July 24, 2014

Macaroni and Cheese

  • Active time: 20 min
    Total time: 1 hr
Chefs may be vying to outdo one another with unusual takes on the classic, but we think simple is best. This is our favorite mac and cheese. It's rich and creamy (the combination of extra-sharp Cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano is key) and crowned with the tastiest bread crumbs. Not a purist? Treat your mac to our fast and easy mix-ins.

INGREDIENTS:

For Topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (preferably from a rustic, sourdough-style loaf)
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For Mac and Cheese:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 12 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar (white, yellow, or a mix of both), coarsely grated
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 pound curly macaroni, such as cavatappi (cellentani)

EQUIPMENT:

  • 2- to 2 1/2-quart shallow baking dish

INSTRUCTIONS:

Make Topping:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.
  • Toast bread crumbs on a rimmed baking sheet until pale golden, about 5 minutes. Cool toasted crumbs; with a fork, toss with cheeses, parsley, and melted butter until butter is evenly incorporated. Leave oven on.

Make Sauce:

  • Melt butter in a medium heavy saucepan over medium-low heat and whisk in flour. Cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes, then whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes.
  • Whisk in cream, mustard, Worcestershire, cheeses, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth and remove from heat. Cover surface of sauce with wax paper or parchment.

Cook Macaroni and Assemble Dish:

  • Butter baking dish.
  • Cook macaroni in a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente. Drain in a colander. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sauce. Spread macaroni mixture evenly in baking dish.
  • Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni; bake until golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.

Mac 'n' Cheese Mix-Ins:

Plenty delicious on its own, this dish takes on a whole new personality with the mere addition of an extra ingredient stirred into the filling or topping just before baking.
  • Meaty Mac Add to filling 4 ounces thinly sliced, chopped high-quality ham, preferably country ham, such as Surryano from SurryFarms.com.
  • Mexican Mac Add to filling 2 to 3 tablespoons minced chipotles in adobo, including some sauce.
  • Smoky Mac Cook 1/4 pound chopped bacon slices until crisp. Mix into bread-crumb topping.
  • Veggie Mac Add to filling 2 cups small broccoli florets, cooked crisp-tender, or a 10-ounce package of frozen baby peas, thawed.