Really?? A Mac and Cheese recipe? Shouldn’t we just go to the market and pick up one of those blue boxes that cost a dollar or less? Yes you can and your kids will love it. But that is only an approximation to the real stuff that uses fresh cheeses and is so good that it can cause addiction.
I researched and found two recipes from two well known chefs, one from Martha Stewart and the other from Ina Garten. The two recipes are very similar differing mainly in the ratio of the two cheeses used. The Martha Stewart version uses more Cheddar than Gruyere; the Ina Garten version uses more Gruyere than Cheddar. The two agree that a mixture of cheeses is essential. And both present a recipe that uses a pound of pasta and a quart or more of milk. This would be great for a pot-luck supper but way too much for one or two people. I chose the Ina Garten cheese ratio and scaled it down to 4 ounces (1/4 pound) of pasta. The ready to bake dish fit nicely into a 1-1/2 quart loaf pan with room left over.
The recipe is not difficult but be careful not to overcook the pasta. Also note that the directions call for draining and rinsing the cooked pasta. Rinsing pasta is usually not recommended but in this case you really should do it.
- Vegetable oil
- 4 ounces (1/4 pound) elbow or other small tubular macaroni
- 1 cup milk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) flour
- 3 ounces Gruyere or Pecorino Romano, grated (about a cup)
- 2 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 pound fresh tomatoes (1 or two small), optional
- 2 slices fresh white bread, crusts removed
- Preheat the oven to 375°(F)
- Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Do not overcook. Drain, rinse and set aside.
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan. Do not boil.
- In another pan melt 2 tablespoons butter. Over low heat stir in the flour with a whisk until the mixture is well combined.
- Slowly add the hot milk stirring continually with the whisk.
- Allow the mixture to heat, almost to a boil, stirring often. It will thicken.
- When it's thick and just starts to bubble, turn off the heat and add the cheeses.
- Stir, adding the nutmeg, pepper and a half teaspoon of salt.
- Add the cooked macaroni, stir until well combined and pour into loaf pan or small casserole dish.
- Slice the tomatoes and arrange the slices on top of the mac and cheese.
- Tear the bread into small pieces. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with the bread crumbs.
- Sprinkle the buttered crumbs on the mac and cheese.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is brown and the sauce is bubbly.
- In my test recipe I used Pecorino Romano as my market did not have Gruyere. I also substituted small corkscrew macaroni and used whole grain bread bread instead of white. The result was very good.
- If you want to try the Martha Stewart version use 3 1/2 ounces Cheddar and 1 1/2 ounces Gruyere