If you are lactose intolerant, stay away from this post at all costs.
I love macaroni and cheese. When made with quality dairy it’s tangy, buttery, and can be eaten in a wide variety of circumstances (i.e. at weddings, in bathrooms on paper plates during dreadful dinner parties, water parks, you name it). I make this particular recipe, which comes from marthastewart.com, once a year. Do I want to make it more frequently? Yes. Should I? No. Why? Because I value my arteries.
This recipe uses three types of cheese: gruyere, fontina, and cheddar, and you can taste each one individually. This is part of what makes it so good; who wants a homogeneous bowl of cheesy pasta? (ME! I DO! But this way is even more delectable).
Though it takes significantly longer to make this recipe than it does to crack open a box of Kraft mac and cheese, it’s definitely worth it. I refuse to say anything bad about Kraft macaroni since it has played such a large role in my life, for better or for worse. However, Martha knows what she’s doing… I’ll leave it at that.
Original Recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/853632/three-cheese-macaroni
1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
5 cups whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (10 ounces)
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (4 ounces)
1 1/2 cups grated fontina cheese (4 ounces) << fontina always reminds me of the character Fantine from Les Miserables…
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound shell pasta
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Liberally butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs, and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Warm milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the milk has started to warm, melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a large (no really, the largest one you have) high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook until butter is bubbling (but not burning!). Add flour. Cook, stirring gently with a whisk, for 1 minute.
Gradually pour warm milk into butter mixture, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and thickens, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in 3 cups cheddar, 1 cup Gruyere, 1 cup fontina, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the nutmeg, paprika, and cayenne pepper.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente according to box instructions. Drain, and transfer pasta to cheese sauce. Stir to coat.
Divide mixture among mini pie plates or transfer to baking dish. Scatter remaining cup cheddar, 1/2 cup Gruyere, and 1/2 cup fontina over top, and sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs.
Bake until cheese is melted and pasta is warmed through, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving- don’t want to burn your mouth on that tangy cheese!