Beer Cheese Mac ‘N Cheese

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Beer and cheese.  Can you think of a more amazing combination?

At my house, we watch a lot of football.  I am a MN Viking fan, while Boyfriend is a Packer fan.  If you don’t speak football-ese, than know that these two teams are rivals and there is a lot of bitterness between fans.  There is often a lot of strife in our house on gameday.  However, if I have one good thing to say about Wisconsin, it is that they nailed the beer – cheese combo.

People talk about Southwestern food, Southern food, Californian food, etc.  The middle of the country is often ignored.  Beer cheese is one of those distinctly Midwestern things that makes me super proud to come from fly-over country!

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The secret to this recipe is, of course, your beer selection.  Today I chose Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss.  It is a sweeter wheat beer, that gives a milder beer flavor, but still some of the hops.  I have also cooked this recipe with IPA’s, which add a lot more hoppy flavor, but may not be for everyone.  Either way, the beer will have a huge affect on the overall flavor so choose wisely!

The other secret to my cheese sauce is smoked paprika, and greek yogurt.  Smoked paprika is one of my all time favorite seasonings.  It adds smokiness and heat at the same time, and contributes greatly to the depth of flavor in the sauce.  At the same time, the greek yogurt gives more creaminess and tanginess, and helps give the sauce a velvety texture that is hard to get with just milk and cheese.

Finally, baking your mac ‘n cheese, while not necessary, helps the flavors all cook together while the noodles soak up the cheese sauce.

I’ve made this recipe with several different toppings.  Our usual favorite is to chop up crispy bacon, and sprinkle it on top with colby-jack and breadcrumbs before baking.  I have also mixed in ground hamburger meat,  and topped with tomatoes and cheddar.  Today, I mixed in leftover slow-cooked barbacoa, along with fresh tomato.  This recipe also stands alone, without any need for mix-ins if you just want a traditional, delicious, macaroni. (With beer in it…)

Ingredients:

  • 1 box penne, rotini, or macaroni pasta (I use whole wheat pasta.)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 bottle (12 fl. oz.) Weiss beer
  • 3 T flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • I T dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Fill large saucepan with water.  Add salt, and heat on high to bring to a boil.  When boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente.  Don’t overcook, as you want it to finish cooking int the sauce.

Meanwhile, melt one stick of butter in another saucepan.  After completely melted, add 3 T of flour and whisk in.  Add beer.  Cook over medium/high until thick and bubbling.

Add 2 cups of milk to pot and whisk into butter and beer mix.  Pour in cheddar, parmesan, and greek yogurt.  Whisk until all ingredients are combined.  Lower heat to medium and continue to whisk.  Add dijon, paprika, pepper, and garlic powder.  Salt to taste.  Keep whisking until mixture is thick and creamy.  Do NOT  let this mixture boil or bubble, as that will curdle the cheese.  Lower heat as necessary.

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When both noodles and sauce are done, strain pasta and combine with sauce.  It will look like you have WAY more sauce than necessary, but that is ok.  Baking will cause the noodles to soak the sauce in and it will be perfect.  Put in baking pan, top with desired ingredients (shredded cheese and breadcrumbs recommended), and cook at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

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Remove from oven, and let cool for 5-10 minutes.

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Get ready to lick the bowl.  Seriously.

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