Truffle Whole-Grain Mac & Cheese from Kelis’ ‘My Life on a Plate’

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Photograph by David Lotus

Truffle Whole-Grain Mac & Cheese
Serves 10

When I was pregnant, I started trying to be more conscious about what I was putting into my body. I’m not a dieting kind of person, but wanted to eat well. I started baking my own bread (What can I say: I had a lot of time on my hands!). And started cooking with and eating things like flax seeds, whole grains, and brown rice. I had also just graduated culinary school. All I wanted to do was stay home and cook things that were delicious and good for me. This mac and cheese, made with whole-wheat penne and four types of flavorful cheese, came out of that period of my life, and now I’m known for my mac and cheese. If I were to ask my husband’s friends, my friends, and my family what they want me to make them for dinner or for a birthday, hands down they’d say, “a pan of your mac and cheese.” “Okay. I can do that.”

Cook’s Tip: It’s important to cook the pasta only until al dente for this recipe. The pasta will continue to cook when it bakes in the oven, and the mac and cheese is definitely best when the pasta still has some tooth to it.

Ingredient note: Truffle salt is a luxurious but handy product consisting of sea salt mixed with black truffle shavings. You can find it at specialty food stores and cheese shops. If you can’t locate it, a drizzle of truffle oil is a good substitute.

½ tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water
1 pound whole-wheat penne
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces sour cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar (about 12 ounces)
1 cup shredded smoked mozzarella (about 4 ounces)
2 cups shredded Gouda and 1 cup shredded Havarti
½ tablespoon truffle salt (see Ingredient Note) or a drizzle of truffle oil
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 sleeve of Ritz crackers (about 3 ½ ounces)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9- x 13-inch baking dish and set it aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it well. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, infuse the milk, cream, and sour cream over medium-low heat until it begins to steam, but don’t let it boil. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually pour in the milk mixture, whisking constantly until no lumps remain. Reserve ¼ cup each of the cheddar and mozzarella. Add all the remaining cheeses to the milk mixture, along with the truffle salt and jalapeño, and stir until the cheeses have melted completely. Add the cooked pasta and toss to combine. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and smooth the top to make it as level as possible.

Put the Ritz crackers in a bowl and crush them with your hands. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Sprinkle the cracker mixture over the casserole, followed by the reserved cheeses.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden.

Reprinted with permission from My Life on a Plate: Recipes From Around the World by Kelis (Kyle Books).


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