I’m confident I’m not alone when I say that mac n’ cheese is my favorite comfort food. When Hunter casually suggested using our Ottanta al Tartufo in a mac n’ cheese in his Food 4 Thought post I couldn’t wait to try it out. I’ve never attempted a truffle mac n’ cheese before! I love the idea of taking something so special and coveted like truffles and combining it with something so humble and beloved. The result is slightly over the top, but SO worth it.
Let’s begin with some mac n’ cheese basics – the pasta shape. Elbows are classic but I like using large noodles with an intricate shape to contain all the cheesy goodness. I used the Bartolini Fusilli Gigante, it’s got plenty of nooks and crannies. I’ve made a fair amount of unsuccessful mac n’ cheeses in my life and I’ve learned a few things from my mistakes. You’ve got to start with a roux, a mixture of butter and flour that will help thicken the sauce. Too much roux and not enough cheese leaves the mac tasting bland and floury. Be sure to use plain white flour, subbing in a whole wheat flour won’t thicken properly and won’t allow the sauce to get completely smooth. I’ve also made the mistake of thinking I’ve made too much sauce for the amount of pasta. When you bake a mac n’ cheese, the pasta takes in moisture from the sauce, and less-than-enough sauce leaves you with a dry, ungooey bake. If you’ve done it right, the cheese sauce should be bubbling up and over the sides of the baking dish (make sure you have a baking sheet underneath to catch the drips!) Another thing to consider is salt content. The sauce should be well-seasoned because when it’s mixed in with the pasta, the flavor won’t be as bold. Additionally, it’s crucial to remember to salt your pasta as you boil it as well. Even with all of this in mind, I actually ended up making this recipe twice. What went wrong?
The first iteration didn’t have a great cheese balance and I got a little too experimental with the crumb topping. More importantly it just wasn’t as truffle-y as I expected. I used a combination of the Ottanta al Tartufo and Fontina, a great melter. Emilio happened to be behind the cheese counter when I shared that my first try didn’t deliver the truffle-y flavor I was hoping. He explained that when Fontina warms up it’s flavor becomes much stronger and probably overtook the subtler Ottanta al Tartufo. He suggested trying the Ottanta on it’s own OR a combo with Reading Raclette, another great melter with a milder flavor. Additionally we agreed that adding a little White Truffle Cream would take it to the next level, if that’s what you’re looking for. My second version was exactly what I wanted it to be. I used a 2:1 ratio of Ottanta to Raclette and added a boost of White Truffle Cream. You can get creative and adjust your level of truffliness to your liking.
Ottanta al Tartufo Mac & Cheese
1 lb of Bartolini Fusilli Giganti, or another pasta with nooks and crannies, cooked 2 minutes less than the package directions
8 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
5 cups grated cheese (roughy 22oz) – your own ratio of Ottanta Tartufo and Reading Raclette
¾ cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp salt
1 tsp of White Truffle Cream, optional
Boil water for the pasta in a large pot. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain and rinse the pasta in cold water when it’s finished.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and thoroughly butter a 3 quart casserole dish.
- Pour 2 tbsp of melted butter onto the breadcrumbs and mix. Set aside.
- Make the cheese sauce while the pasta cooks.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 6 tbsp of butter then sprinkle the flour in while whisking vigorously for about a minute.
- Slowly pour in the milk about a cup at a time, continuing to whisk to allow the sauce to thicken.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in cheese and salt. At this time you can taste it and determine if you’d like to add truffle cream.
- Pour everything into the buttered casserole dish. Distribute the buttered bread crumbs evenly on the top, add a few turns of fresh ground black pepper.
- Place the dish on a baking sheet and put in the oven – the cheesy goodness will most likely bubble over the sides.
- Bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is browned.
Previously on In the Kitchen with Jackie:
Hello! My name is Jackie Botto and I’ve been working with Di Bruno Bros. for almost five years now styling, photographing and sometimes cooking with all the phenomenal ingredients they offer. CHEESE? Yes, mostly cheese. This blog is the space where I’ll share the things I make. No, I am not a professional chef, I’m a home chef! I cook for myself, my family, my friends – and then I take photos of what I make with the hope it inspires you to cook too.
Want to share some tips or pairings of your own? Please leave a comment below!