I moved to Wisconsin last October.
My hubby and I grew up in Oklahoma and had both lived there all our lives. We love Oklahoma but wanted to experience life in a new part of the country. So when my hubs got a job offer in Milwaukee, we accepted.
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Milwaukee. It was probably my first look at Lake Michigan that did it.
The charming old buildings, the kind people, and the delicious food sealed the deal. All in spite of the freezing cold winter. ;)
It’s been a great adventure learning this new place and culture. There’s a definite German influence here. Lots of beer, brats, pretzels and let’s not forget Friday fish fries and infinite cheese.
I don’t know where all the food holidays came from, but when I saw National Cheese Day while I was looking them up one day, I knew it was one food holiday I didn’t want to miss.
Obviously, a recipe with plenty of cheese was my starting point. Since Wisconsin is known for cheese, I started thinking of how I could incorporate the other foods that can be found everywhere here and came up with this Wisconsin Mac & Cheese.
I combined the cheese and beer for a boozy cheese sauce and used a beer that’s a local fave, New Glarus’ Spotted Cow, but any light beer will work. I topped off the mac and cheese with slices of cooked Usinger’s brats and turned pretzel bread into croutons for a crunchy bite. I think the locals would be proud of my creation, whadya think?
This recipe is pretty quick to make. The longest part is cooking the brats & the noodles. The cheese sauce comes together in minutes.
There are a couple of different options for how you can incorporate the brats so check out the notes on the bottom of the recipe. For a vegetarian version, leave the brats out completely.
My key tip for this recipe is: just keep whisking. If you’ve never made a homemade cheese sauce, it may seem like it’s not coming together. The texture can seem clumpy but if you keep whisking through the whole process, it will come together. It’s also important to have the cheese sauce ingredients measured out because it doesn’t take long once you start making it.
If you make this recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram. Use #thesimplefoodie, I’d love to see it!
Wisconsin Mac & Cheese
- 2-4 bratwurst, cooked (see notes at the bottom of the recipe)
- 8 oz macaroni noodles (or other small pasta noodle)
- pretzel croutons, optional for topping (see notes below for instructions)
For the cheese sauce:
- 3 T. butter
- 3 T. all purpose flour
- 1 c. milk
- 1/3 c. light beer
- 2 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 t. yellow mustard
- salt, 1/4 – 1/2 t. or to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the brats according to their instructions. Once the pot of water is boiling, pour in the pasta and let cook until the noodles are tender, then drain. For the cheese sauce, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is hot and bubbly, whisk in the flour. Once it’s incorporated, pour in the milk while continuing to whisk. Once the mixture is smooth, add in the beer. Whisk until the texture is smooth again. Turn the heat to low and stir in the cheddar cheese and mustard. Taste the cheese sauce and add salt as needed. Stir in the drained pasta noodles and serve with slices of brats and pretzel croutons on top.
Notes about the brats: You can grill the brats, then slice them up. Or you can cook the brats whole on the stovetop, then slice them up after cooking. Or lastly, you can remove them from their casing for a ground/crumbly texture. If you cook the brats whole or ground up on the stovetop, I recommend cooking them in the same skillet you’ll make the cheese sauce in and simply remove them from the skillet while you make the cheese sauce.
For pretzel croutons:
Cut up a large soft pretzel or pretzel bread into 1″ pieces. Bake on a baking sheet with a small drizzle of olive oil at 350º for 10-15 minutes, until they are slight brown and crispy.