12 ounces bite-sized pasta (I like Cavatappi, but elbows will work)
6 ounces medium or sharp cheddar, freshly grated*
2 ounces fontina cheese, freshly grated*
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (optional; see note)
1/2 teaspoon grated onion
salt and pepper to taste
Up to 1 cup reserved pasta water
4 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When it’s boiling, add the pasta and cook al dente. When it’s almost done cooking, carefully ladle 1 cup of the pasta water into a heat-safe bowl, mug, or measuring cup and set aside.
Drain the cooked pasta, return pan to stove, and turn heat to low. Place the butter in the pan and melt. Add the onion and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the pasta and stir to coat the pasta with the butter. Add the cheeses (including the cream cheese) and stir until the cheese is melted. Add the pasta water, a little at a time, until a desired consistency is reached (you may not use all the pasta water). Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately (with additional shredded cheese on top if desired.) Serve as a main dish with a big green salad on the side or as a side dish (alongside rotisserie chicken makes a quick weeknight meal!)
*It is important to use freshly grated cheese; pre-grated cheese is coated in a powder to prevent the shreds from sticking to each other and does not always melt very well.
**Parmesan is optional; it adds some dimension to the flavor of the mac & cheese, but it is a little strong and may impact the overall texture of the finished dish.