Mac & Cheese Meets Grilled Cheese

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Imagine using a gooey, cheesy sandwich to scoop up its fork-friendly kindred spirit: macaroni and cheese. This recipe from Laura Werlin’s Mac & Cheese, Please! (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012) represents the best of the two-in-one dishes. All you need to do is make sure you get your sandwich nicely crisped in order to create the perfect textural contrast with the creamy macaroni.

Mac & Cheese

1 T. plus 1 t. salt
8 oz. small elbow macaroni (about 2 c. cooked)
2 T. salted butter
2 T. flour
2 1/2 c. whole milk
12 oz. cheddar cheese, preferably orange, coarsely grated (about 4 c. grated)
6 oz. Fontina cheese (preferably Italian), coarsely grated
1/2 t. cayenne
1/2 c. mascarpone cheese

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about 3/4 full with water and add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil and add the macaroni. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain.

Using the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring 1 to 2 minutes more or until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty.

Slowly whisk in the milk and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Add the cheeses and cayenne and cook until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens. Add the macaroni and mascarpone and stir to combine. Cover and keep on the stovetop on the lowest setting, stirring once or twice while you prepare the sandwiches.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

2 T. salted butter, softened
1/2 t. cayenne
8 slices sourdough bread
8 oz. cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 1/2 c. grated)

In a small bowl, mix butter and cayenne. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Turn four slices, buttered side down, on your work surface. Distribute the cheese and top with remaining bread slices, buttered side up.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Put the sandwiches into the pan, cover, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown. Turn the sandwiches, pressing each one firmly with a spatula to flatten slightly. Cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Turn the sandwiches once more, press firmly with the spatula again, cook for 1 minute, and remove from the pan.

Turn the heat to medium under the macaroni and cheese just to warm it through.

To serve, cut each grilled cheese sandwich into four triangles. Ladle the macaroni and cheese into bowls and insert two triangles on either side of each bowl. Serve immediately.

Optional ingredients:

Tomatoes. Top the cheese in each sandwich with a lightly salted tomato slice before cooking.

Smoked paprika. Replace cayenne with smoked paprika.

Pancetta. Cut a 4-oz. piece of pancetta into 1-inch-long and 1/4-inch-wide batons and cook in a skillet until crisp. Drain and add to the macaroni and cheese.

Laura Werlin

James Beard Award Winner/Author of Mac & Cheese, Please!


Laura Werlin, will share her secrets on the perfect comfort food pairings during her class, The Best American Cheeses You’ve Never Heard Of & The Wines That Pair Perfectly, on Nov. 21 during the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival (

Categories: Food & Drink