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The Ultimate Macaroni & Cheese

macaroni and cheese

Now that I’ve got you amped up on enough sugar to last you until next Christmas, let’s talk savory dishes. Not just any ole savory dish, but the biggest, bestest dish that makes enough to feed a small army.

I’m talking about the ultimate Macaroni & Cheese.

This dynamite recipe came to me from my friend Kate, recipe-swapper, expert shopper and NYC friend. I was on the the hunt for a dish to accompany my Thanksgiving Turkey and didn’t ‘t want to do the traditional mashed potato dish. Instead, I wanted cheese, cheese, and more cheese. My old standby Macaroni & Cheese recipe was carelessly tossed to the side, sadly, because after one look at this recipe, I was completely enamored. A blend of sharp white cheddar and Gruyere cheese melted and poured over elbow macaroni, then baked with a breadcrumb topping. Could anything sound more divine?

Well, this guy serving me this Macaroni & Cheese in a quiet NYC townhouse but let’s not get crazy…
macaroni and cheese

macaroni and cheese

Because whole milk is rarely found in my own kitchen, I used 2% instead and didn’t see a difference in the dish. I also cut down on the amount of Gruyere cheese because my cheese sauce was starting to look like a massive cheese monster and my little stomach can’t handle that. However I only omitted about 1/4 cup of cheese so I didn’t miss out on too much.

If you are in the midst of planning your holiday feast, I highly recommend this dish. Not only is it a comforting, hearty dish, it will last for a few days and tastes even better after a few days! And I’m pretty sure your kids will thank their lucky stars if they see a big platter of mac & cheese on their table. Wide eyes and big smiles await!

macaroni and cheese

Macaroni & Cheese
Adapted from: Martha Stewart a la Kate
Yields: 12 hungry adults

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
6 slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
5 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
4 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 18 ounces)
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (about 8 ounces) or 1 1/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 5 ounces)
1 pound elbow macaroni

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into bowl with bread, and toss. Set breadcrumbs aside.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.

While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup Pecorino Romano; set cheese sauce aside.

Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer’s directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, and breadcrumbs over top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes; serve hot.

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December 21, 2011 - 6:53 am

Kate (Embarrassment of Riches) - Haha yeah I should have warned you – the cheese sauce gets pretty outrageous! I’m making this again for our Christmas dinner – it’s such a crowd-pleaser. Who doesn’t love really good mac and cheese?

Yours turned out beautifully!

December 21, 2011 - 7:08 am

aboyce18 - it was the most delicious thing ever. EVER. And I fell into a huge food coma right after eating it. winning!

December 23, 2011 - 6:27 am

In Pursuit of Style - This looks like something I would want to eat over and over! And also proceed to a food coma, like you mentioned to Kate.

I think I am going to make for our holiday dinner…! Will let you know how it turns out.

In Pursuit of Style

December 27, 2011 - 2:13 pm

Jordan - Made this for thanksgiving and Christmas. For Christmas I was cooking for 16 so, I put it in a crock pot. Cooked the pasta, next day made the cheese sauce and put it all in a crock pot for 2 hours on medium/high. It was still great. I did miss the crunchy bread crumbs on the top this time around though. Glad you liked it so much too!!

December 27, 2011 - 4:10 pm

aboyce18 - oh that sounds so good! I love the idea of putting it in the crock pot. Very smart!

December 27, 2011 - 4:11 pm

aboyce18 - hope it turns out great!! I am totally craving this big comfort food meal now.

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