Truffle Mac and Cheese

Winter's prime time for comfort foods, and what could be more reassuring on a bleak day than truffle mac and cheese? Cooking in Pajamas expounds.

You could go to a restaurant and pay $15 for a bowl of this decadent pasta, or simply make it at home for a fraction of the price. That's right. You can make this at home for a surprisingly reasonable price. The secret is truffle oil.

The use of truffle oil has become controversial in culinary circles. Ask any chef what they think of truffle oil, and they will most likely turn up their noses and declare it to be an unacceptable substitute to the real thing. One of the biggest reasons for this is that many truffle oils on the market do not contain any actual truffles. They use a synthetic ingredient to duplicate the aroma of the truffle, but their are a few brands that contain natural truffle to infuse the oil.

Keep reading for her truffle macaroni and cheese secrets.

Real truffles sell for several hundred dollars per pound! The bottle of truffle oil that I keep on hand is by Urbani and costs about $9 for a 1.9 oz. bottle on Amazon. It contains actual white truffles. That sounds small, but a little goes a long way. Use it to drizzle over vegetables; on a white pizza; in a vinaigrette; on potatoes, polenta, or pasta; on eggs, popcorn, potato chips, fries . . . I could go on and on. My only recommendation is to not use it on more than one course in a meal. It's easy to go overboard, and you don't want to lessen the impact by overwhelming the palate with too much of a good thing.

Adding truffle oil to mac and cheese is one of my favorite ways to use truffle oil. I doubled the recipe, which ended up using one 1.8-oz. bottle of truffle oil for a 9 x 13 pan of pasta. I made it this week for a dinner party with 13 people. Everyone had some (plus a few seconds) and I still had half of the pan leftover. I guess I didn't have to double the recipe, but the leftovers were amazing.

Truffle Mac and Cheese

1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons white truffle oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
1/4 pound Swiss cheese, grated
1/4 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 pound Fontina cheese, grated
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces elbow macaroni

To make the truffle mac and cheese recipe, preheat the oven to 375° F. In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and one tablespoon of the truffle oil.

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is thoroughly combined and forms a paste. Whisk in the half-and-half, bring to a simmer, and cook for 3 minutes.

Stir in the Swiss, Cheddar, and Fontina cheeses and then add the mustard. Remove the sauce from the heat when the cheeses have melted. Stir in the remaining truffle oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over medium heat and cook the macaroni for about 7 minutes, until al dente. Drain the pasta and add to the saucepan with the cheese sauce. Stir well.

Turn the macaroni and cheese into a buttered 2-quart baking dish. (At this point you could refrigerate the casserole dish for up to 24 hours.) Top the casserole with the breadcrumb mixture and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling.

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