Mac Off champion shares her winning recipe

We love mac and cheese so much at Guaranteed Rate that once a year, we hold a Mac Off at our corporate headquarters! Our 2017 winner, Mehrin Reid, delighted us with her amazing “Not Yo Momma’s Mac” recipe!


For the short ribs:
3 pounds beef short ribs (on the bone)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3 sprigs thyme
2 cups chicken stock

For the mac and cheese:
1 pound fork-sized pasta
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup whole milk or half and half
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Havarti cheese
1 cup Panko bread crumbs, pan toasted with 3 tablespoons butter


I do this in two stages over two days, because it is a very time intensive recipe. I prefer to cook the short ribs overnight in a slow cooker. This saves me a bunch of time and hassle.

Season short ribs generously with salt and ground pepper. Heat oil in a medium sized Dutch oven. Add short ribs, brown on all sides and remove. Add onion, garlic, chicken stock, and thyme to the slow cooker. Add the short ribs to the slow cooker and cook on low. I do it overnight, so about 8 hours. Check the ribs and it should be “fall off the bone.”

Remove short ribs from the pot and set aside to cool. When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred and discard the bones.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through but firm to the bite. Drain, return macaroni to pot, and stir in short-rib with about ½ cup of the broth from the slow cooker.  Cook over medium heat until the macaroni absorbs some of the liquid from the stew, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a baking dish.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir flour into melted butter and cook until bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly stream half-and-half and chicken broth (or the remaining stock from the slow cooker) into the butter mixture while stirring. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to cook while stirring continually until thickened and bubbly, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat. Melt Havarti, mild Cheddar cheese, and sharp Cheddar cheese into the butter mixture one handful at a time, stirring to incorporate each addition before adding the next. Season the cheese mixture with pepper and pour over the penne; stir to coat pasta evenly.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and top with Panko mixture. Bake in preheated oven until crust is golden brown and the liquid is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

I like my food to have a little kick, so I added a few slivers of habanero pepper in the slow cooker with the ribs. That is the best time to add any spice, if you prefer.

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