Nom nom nom. Nothing is more decadent or guilt-inducing than homemade macaroni and cheese. I love this recipe. I usually coat a couple of chicken breasts in olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake them, then chop the chicken and put it in with the mix. It makes me think I'm at least getting some protein in right before I fall into a carb coma.
Also, I used medium cheddar because it was on hand, and it is CRUCIAL to use sharp cheddar as the recipe calls for! The taste of fontina and gruyere is pretty mild, so you need the sharp cheddar to punch it up a bit.
Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese
Makes 6 servings
2 chicken breasts (optional)
2 1/2 cups of dry pasta, such as macaroni, gemelli, rotini, or cavatelli
2 1/2 cups of milk
1 slice onion
1 bay leaf
10 whole black peppercorns
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 1/2 cups)
3 oz fontina cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
3 oz Emmenthal, Gruyere, or similar Swiss-type cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
1. If using chicken breasts, coat in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes. Let breasts cool and shred. Leave the oven on at 350, and butter a 2-quart baking dish.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and boil until it is about half cooked, about 5 minutes. Drain well, rinse with cold water, and set aside, tossing from time to time as it cools to avoid sticking.
3. Put the milk in a small saucepan with the onion slice, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Bring just to a low boil over medium heat, then remove from heat and let sit to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until it foams up and has a very slight toasty smell (it should not brown), 1 to 2 minutes. Strain the warm milk into the pan and whisk to blend. Continue to cook the sauce, whisking often, until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and gradually whisk in the cheeses until fully melted. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper, then add the pasta and chicken ,if using, and stir to fully coat with the cheese sauce.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over. Set the dish on the oven rack and lay a piece of foil on the rack to catch any drips. Bake until the macaroni and cheese is bubbling hot and the top is nicely browned, about 40 minutes. Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!