To deep-fry macaroni and cheese, from a health nut’s perspective, is to add insult to injury. Yet fans of the dish insist it’s worth every finger-licking calorie. Light Group introduced Las Vegas to these delicious diet-busters when Fix opened its doors at Bellagio in 2004. Today, the Very Adult Mac & Cheese is the eatery’s most popular appetizer, with staff serving some 60 to 70 orders on a typical Saturday night (that works out to more than 250 sticks of golden-fried pasta and cheese).
“I don’t know anybody who was doing this before we started doing them,” Light Group corporate executive chef Brian Massie says. Now, more than seven years later, you can find similar menu items almost everywhere—in ball, cube or stick form.
Chefs at competing restaurants have long yearned to know how to make Massie’s magic mac and cheese. “They’re always asking me for it,” he says, noting that former colleagues at N9NE Steakhouse have been hounding him for years. Often imitated, yet never truly replicated, the recipe has been the object of countless reconnaissance missions and did successfully remain a closely guarded secret until Massie created an at-home version.
Perhaps the only other person with knowledge of the original recipe is Kim Canteenwalla, now executive chef at Society Café at Encore, but formerly a Light Group consultant leading up to Fix’s grand opening. He helped Massie develop the dish.
The bite-size sensations start with luxurious, creamy macaroni and cheese laced with pancetta. You can switch up the choice of pasta, to some degree, as long as the noodles are small. “We use elbow macaroni because it just works,” Massie says. “A penne would work; a rigatoni probably wouldn’t.”
While it’s not exactly identical to the recipe used in the Fix kitchen (a trade secret or two withheld), Massie assures this version uses the same principles. “We put the make-at-home version to the test,” Massie says, “and the results were unanimous: ‘Close enough!’ Also: ‘We want more!’”
Very Adult Mac & Cheese
(Yields 4 servings of 4)
- ¼ pound butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 4 cups whipping cream
- 1 cup grated white cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Cayenne pepper to taste
- 1 cup chopped crispy prosciutto
Mac & Cheese
- 2 pounds macaroni, cooked
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 6 eggs, lightly beaten
- 6 cups dried bread crumbs
- 8 cups vegetable oil for frying
- Truffle oil for garnish
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly until all the lumps are broken down. Set aside. Combine the milk and cream in a large saucepan and bring to a light boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in the flour and butter roux and simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce is very thick. Whisk in all the cheeses. Season with the cayenne pepper. Fold in the prosciutto.
Line a sheet pan with 1-inch sides with parchment paper. Reserve ¼ cup of the cheese sauce in the refrigerator, and mix the rest with the cooked macaroni. Spread the macaroni and cheese sauce in the sheet pan and place another sheet pan on top with a weight. Press overnight in the refrigerator.
Turn the macaroni out of the sheet pan and cut it into 16 pieces. Coat first with the flour, then the eggs, and finally the bread crumbs. In a large, deep pan, heat the oil to 350 degrees and fry the breaded macaroni and cheese until golden brown.
Gently reheat the reserved cheese sauce. Place each piece of macaroni on a plate and serve with a side of the reserved cheese sauce. Drizzle the truffle oil over the cheese sauce to taste.
Wine Pairing — Faust 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $40 at Total Wine & More
“The wine is open, fragrant to the nose with strong cherry aromas. The fruit complements the rich cheesiness while the earth characteristics round out the truffle oil,” Light Group director of operations Shane Monaco says. “Just the right amount of acidity to cut the weight of the macaroni and a hint of alcohol to complement the finish. Indulgent yet sophisticated.”