Mac & Cheese: The Ultimate Comfort Food

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Macaroni and cheese is one of America's favorite comfort foods and we just can't get enough! It also presents the perfect opportunity to showcase your favorite Wisconsin cheese. In fact -- did you know macaroni and cheese is the number one cheese recipe in the United States

Tina Gilbertson of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board joined Hello Wisconsin to share.

Master Cheesemaker Sid Cook's Carr Valley fontina is a soft white cheese that easily melts with the noodles, making it a winner to use in this creamy mac and cheese recipe. The other four cheeses come from Nasonville Dairy, located in Central Wisconsin. Nasonville Dairy has three Master Cheesemakers and has been creating delicious cheese since 1885.

Whether you crave flavors from Italian, Southwestern, Mexican or all-American dishes, let your favorite Wisconsin cheese define your dish. The recipes showcased today vary in style so there is something for the kids to love, as well as sophisticated entrees and appetizers for your next party or gathering.

Fun facts:
For decades, macaroni and cheese has made the top ten comfort foods list and is a top ten favorite choice for kids. The most popular cheese used in macaroni and cheese is cheddar, but behind cheddar, the most popular recipes include alpine-style, gouda, havarti, and parmesan.
Buffalo Macaroni and Cheese Bites
Buffalo Mac and Cheese Bites have all the flavor of your favorite wings without the mess. Serve as an appetizer for your next party or add a salad on the side for a delicious and easy dinner.

INGREDIENTS
1 package (16 ounces) uncooked penne pasta
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cubed and divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 ounces Carr Valley Fontina cheese, shredded (1 cup)
4 ounces Nasonville Dairy Muenster cheese, shredded (1 cup)
4 ounces Nasonville Dairy Colby Longhorn cheese, shredded (1 cup)
4 ounces Nasonville Dairy Aged Cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1 1/2 ounces Nasonville Dairy Asiago cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
Kosher salt to taste
Coarsely ground pepper to taste
4 thick slices day-old bread, torn

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
1. Heat oven to 375°F.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain reserving 1/2 cup water; set aside.

3. Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour until light golden brown. Gradually whisk in milk, cream, Dijon mustard and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil; cook and whisk for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat to low; gradually stir in fontina, muenster, colby, aged cheddar and asiago until cheeses are melted. Stir in pasta and reserved water to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Spoon pasta into a greased 4-quart baking dish or two 8-inch baking dishes. Place bread in a food processor; cover and process until coarse crumbs. Melt remaining butter in a bowl; toss with bread crumbs to coat. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over pasta. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and sauce is bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

INGREDIENTS
1 package (16 ounces) uncooked ditalini pasta
6 tablespoons butter, cubed and divided
2 garlic cloves, minced and divided
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, divided
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup half-and-half cream
1/2 cup hot pepper sauce
2 teaspoons ranch salad dressing mix, divided
4 ounces Crystal Farms Mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 cup)
4 ounces Crystal Farms Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 ounces crumbled Salemville® Amish Blue cheese (2/3 cup)
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup buttermilk
COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

1. Heat oven to 350°F.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add 1 garlic clove; cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir in Panko bread crumbs; toss to coat. Remove from the heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon each parsley and dill. Set aside.

3. Melt remaining butter in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Add remaining garlic clove; cook and stir for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, cream, hot pepper sauce and 1 teaspoon ranch salad dressing mix. Bring to a boil; cook and whisk for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat to low; gradually stir in mozzarella and cheddar until melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat. Whisk a 1/4 cup hot cheese sauce into eggs in a bowl. Return all to pan; whisk to combine. Stir in pasta.

4. Divide pasta mixture into 48 greased mini muffin cups; press down gently. Sprinkle with blue cheese and reserved bread crumb mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160°F and pasta is lightly brown and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes in pans before serving.

5. Combine sour cream with buttermilk. Season with remaining parsley, dill and ranch salad dressing mix to taste. Serve with mac and cheese bites.



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