A saucy cheesy mac and cheese with a twist! This silky cheese sauce has my favourite ingredient nduja mixed in for the ultimate flavour bomb. Macaroni cheese is a classic but this really is the best version for me, it's a whole other level of cheesy goodness. This mac and cheese is made even more delicious with herby brown butter panko crumbs.
The best mac and cheese ever!
Hello! I am SO excited to write up this recipe for my best mac and cheese ever! I have an nduja mac and cheese recipe that I often post about on instagram. One time when I posted it someone commented saying I shouldn't call it mac and cheese as it isn't made with macaroni. I usually ignore comments like this but this one gave me the idea to turn this sauce into a baked mac and cheese! So here we are!
What is nduja?
Nduja is a spreadable sausage paste from Italy. It is red in colour and either comes in a jar or vacuum packed in a bag. The flavour is hard to describe, you have to trust me on this one. It is super savoury and has a kick of chilli but not overly spicy if used sparingly. I love to use it in pasta sauces as it adds such a unique and delicious flavour note. It really is an amazing secret weapon to have in your fridge. Pop a spoonful into a tomato sauce, throw some into some stir fried or roasted veges, the possibilities are endless! Most specialty supermarkets should have nduja, just google it in your area. If you really can't find it you could blend some chorizo. I always think if I can find something here in New Zealand you must be able to find it anywhere!
Tips for this nduja mac and cheese
- Browning the butter for the panko crumbs - why not make the crumbs a little bit extra? I start with 70g of unsalted butter because some of it will evaporate in the browning process. Add 50g of the finished butter to the panko crumbs. Brown the butter until the milk solids are brown NOT black.
- Mixing butter with the cooked pasta - this was a trick I learned from Recipe Tin Eats! It stops the pasta bloating up and overcooking in the sauce. Genius!
- A mix of cheese - I like to use three different cheeses. I use a basic cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan. I do really suggest using all three. DON'T buy the pre grated cheese it's full of horrible additives!
- Nduja - if this is a new flavour to you or you aren't a huge chilli fan then just add 2 tbsp to start and taste it to see. I add 3 and you could even do 4 if you like! You be the judge.
- Baking the mac and cheese - don't over bake it! If you know me at all you know I am ALL about the sauciness and baking it too long will soak it all up. Just bake until the panko are lightly golden, it shouldn't need more than 25 minutes.
Making the perfect roux
- Melt the butter over medium heat, you don't want it too hot as then the butter will burn.
- Add the flour and quickly whisk it, you want to cook it for a minute to cook off the raw flour.
- Lower the heat slightly before you add the milk. Add it in a steady slow stream, having breaks if you need to whisk. You need to get into the sides of the pan really thoroughly to get all the flour mixture hiding there. This is key to getting a smooth sauce.
- Let the milk mixture cook until it thickens and it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Run your finger along the spoon and it should leave a clear trail.
- You don't want it boiling it should be a really gentle simmer.
- Add the cheese in a few lots on a low heat, whisking and letting it melt in between. For a baked mac and cheese you don't need to be too stressed about it being perfectly smooth.
- Add the nduja and whisk it in really well.
Want to make ahead?
Easy! If you have people coming over and want to get ahead this can be assembled right up until the point you put it in the oven then cover and pop it in the fridge! Bring it out of the fridge 20 mins or so before cooking in the oven. In terms of storing left overs you can keep it in the fridge for 2 - 3 days but honestly, if you don't eat this whole thing in one go I'm judging you a little bit!
Made this recipe and loved it?
I would love love LOVE if you could leave me a review down below and let me know what you thought! I love to hear any changes or adaptions you have made too. Also if you put a photo on instagram, please tag me so I can see, it makes my day!
Want some other recipes to try?
If you love nduja I have a fast and delicious creamy nduja sauce you have to try! Or you could try my original nduja mac and cheese that inspired this recipe. If you want something completely different my favourite two recipes are my white pork ragu and my cacio e pepe with olives and basil.Print