Macaroni and Cheese
About 8 servings
This dish is, of course, all – or mostly – about the cheese. A good cheddar is wonderful, but it’s nice to mix up a sharp cheese with another that’s nutty and slightly creamy, such as Jarlsberg, Comté or Gruyère, in whatever proportion you like. I cook the sauce in the same pan that I made the pasta in to save on clean up. I seasoned this with dry mustard powder and thyme. The mustard gives a bit of depth to the sauce and the fresh thyme adds a pleasant herbal note in the background. But you can omit them if you’d like.
For the pasta and cheese sauce
3/4 pound (340g) uncooked pasta
5 tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons (60g) all-purpose flour
4 cups (1L) whole milk, warm
1 pound (450g, about 6 cups) grated cheese
1/2 cup (45g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1-2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or red pepper powder
For the topping
1 1/2 cups (190g) breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons (60g) melted butter, salted or unsalted
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1. Butter a wide 2 1/2 to 3-quart (3l) baking dish.
2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of lightly salted water until tender, and drain well. When cool, spread the pasta in the baking dish.
3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC.)
4. Wipe the pasta pot dry and melt the 5 tablespoons (70g) butter in it over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Dribble in some of the warm milk, stirring continuously; you can use a whisk, which will help break up lumps, or use a spatula, stirring briskly.
5. Continue to add the milk, a small amount at a time while stirring, until all the milk is added. Cook the milk until it comes to a low boil, stirring constantly, then cook the mixture for 3 minutes, until it thickens.
6. Remove from heat and stir the grated cheese, Parmesan, mustard, thyme, and cayenne. (Depending on the cheese, you may wish to season the mixture with a bit of salt.) Pour the mixture over the pasta in the baking dish and stir it to combine. When finished, make sure it’s in an even layer in the dish.
7. Make the topping by mixing together the breadcrumbs, melted butter, and parsley, then strew the crumbs over the top.
8. Bake the macaroni and cheese for 25 minutes, or until the topping is nicely browned.