When it comes to making the ideal mac and cheese, you could say it’s all in the cheese. Or cheeses, because a mac and cheese with just one kind of cheese is going to be dull and disappointing. You need at least three (in my opinion) to make something worthwhile, four would be better, and five, well, five creates a mac ‘n cheese with a unique depth and richness all its own.
Technically what I made was 4 cheese, since I used a cheddar/Gruyere blend (and if you have a Trader Joe’s near you, I highly recommend using 6 ounces of their Mélange cheese in this recipe in place of the 3 ounces of cheddar and 3 ounces of Gruyere).
But who’s counting. The important part is this mac is not want for cheese.
Some cheeses were chosen specifically for flavor (Pecorino), others for texture and creaminess (American), and some (like the Camembert) serve double duty. With a dash of paprika and cayenne pepper, this is unlike any macaroni and cheese you’ve ever had (except maybe in your dreams, and please tell me I’m not alone and y’all dream about mac ‘n cheese too?)
Also unlike other baked mac and cheeses where you transfer the cheese and pasta to a separate dish for baking, this one is cooked and baked in the same skillet. That’s one less messy dish for you to wash (or, in my case, for Taylor to wash), and one less obstacle getting in the way between you and a delicious skillet of homemade macaroni and cheese.
This recipe works in both 9 and 12 inch skillets (what you see pictured is a 12-inch). Although 10-inch would probably be perfect. If you use a 9-inch, just stir carefully, especially when you fold in the pasta, so you don’t lose any noodles down the side of the stove.
There are multiple points where you may think you f&@*!ed up, where your sauce looks chunky and grainy and downright disgusting. When you add the flour to the butter. When you add the milk to the roux. When you add the cheeses to the warm milk. When you think all hope is lost and the chunks will never go away…
It’ll all smooth out in the end, I promise.
Like most mac and cheeses, it is best served immediately. As it sits the cheese sauce will begin to separate, and while it’s no less delicious, the texture isn’t nearly as appetizing. Aside from using an entire block of that artificial cheese-that-shall-not-be-named, I haven’t found any way around this (other than, you know, eating it all immediately).
I will not call this the best macaroni and cheese, probably because it’s one of those recipes (much like brownies) that I continues to evolve each and every time I make it.
It is, however, the best macaroni and cheese I’ve made, so far.
Five Cheese Skillet Mac and Cheese
- 8 ounces elbow pasta
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- 3 ounces mild white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup shredded)
- 3 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 1 cup shredded)
- 2 ounces Pecorino cheese, finely shredded (about 3/4 cup shredded)
- 2 ounces Camembert cheese, rind removed and cut into small chunks
- 1 ounce (2 slices) white American cheese, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
- Place an oven rack in the top half of the oven. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
- Add macaroni and cook for 5 minutes or until just barely al dente. Strain and set aside.
- Heat butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or oven-safe saucepan set over medium-high heat. When butter is melted and foamy, sprinkle over flour, whisking to incorporate into a smooth paste. Continue to whisk until frothy and light golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly drizzle in milk, whisking vigorously. If at any point the mixture clumps, continue to whisk until smooth before adding more milk. Continue whisking until all the milk has been added. Cook, whisking regularly, for 7 to 8 minutes or until sauce has thickened to the consistency of heavy cream and just barely starts to simmer around the edges. Whisk in cayenne, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
- Set aside 1/4 cup of cheese (a mix of cheddar, gruyere, and pecorino). Sowly add remaining cheese to skillet, one handful at a time, whisking well until melted and smooth. If the sauce still has noticeable chunks in it, return pan to low heat and continue whisking for no more than 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is completely melted.
- Fold cooked macaroni into cheese sauce until evenly coated. Sprinkle with reserved shredded cheese and bread crumbs and broil on high for 4 to 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Did you make this recipe?
Let us know what you think!
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Made this a couple days ago came out wonderfully. Used parmesan instead of pecorino just because I couldn’t find it. Extremely creamy (something I was struggling with achieving before) super yummy definitely the best mac n cheese I’ve made so far . Only downside is that if you’re making for more than 3 people it can become a pricey dish. Thanks so much for the share though !
