Variety is the spice of life, and it’s also the secret to really phenominal macaroni and cheese. This recipe for 3 Cheese Macaroni will prove it to you. I make many versions of this recipe with many different cheeses, but I always follow the basic principal guidelines which are that you take a very gooey mild melting cheese, a less gooey more flavorful firm cheese, and a well aged hard cheese and combine them for cheesy macaroni magic.
I’ve written this recipe for the basics: Mozzarella, Sharp Cheddar, and Parmesan. These are cheeses most people know and have used, and they are available in most supermarkets and grocery stores. So many multi-cheese macaroni recipes call for specialty cheeses that just aren’t available to everyone. While I certainly love to use those special cheeses, I wanted to present the recipe in a way that makes it clear they’re not necessary to achieve the same fantastic result.
Don’t feel limited by the cheeses in the recipe. The key is simply to follow the formula for cheese “types” when choosing your substitutes. There are an almost infinite combination of cheeses that could become your signature macaroni and cheese. If you want to use Gruyere instead of Sharp Cheddar, or Havarti instead of Mozzarella, or Pecorino instead of Parmesan — go right ahead with my blessing!
I call this macaroni and cheese recipe my “fancy” mac & cheese because it has a bechamel sauce base. I do have a quick and easy macaroni and cheese recipe I make on weeknights (drop me a note if you’d like me to post that someday). This recipe is one I save for big occasions like holidays or special dinners. Making a bechamel isn’t that difficult, but it does require a little bit of attention as you bring it together.
This recipe is a great chance to try your hand at a bechamel if you’ve never made one before. This recipe is very forgiving if your sauce ends up a little thin or a little thick so don’t sweat the sauce part too much. A bechamel with cheese added becomes a sauce Mornay. It’s crucial to add the cheese after the bechamel has been taken off the heat. There are specific scientific reasons behind why this is necessary, but essentially your cheese sauce can end up a bit grainy if you try to make it on the heat.
Trying to add too much cheese to a Mornay can also lead to strange results, which is why I don’t add more than Parmesan to the sauce itself. I find this Mornay works perfectly and allows you to completely coat the pasta before you mix in the other cheeses. To me, the little pockets of different cheese flavors is perfect — I like the lack of uniformity.