To be fair and give proper credit, Ina Garten has the perfect recipe. It is one of the few that I do not alter at all. In grad school, my friends dubbed it “resurrection mac and cheese,” because it was either a) good enough to resurrect christ, or b) just as wonderful as when some believed this happened.
Here is a link to the recipe: Mac and Cheese, by Ina Garten
And the actual recipe:
1 lb. cavatappi or elbow macaroni
1 qt. milk
1 stick unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 oz. Gruyere, grated
8 oz. extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
3/4 lb. fresh tomatoes (4 small)
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed — I used whole wheat bread, I have also used panko before)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
First, if your cheese is not yet grated – do that. I had help doing this so I could do everything else while the cheese was being grated (thanks Chris!)
Cheddar – you have met your match…
Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the noodles and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain.
Heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt 6 T. 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 cheese, 1 T. salt (seems like a lot but is very important for bringing out all the flavors), pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked noodles and stir well.
Pour into a 3-quart baking dish. At this point, you can taste the mixture and adjust for seasonings. I added more pepper, by request. You can also make the dish up to this point a day ahead and refrigerate before going on to the next step.
Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and browned.
[I had help taking pictures (and with cooking!) this time around, so this is more documented than usual.]
This never fails to receive rave reviews and satisfy all different kinds of appetites. The salt, pepper, and nutmeg are simple ingredients that go a long way to bring out the more complex flavors of the cheeses used. If you have someone to grate the cheese – it is also a pretty easy recipe. If not, it just takes longer to complete, start to finish.
Try it – you will not be disappointed. You may want to serve it with a green vegetable on the side – so you can feel a bit better about consuming all that cheese and butter.