Last week I dropped the ball. Big time. As a mother I worried my card would be pulled and the parent police would show up on my doorstep-at least that's how I felt when my children wailed over a very important date I'd overlooked. Last Thursday was International Macaroni and Cheese Day, and when I served a succulent, gorgeous roasted chicken instead of a delicious ooey-gooey bowl of melted cheese and elbow pasta, I knew what I would be making for lunch the next day.
Sure enough, while the children played, I was on a call with a girlfriend while reading from one of my cooking bibles. Ina Garten's recipes are flawless. 100% always come out perfectly, they always taste the same, they always look beautiful. I guarantee you'll feel the same way about this dish.
Mac and Cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 pound fresh tomatoes (4 small)
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well.
Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.
As you can see below, the end result is just glorious! It is thick, rich, very indulgent. But isn't that why mac 'n cheese is considered a comfort food? I think so. But as they say, the proof is in the pudding-erm, mac 'n cheese.