Mac ‘n Cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods, and over the years, the versions I make have evolved quite a bit.  As a kid, it started with the boxed versions, with a bit of extra cheese added. That “recipe” evolved to include meats and veggies, to where today, I literally make dozens of  different versions.  This recipe for an Adult Mac and Cheese, uses penne as the pasta, some parmesan cheese and cream as the sauce, and sautéed leeks and mushrooms for a ton of extra flavors.  It’s a bit more mature spin on a classic mac and cheese, but I guarantee you’ll find this recipe just as satisfying as the original.  Hope you enjoy it!

Recipe Overview & Keys to Success

To make the best Adult Mac ‘n Cheese, try to make sure you do the following:

  1. It’s pretty easy to overcook pasta in a mac ‘n cheese, as you end up cooking it a second time in the oven.  So, to make sure it holds some texture, pull it out of the water about a minute before it reaches al dente, and allow it to finish cooking in the oven.
  2. The leeks and the mushrooms need to be well cooked and tender.  You don’t really want crunchy leeks/mushrooms in the mix with the tender pasta.  So make sure to cook them down, I prefer to do the mushrooms first as they will take longer.
  3. The sauce will thicken as it cooks in the oven and if the ratio of sauce to penne looks well balanced going into the oven, it’ll probably be dry coming out.  To account for that thickening, you need to have it a bit soupy going into the oven, then it’ll be perfect coming out.

RECIPE FOR ADULT MAC ‘N CHEESE

Ingredients (for 2)

  • 1/2 lbs of penne pasta
  • 1 leek
  • 1 cup chopped crimini mushrooms
  • 1 pint cream
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese

Adult Mac ‘n Cheese

  • Start by sautéing the mushrooms in olive oil over medium high heat.  Season with salt and pepper and continue to cook until they are tender, with browned edges
  • While the mushrooms cook, remove the green leaves of the leek and clean it well as they can be quite dirty
  • Chop the leek into 1/4 inch strips, and once the mushrooms are cooked, add the leeks to the same pan, and season again with salt and pepper
  • Continue to cook until both the leeks and mushrooms are nice and tender
  • Cook the penne in boiling, salted water, until it’s about a minute from being al dente and drain the pasta well
  • Add the penne to the mushrooms and leeks, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine
  • Now add enough heavy cream to cover the pasta by about 3/4’s
  • Add the parmesan cheese and the spinach and stir everything together
  • Move the whole pan into a 385 degree oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the top is just slightly browned and the sauce is lightly bubbling
  • Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes and then serve it up

Wine Recommendation: The flavors in this adult mac ‘n cheese are bold, and you should get a big bold wine to go with it.  The cream and rich sauce will stand up to a fair amount of tannin, and so I think you have a ton of options with red wines.  I really light Pinot Noir, as it also pairs well with the mushrooms, but you can go all the way up to a Cabernet Savignon.