Courtesy Abby Reisner, author, Ranch: An Ode to America’s Beloved Sauce in 60 Mouth-Watering Recipes (Dovetail Press, 2018)
In this recipe, you’re making a roux that’s thickened more with ranch seasoning than it is with flour, then turning it into béchamel—two fancy-sounding French culinary terms that almost make you forget about the fact that there’s over a pound of cheese in this comforting childhood favorite. Feel free to substitute some of the cheddar or Gruyére with your favorite melty cheese, like fontina or Asiago.
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
- ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs, plus more for finishing
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
- Kosher salt
- 8 ounces dried medium shell pasta or medium elbow macaroni
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons Homemade Ranch Seasoning (below), or store-bought ranch seasoning
- ½ pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
- ½ pound Gruyère cheese, grated
- ½ teaspoon mustard powder
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Chopped parsley, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a small bowl and add the Parmesan, tossing to combine. Season with a pinch of salt and set aside.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to the package instructions until it is about 3 minutes shy of al dente. Drain it and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the milk and buttermilk, and bring to a bare simmer. Keep warm on low heat. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and ranch seasoning, whisking constantly, until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the buttermilk mixture a little at a time, whisking constantly, until the mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add almost all the grated cheddar and Gruyère (reserving a few handfuls for sprinkling over the top), mustard powder, and a few dashes of Tabasco. Stir to combine the sauce, then add in the pasta and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the cheesy pasta into a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese and reserved breadcrumbs. Bake the pasta until the cheese is bubbling and the top is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Garnish with the chopped parsley before serving. Serves 6–8.
- 6 tablespoons buttermilk powder
- 1½ tablespoons dried chives
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 tablespoon dried dill
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon mustard powder
- 2 teaspoons sumac (optional)
In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk powder, chives, parsley, dill, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, mustard powder, and sumac (if using). Fold the mixture together until well combined. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. The seasoning will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Makes about 1 cup.