My sister-in-law, Sarah Anstett, makes the most comforting Mac n’ Cheese I have ever had. On occasion, if we’ve really been good, she’ll even add some cooked bacon to the macaroni mixture, but this dish stands on its own just perfectly. Enjoy!
1 lb. macaroni
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard (like French’s)
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1/2 lb. shredded white sharp Cheddar, grated
½ lb. gruyere cheese, grated
¾ cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 14.5 ounce can chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup panko (Japanese course bread crumbs), or other bread crumbs
1 cup grated cheese mixture
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)
Mix the three cheeses together and set aside until ready to use, reserving one cup for the topping.
Position a rack about 6-8 inches from the broiler and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and add the elbow pasta. Cook until tender but still slightly more firm than al dente (about 5 minutes). Drain pasta; don’t rinse.
Meanwhile, melt ¼ cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Scatter the flour over the butter and mix with a wooden spoon into a paste. Continue stirring in a figure “8” until the paste puffs slightly and lightens in color, about 1 minute. Remove from burner and gradually whisk the milk into the paste.
Return pan to burner on medium heat and whisk until thickened, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has the consistency of heavy cream, about 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk in mustard. On the lowest heat setting, whisk 3 cups of the cheese into the sauce alternating with chicken stock until incorporated.
In a large bowl, toss the hot pasta with the cheese sauce until evenly coated. Transfer to a Dutch oven or 9 x 12 baking dish. In a medium bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, melted butter and remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese together and scatter over macaroni.
Place macaroni and cheese under the broiler and cook until hot and bubbly and the bread crumbs are brown and toasty, about 2-4 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes and serve.
Sarah Anstett’s tips:
- For added comfort and flavor, cook 5 to 6 pieces of bacon, chop them into small pieces and mix in with the sauce and pasta.
- Thinly sliced Roma tomatoes can be added to the top for additional flavor and presentation.