I can almost feel the nip of fall in the mornings - which is all it takes for me to make the psychological shift into another season. Add to that a rainy day and I'm convinced it's time for macaroni and cheese. Not just any macaroni and cheese, the béchamel based beauty from Martha Stewart Living more than a decade ago. (Seriously, if that magazine gave me nothing more than this recipe in my lifetime, I'd still consider it to be a beneficial relationship.)
It's another one of those dishes that I only eat in the fall and winter - and spend the other two seasons dreaming of. And while most everyone on earth probably has this recipe already, I wouldn't feel right if I didn't share it anyway. It's pure pleasure!
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 whole milk
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)
1 pound large elbow macaroni
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of butter that have been melted. Set breadcrumbs aside.
2. 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.
3. While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
4. Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere; set cheese sauce aside.
5. Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 3 to 4 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
6. Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyere, and breadcrumbs over top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes; serve hot.