Okay, I didn’t know about Beecher’s Handmade Cheese until I’d watched an episode of Foodcrafters on the Food Network (it’s been more than a month and yes, it’s still my favorite TV channel :-) ). In that episode, they’d showcased the mac & cheese made by the cheese shop in Seattle.

Now, I like macaroni and I do love cheese, but I’ve never been able to find a ready-made mac & cheese from the stores that was … eh … nice … you know what I mean? Sometimes they tasted too “cheesy”, and oftentimes they tasted kinda artificial, leaving a strange aftertaste on the tongue and in the back of the throat.

And sadly, I didn’t try to make homemade mac & cheese, mostly because I was so disappointed with & disillusioned by those store-bought ready-made ones.

But there I was, watching Kurt Beecher Dammeier prepare a batch of his famous mac & cheese and describe how his mac & cheese (or rather penne & cheese, as he uses penne instead of macaroni) became so popular that it became called the “world’s best” by his customers.

So, I was intriqued about trying mac & cheese again, this time following Kurt’s recipe.

Now, sadly, I didn’t have the 2 cheeses called for in Kurt’s recipe: Beechers Flagship Cheese and Just Jack Cheese. I could try ordering them online from Beecher’s, but as I was eager and impatient to try the recipe, I decided to substitute Beecher’s cheeses with a good aged cheddar and some pre-sliced Monterey Jack.

Even though I may have conceivably used cheeses inferior to Beecher’s, I was still able to turn out the best mac & cheese I’d ever tasted!

The dish had the right amount of cheese … not too overpowering like the store-bought ready-made kind … while the chili & garlic powders were not overpowering, giving a more rounded taste to the sauce. And the penne really provided a great platform for the cheese sauce to cling to.

If you want to try your hand at making Beecher’s “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese, here’s the recipe …

Beecher’s “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese
Adapted from the recipe by Kurt Beecher Dammeier

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Prep: 10 to 15 minutes
Oven: 350°F (180°C)
Bake: 20 minutes
Rest: 5 minutes
Serves: 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

For the sauce:
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (30g)
3 1/2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour (30g)
1 1/2 cups whole milk (113g)
7 ounces Beecher’s Flagship cheese, grated (about 1 3/4 cups) (200g) (or substitute with aged cheddar)
1 ounce Beecher’s Just Jack cheese, grated (1/4 cup) (30g) (or substitute with Monterey Jack)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder (or substitute with 1/4 teaspoon paprika and 1/4 teaspoon chili powder)
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

For the pasta:
6 ounces penne pasta (about 3 ¼ cups) (170g)
1 ounce (1/4 cup) Flagship cheese, grated (30g) (or substitute with aged cheddar)
1 ounce (1/4 cup) Just Jack cheese, grated (30g) (or substitute with Monterey Jack)
¼ to ½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder (or substitute with 1/4 teaspoon paprika and 1/4 teaspoon chili powder)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

2. Cook the penne 2 minutes less than what the package instructions calls for (it will finish cooking later in the oven). Rinse the pasta in cold water and drain well.

3. While the pasta is cooking, you may start preparing the sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Continue whisking and cook for 2 minutes.

4. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

5. Remove the sauce from the heat. Add the cheese, salt, chili powder (and paprika if using) and garlic powder. Stir until the cheese is melted and all the ingredients are incorporated, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

6. Add the pasta into the sauce and carefully mix well.

Here’s the pasta added on top of the sauce …

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And here’s the pasta mixed into the sauce …

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7. Butter or oil an 8-inch baking dish. Scrape the pasta into the baking dish. Sprinkle the top evenly with the additional cheese followed by the chili powder (and paprika, if using).

Here’s the pasta in the baking dish, ready to go into the oven …

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8. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

9. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Have you ever ate the original “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese (the original Beecher’s in Seattle and they now have one in New York)?

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