I didn’t like onions growing up, but at some point in maybe my 30s, my tastes changed. I started ordering French Onion soup in restaurants – OK, I mostly liked the bread and cheese but it was a start – and then learned to make it at home. I actually like my version better at this point – I had to ask for a bottle of Worcestershire sauce at one place to pep it up a little – and then I started expanding beyond soup.
I have a whole slew of French Onion stuff on my Pinterest page – chicken, dinner rolls, rice, etc. Of course, the key to good French Onion anything is the caramelized onions. Caramelizing onions isn’t a quick process, but one of my favorite tips I ran across somewhere is to make a large batch and freeze blobs in an ice cube tray so you can have them on hand without having to go through all that work each time you need a small amount for this or that. I recently made a batch of caramelized onion butter that was the perfect topping for a scoop of mashed potatoes.
I had initially thought of French Onion mac & cheese as a cold weather comfort food, but I had several onions on the verge of sprouting and am still not going to the store more than once a week, so it ended up being time to test this out.
French Onion Mac
Adapted from Delightfully Full
- 16 ounces penne pasta
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 12 ounces shredded Swiss cheese, divided (see notes)
- 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (see notes)
- 1 cup caramelized onions (about 3 onions, depending on size)
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ cup Panko bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Peel and slice onions thinly. I have a mandolin from Pampered Chef that works great for this. Pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add a tablespoon of butter and turn heat on very low. When the butter has melted, add the sliced onions to the pan and toss to coat with oil and butter. Cook on low, stirring infrequently, for 45-75 minutes. You want them very soft and brown but not scorched. The last time I made a batch I got impatient and they ended up more like grilled onions. Patience is the key here. I made these the day before. When I was getting ready to add them to the sauce, I decided they were a little too long, so I chopped them into bite-sized pieces with my kitchen shears.
- Boil pasta for two minutes less than the package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- While the pasta is boiling, melt butter over medium heat.
- Add flour and whisk 1-2 minutes.
- Add milk and continue to whisk.
- This was a last-minute addition – stir in a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce.
- Add 2½ cups Swiss cheese and 2 cups mozzarella cheese and stir until evenly melted.
- Stir in the caramelized onions and salt.
- Take the pan off the burner and add the pasta; stir until evenly coated.
- Pour the pasta mix into a large oven-safe baking dish. I used my biggest cast iron pan.
- Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Optional – set broiler for the final couple of minutes to brown the breadcrumbs and cheese.
Unfortunately, I set my broiler on high instead of low, and really scorched the bejeebers out of the breadcrumbs. I mean, they were charcoal. ☹
I scraped as much as I could off and fortunately still had some shredded cheese to top it off again, so it was salvageable.
It’s not pretty but it’s still really good in spite of my misstep – one of my favorites so far! (I ate two bowls straight off.)
- Most of the recipes I found for French Onion mac and cheese listed Gruyere, Fontina, or something along those lines. I’ve always layered Swiss cheese in my soup, so I didn’t see any reason not to try it here. Swiss can be strong, so I softened it with the mozzarella.
- I haaaaate onion tears – a while back I ordered these “onion goggles” and they seem to work fairly well. By the time I was done, some fumes were sneaking in around the edges, but I had also taken them off once – but it was still a vast improvement over the usual stinging and dripping.
Posted May 3, 2020