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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Beer Cheese Macaroni

As I've mentioned a time or two in the past, macaroni and cheese is definitely up there on my list of favorite foods.  In my mind, it's pretty much the perfect comfort food.  While I definitely have a favorite traditional mac and cheese recipe, I also like to experiment with variations.  Check out these other macaroni recipes I've posted previously - Spicy Crab Macaroni and Cheese, Baked Mac and Cheese, Stovetop Mac and Cheese, and this chicken version - White Cheddar Chicken Pasta.

Well when I saw this beer cheese soup turned mac and cheese recipe on Pinterest, I couldn't pass it up.  I figured it would be perfect for our tailgating party for the upcoming game.  Let me tell you, don't wait to make this one.  This is some fantastic pasta.  The beer combines perfectly with the smoked and sharp cheddar cheeses and whole wheat pasta.  I used a Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer but any decent beer should work, I think I would avoid the light beers for this recipe, as you want something with a bit more flavor.

Feel free to adjust the cheeses but I think the blend of 1/3 smoked cheddar, 1/3 sharp white cheddar, and 1/3 mild cheddar, along with a little American cheese gives great flavor.  I added the American cheese slices because I like the creaminess that it adds.  I just used slices from the deli but you could shred it as well.  The recipe that I used baked the mac and cheese but I opted not too for this one since it was so creamy straight from the stovetop.  If you want to bake it, I recommend adding a bread crumb topping.

Beer Cheese Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from HowSweetEats

12 oz uncooked whole wheat elbow or shell pasta
2 T unsalted butter
2 T flour
1 cup milk
1 cup beer
4 oz smoked cheddar cheese, grated
4 oz sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
4 oz mild cheddar cheese, grated
6 slices American cheese
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
10 basil leaves

Heat a large pot of water to boiling, add a liberal amount of salt when boiling and add pasta.  Cook to just al dente, according to package directions.  Drain and return to pan or crock pot if you want to keep it hot for a while (you don't want to cook it in the crock pot but it can stay on low for a short while, if you plan to leave it in the crock pot for an extended time, you'll want to cook your pasta just shy of al dente so it doesn't turn mushy.)

Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk to make a roux.  Continue whisking until the roux start to turn golden and bubbles, about two minutes.  Add milk and beer, stirring constantly.  Cook for about five minutes until the mixture begins to thicken slightly.  Reduce heat to low and add cheeses by the handful, stirring to melt and incorporate.  The sauce will thicken slightly but will not be as thick as regular mac and cheese at this point.  Add paprika, mustard, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.  Pour sauce over pasta and stir to distribute.  Chiffonade basil leaves by stacking and rolling tightly, then use a sharp knife to cut thin slices to form ribbons.  Stir basil into pasta and serve. 

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