I've been keeping vegan for the entire month of February (as part of my vegan experience), and I admit it: this dish is not vegan. Not by a long shot. Fortunately, the recipe is one I've had in the old data banks for some time now, ever since we ran it as part of our 10 Easy Stir-In Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese Variations post last October. The thing was so darn delicious, that we felt it deserved a spotlight (not to mention a full step-by-step recipe) all its own, so here we are.
The base is classic stovetop mac & cheese, a roux-less version I've been tweaking for a number of years. It's based largely on my cheese sauce recipe, which uses evaporated milk and cornstarch to bind the cheese in place of a roux. This results in an ultra-creamy, glossy, and intensely flavored sauce. For my mac and cheese, I add a couple of eggs and some butter to the mix. The butter for richness, the eggs to help thicken the sauce slightly so that it binds better to the cooked pasta.
For cheeses, you can go classic with a mix of American and Cheddar, but I like to add a bit of pizza flair to the mix with some shredded full fat mozzarella and parmesan (you can use real Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, or a domestic parm).
The flavorings are classic fully-loaded pizza flavors. Italian sausage sauteed until crisp, pepperoni, soppressata, black olives, a few pepperoncini for some added heat and bright acidic bite, tomatoes, and basil. Of course, the basic steps are simple enough that you could add whatever the heck you normally add to your pizza. Once the sausage fat is rendered out, that would be a good time to add onions, peppers, or mushrooms to the pan to sauté.
If you could have any pizza topping in a mac and cheese dish, what would it be?
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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.