Why hello there, stranger! Let's please not talk about my little absence here on DC and get right to the fun stuff, okay. When did April get here anyways? And spring? Holy crap, time is flying by at a rapid pace. To make amends, I'll just go ahead and give you the best macaroni and cheese recipe known to man and all will be forgiven. You've got to trust me on this one, you know I don't throw out superlatives like that often. But seriously. It's holy-crap-mind-blowingly-out-of-this-world-too-good-to-be-true amazing. Need proof? Here's the text message following a cell phone snapshot to my sister (and I don't lie to my sister):
Me: Mac and cheeeessse, please! (Photo attached)Deanna: Oh my gawwwwddddddddddddMe: It's pretty much the best thing I have ever tasted ever. E-V-E-R.
This was immediately followed by a call from her offering to fly me to Los Angeles to make it. (Dee—I'll see you in two weeks!)
Seriously though, I don't know how Dixie Caviar has survived this long without a recipe for mac and cheese. I've been searching for the holy grail of recipes for years and am happy to say my search is over. But I'll just stop blabbering now and give you the cheesy goods. (P.S. Thank you notes and flowers for the fabulous recipe can be sent to my home address in Atlanta.)
Source: Adapted from Community Q, Atlanta
Yields 6-8 servings
This recipe comes from Community Q Barbecue in Decatur, GA. The first time I ever dined there, I spent $40. On myself. I couldn't tell if the man behind the counter wanted to marry me or call the asylum. What can I say? I have to sample ALL of the wares to fairly judge a barbecue joint. It's safe to admit that it is now my one-and-only bbq house. (Thank goodness the 20-minute drive is just long enough to keep me out of there on a regular basis.)
Community's beef ribs and rigatoni mac & cheese will change your life. So you might imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon their so-called recipe in the Atlanta paper for all the world to see. I had my doubts that it was THE recipe, but upon testing—multiple times—am happy to report that this is, in fact, IT. I've only made one big change, and that is substituting the originally called-for Monterey Jack with (uber-processed) white American. Hey, if Panera Bread can do it, so can I.
1 (16-ounce) box rigatoni noodles
8 ounces (12 slices) white American cheese, torn or cut into very small pieces
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
4 ounces grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
2 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil and season generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, about 12 minutes or according to package instructions. Drain in a colander without rinsing, and return the pasta to the pot.
Add the American cheese, half of the cheddar, half the Parmesan, and the heavy cream to the still-warm noodles and stir until combined and the cheese starts to melt. Season generously with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the noodle mixture into a greased cast iron skillet or casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining half of cheddar and Parmesan over the top and bake until bubbly and golden, about 30 - 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Serve, eat copious amounts, and then retreat for a long afternoon slumber.