This looks ridiculously awesome. I’m pretty sure I’ve had some mac and cheese dreams in my life, too. I may be dreaming about this one now.
Just lovely!! You can never have too many good mac and cheese recipes!
Made this last night! Big hit!! Will definitely make this again. YUM!
I need this mac and cheese in my life. It looks amazinggg!
My partner would LOVE this, I am so making it for him. It looks delicious plus who doesn’t love mac and cheese.
Quite right too! There should be at least 3 different cheeses in mac ‘n cheese! I change them up all the time depending on my mood (Cheddar, Gruyere, Parmigiano Reggiano, Fontina, Provolone), sometimes I like to add blanched cauliflower or broccoli or halved cherry tomatoes. I note that you also use paprika and cayenne too…great additions, gives such a lift to the dish! I also just switched things up lately using Panko, works great! I think I better head to the kitchen…seems like I have a craving for mac ‘n cheese! Ciao!
Yuuum! This looks amazing! 5 cheese, yes please!
I’m drooling just thinking about eating this mac ‘n cheese. YUMMM
Hi Lindsay, this looks delicious! However, way down here in wee old New Zealand, I’ve been unable to find white cheddar cheese or white American cheese. The closest I could find was a vintage cheddar. Do you have any recommendations for substitutes? Thanks! :) -Whytney
I want to face plant this right now – 5 cheeses?! My idea of heaven :)
Sweet glory that looks good. If it compares at all to your brussels sprouts mac and cheese I know I would devour this in a flash.
The pictures of this amazing mac and cheese left me speechless and drooling. I want!
Oh my goodness, this looks and sounds to die for!
OMG. No words.
you can’t go wrong with a killer mac n cheese recipe like this one. mmmmm!
This is the BEST mac and cheese I have ever made! It has just the perfect bite. I made a special trip to Trader Joes this morning to use their cheese that you suggested. My husband and my 14 and my 18 year old grandchildren loved it! This is now my forever mac and cheese recipe! Thank You!
This looks incredible, going to try this recipe this week!
There really is no better comfort food than a good mac-n-cheese!! Blessings, Catherine
Yum! Mac and Cheese is part of my food group ;) All of the cheese combine together to make a beautiful harmony. I am adding this to my to make list! Thanks for a great recipe!
Ohhhh this looks so cheesy and delicious. Mac & Cheese at its finest!
This looks SO good Lindsay! I’ve never had mac and cheese (England-er here!) but this has got to be the best place to start!
Oh my . . My mother-in-law’s Tillamook extra sharp only recipe may now be a thing of the past . .but will Kenny approve?
This look delicious! I love mac & cheese. I’m having a link party for back to school stuff and I was wondering if you would like to share the link to your post. Whoever checks out my site, it will link them back to your site. I just thought this would be a great back to school recipe. Here is the link if you want to share it. http://ceceliasgoodstuff.com/back-to-school-link-party
This looks so creamy and delicious! One of my go-to mac recipes is in a skillet like this. Makes clean up a breeze! I am going to experiment with Camembert in my mac – never had it that way before!
This sounds amazing. I cannot wait to make it!
That looks so good! I’ve never tried Camembert cheese in my macaroni and cheese but this looks so amazing that I’m going to have to try it soon!
Diet. Blown. This looks too good not to make. The mac & cheese I usually make has 6 cheeses, but I think I could make do with 5. ;)
That’s some seriously awesome cheesiness!
This makes me so happy. Is it acceptable for breakfast, too??
YUMMMMMM. Mac and cheese is my ultimate guilty-pleasure comfort food. And I LOVE making it from scratch! There’s something almost meditative about all the whisking and thickening. I think the most cheeses I’ve ever used is 3 because I get nervous that all the cheese won’t meld together well (wasted cheese would be a crime!), but you’ve given me the encouragement to try it soon ;)
Holy Guacamole! (Or in this case, holy macaroni) this stuff looks amazing! I’ve only made three-year, but I think it’s time to upgrade to five!
I want a giant bowl for breakfast. Love mac and cheese!
The more cheese the better!! This sounds great :)
I have never tried that TJs cheese you mentioned, I’ll get it on my (daily) TJ’s run…tomorrow.
This looks incredibly creamy, rich, cheesy and fabulous! pinned