Baked Macaroni and cheese in a blue and white baking casserole.
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Mac and Cheese

This Mac and Cheese is pure decadence. It gets a unique complexity from herbs that are steeped in the milk used to make the bechamel, with a tiny kick of spice. The breadcrumb topping really knocks it out of the park.
Course Entree
Cuisine American/Comfort Food
Author Michelle

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. cavatappi
  • 1 tbsp. salt plus more for pasta water
  • 4-5 grinds of black pepper
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 tsp. yellow mustard
  • 8 tbsp. 1 stick butter, divided
  • 6. tbsp. flour
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • fresh herbs e.g., a few sprigs of rosemary, sage, & thyme
  • 1 lb. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup pecorino romano divided
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan with the herbs and garlic. Be careful not to let it scorch or foam over.
  • In the meantime, bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the cavatappi to "firm" according to the package directions.
  • While the pasta is cooking, melt 6 tbsp. of the butter in another saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and saute until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add in your flour and stir into the butter-onion mixture to make a roux. Stir for 2 minutes.
  • Slowly strain your milk mixture into the pan with the roux, and stir well to combine. Add the mustard, salt, and pepper. Add in your cheddar, little by little, and ¾ cups of the romano cheese. Stir constantly to avoid scorching until all cheese is melted.
  • Melt the remaining butter (if you use the microwave, be careful to cover the butter, or it will spit and explode everywhere). Mix the panko breadcrumbs and remaining romano cheese into the butter, stirring with a fork to combine. Add your cheese mixture to the drained pasta; mix well. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9" casserole dish, and top with bread crumbs. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes until bubbly, and then pull off the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the topping is golden.

Notes

WORK AHEAD
This dish is great for freezing. I go through step 4 above and let the assembled casserole cool slightly. Then I press some plastic wrap down over the surface of the mac and cheese, and cover the entire dish with aluminum foil. First, cool completely in the refrigerator, then transfer to the freezer. You can pull the casserole out to thaw up to 2 days in advance, then complete step 5. OR, you can take it directly from the freezer to the oven: remove the plastic wrap, top with breadcrumbs and cheese, and recover with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour, then remove the foil and continue baking until the topping is golden.