Cremini and Porcini Mushroom Mac and Cheese

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We made classic mac and cheese main dish-worthy by adding two varieties of mushrooms and topping it with a crunchy, herby crust.

Cremini and Porcini Mushroom Mac and Cheese
 
Makes 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 (1-ounce) package dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 (8-ounce) package fresh cremini
  • mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups shredded sharp white Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2 cups shredded fontina cheese, divided
  • 12 ounces cavatappi pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • ¾ cup seasoned panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • Garnish: fresh sage
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine 2 cups boiling water and dried mushrooms; let stand until mushrooms are softened, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon, and let drain on paper towels; discard liquid.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°.
  3. In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, cook cremini mushrooms over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until liquid from mushrooms has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon butter, shallot, and garlic to skillet; cook, stirring frequently, until shallot is soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in drained porcini mushrooms and sherry vinegar. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl.
  4. In same skillet, melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking frequently, for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Cook, whisking frequently, until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Whisk in minced sage, salt, and red pepper; whisk in 1¾ cups Cheddar and 1¾ cups fontina until melted and smooth. Remove from heat; stir mushroom mixture and pasta into cheese sauce.
  5. In a small bowl, stir together bread crumbs, remaining ¼ cup Cheddar, and remaining ¼ cup fontina. Sprinkle onto casserole.
  6. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with sage, if desired.
Notes
Cremini mushrooms and baby portobello mushrooms are the same. Cooking the creminis in a dry skillet intensifies their flavor and removes moisture that would otherwise make your baked mac and cheese watery.