mac’n’cheese for myself forever by accidentally inventing this recipe.
Reader, I used to order mac’n’cheese every time I went out to eat. If I didn’t have it as a main, I’d have it as a side or a starter. Or I’d order ‘one for the table’ (i.e. me. Don’t touch it). But then I created this recipe, and I can’t order it out any more. Why?
None of the 100s of mac’n’cheeses that I’ve had in my 28 years on this good pasta-producing earth is quite as damn good as the one featured in this post.
No sir. No ma’am. This is the king of mac’n’cheese – creamy, thick, full of flavour, bit of a kick, comforting and warm. The kind of mac’n’cheese where you shovel it into your gob from a steaming bowl on the sofa on a Sunday night, while binge-watching Mad Men, and then lying there in a cheese coma for an hour or so. Which incidentally, is exactly what we did three Sundays in a row when I perfected this recipe.
I found the original slow cooker version base recipe on Netmums, but the adaptations and detail are my additions. And trust me – you want to try my version. Arguably this is better even than the recipe I used previously, which called for an entire block of cheese. For two people. That was… I don’t use the phrase ‘too much cheese’ very often, but that was it.
Two things before we get into this recipe:
- This is a slow cooker recipe, and goes out to all my fellow non-oven-having homies out there (mine’s been broken almost 2.5 years. This dish made it bearable). You could try making it in the oven, but why would you? This way your house smells like hot molten cheese, and you still get those crispy bits on the bottom. Mmm. Crispy bits.
- This isn’t a traditional mac’n’cheese. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone comes for me in the comments. This isn’t mac’n’cheese! How dare you call this mac’n’cheese! To them I say: I don’t give a flamboyant flying fig if it isn’t traditional. It’s not haute Italian cuisine we’re making here. It’s comfort food. This version is better.
This recipe supposedly makes enough for 4, but in my house it only serves two. We’re very greedy mac’n’cheese fans.
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil (olive oil is fine too)
- 1 medium white onion, sliced thinly
- 1 pack smoked pancetta (or smoked bacon lardons) about 65g
- 55g chorizo, chopped
- 3-5 cloves garlic, crushed (I like a lot of garlic. Maybe you don’t)
- 100g button mushrooms, sliced (chestnut is nice too. Use what you like)
- 250g macaroni pasta
For the sauce
- 55g salted butter
- 55g plain flour
- 500ml semi skimmed milk
- 250ml water
- 150g extra mature cheddar, grated (the stronger the better, trust me)
- 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 1 tbsp medium curry powder
- 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- Freshly ground salt & black pepper
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan or skillet over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until starting to caramelise
- When the onions are starting to turn brown, add the pancetta and chorizo. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chorizo starts releasing the red oil
- Next, turn down the pan to medium-low, and add the crushed garlic and mushrooms to the pan. Leave these to cook while you make the sauce. You want all these ingredients to be well caramelised, but don’t burn the garlic
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir to make a paste. Next, add the milk and water in batches, stirring in between to avoid lumps (mine has never made lumps. I often just throw all the liquid in at once. You should be fine)
- When all the milk and water has been incorporated into the sauce, add the mustard, curry powder and worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper, then add the cheese and cook until melted and the sauce is smooth
- Add the onion mixture and the sauce into the pot of your slow cooker. Add the dry macaroni and stir well to combine
- Switch on the slow cooker to its low setting and cook for 2.5 hours. Stir 1-2 times during the cooking process, scraping the corners of the pot, to ensure the pasta cooks evenly and doesn’t get stuck to the bottom
- After 2.5 hours, serve that baby up! Good luck not eating the entire pot to yourself.
The curry powder, mustard and worcestershire sauce gives this recipe an earthy kick, while the addition of chorizo and pancetta will ensure this appeals to even non-mac’n’cheese fans.