Macaroni and Cheese

I've prepared a variety of mac and cheese recipes, and I love all of them. But this one is the absolute best, probably because of the smoked Gouda. Don't skip the ham; it adds all the flavor to make this more than just a cheese and pasta dish.

Macaroni and Cheese

16 ounces elbow macaroni

3 cups chicken stock, divided

1 tablespoon minced garlic, or 6 cloves minced garlic

¾ cup milk

1/3 cup flour

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

½ teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

6 ounces smoked Gouda cheese, grated

8 slices deli ham, torn into pieces or chopped

In a large Dutch oven, cook macaroni according to package directions. Strain through a colander -- do not rinse -- set aside while you prepare the cheese sauce.

Using the same Dutch oven (no need to wash it after cooking the macaroni), over medium heat, add two cups of the chicken stock, garlic, and milk. Stir constantly until mixture boils. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk the remaining one cup of chicken stock with the flour, until mixture is smooth. Add flour mixture to the Dutch oven and whisk together. Boil for about one minute or until mixture thickens a bit. Add cream cheese, black pepper, cheddar and Gouda cheese. Continue to cook over medium-low heat, until the mixture is melted and smooth. Add ham and the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce; stir to combine. Preheat the oven to low broil. Broil the mac and cheese for about 2-3 minutes, until the top is golden brown.