By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Apr 19, 2020 at 3:30 PM Photography: Lori Fredrich

The coronavirus pandemic has changed our everyday life, but it doesn't need to change who we are. So, in addition to our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus, OnMilwaukee will continue to report on cool, fun, inspiring and strange stories from our city and beyond. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay informed and stay joyful. We're all in this together. #InThisTogetherMKE

Welcome to Quarantine Kitchen, a cooking show focused on tips and easy recipes you can execute in your home kitchen using basic ingredients and pantry staples. The show airs live on Facebook every Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Tune in by heading to the OnMilwaukee Facebook page.  [View past episodes and recipes here]

This week, I shared a recipe for the ultimate quarantine comfort food: ultra creamy macaroni & cheese (plus a bonus recipe for browned butter rosemary Rice Krispie treats). 

If you missed the episode, watch it now. 

Ultra creamy macaroni & cheese

Serves 8

8 T butter (1 stick)
½ cup all purpose flour
4 cups (1 quart) whole milk
16 oz elbow macaroni
Kosher salt
8 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
3 ounces pecorino romano cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into small squares
Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional add-ins:  fresh garlic (add to the butter before you add the flour in step 3), cooked bacon, green onions, steamed broccoli or other vegetables, hot sauce, chopped cherry tomatoes.

Note that the types of cheeses you add are also flexible. Cheddar and pecorino romano will give you a classic mac & cheese flavor. But try subbing in cheeses like Gruyere (for nuttiness), smoke gouda or fontina to create your own favorite combination. Just make sure the amount of cheese (a total of 4 cups) stays the same.

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil on your stovetop. When it boils, add salt (enough to make it taste "of the sea") and your elbow macaroni. Cook the pasta until not quite al dente, usually 2-3 minutes less than the package instructions indicate. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  3. When the butter is melted, add flour to the pan and whisk to combine. Allow to cook for a minute or two to cook the flour and ensure that the roux has come together.
  4. From there, add the milk in a slow stream while continuing to whisk the mixture.
  5. Continue to cook it over medium-high heat until the mixture has begun to thicken. Do not let it boil.
  6. Once the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spatula, turn the burner down to low and add the cheese in four or five additions, whisking thoroughly between each addition.
  7. When all of the grated cheese has been incorporated, whisk in the cream cheese. Give it a taste, adding salt and pepper as desired.
  8. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta and stir until the sauce is evenly distributed.
  9. Allow the macaroni and cheese to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. This step allows the cheese sauce to not only soak into the noodles, but also to thicken up a bit.

To store: Place leftovers in an airtight container and store for up to 4-5 days in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stovetop, in the oven (350 to 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes), or in the microwave.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.