Mac and cheese is a tried-and-tested comfort food favorite, as drool-worthy made from a boxed mix as it is made from scratch and given different twists. Having made countless variations over the years—swapping in other noodle shapes, adding in bacon or broccoli (or even mentaiko), using an elaborate blend of various cheeses—we thought we’d exhausted all options from easy to over-the-top, but our latest favorite also happens to be one of the most streamlined. This version carries all the creamy, cheesy, carb-crammed appeal of the classic, with an added nuttiness and depth from an ingenious component: brown butter.
Also known as beurre noisette, brown butter might sound like one of those fancy-schmancy culinary terms only trained chefs can execute. But that couldn’t be further from the truth; it’s easy to do right at home with a watchful eye and some patience. The process entails melting and cooking down butter until its proteins brown and develop a nutty, toasty character—and it’s just the thing to add dimension to the already-indulgent mix of milk, cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheese. After a quick trip under the broiler to give the mixture a welcome char, it’s ready to serve—dig in right from the skillet, if you please. (Don’t worry, nobody’s looking.)