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I don’t remember tasting mac and cheese until I was a teenager, in the high school or college cafeteria, I can’t remember which. I remember asking for it when I was fairly little, but at my house it was made with cottage cheese, sour cream, maybe butter, cinnamon, and egg noodles. Basically, it was unconstructed noodle kugel.
When I was married the first time, I cooked the boxed Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. When it was done, I put it into a Corning glass pot, sliced a tomato that I placed down the middle, and ran some breadcrumbs around the tomatoes. For me, that was cooking and garnishing.
Then my-then mother-in-law showed me how to make a white sauce and I made mac and cheese from scratch.
Of course, almost everyone loves mac and cheese. And I will make sure I have the ingredients to make all the recipes in this month’s Food Network Magazine, of which the one below is the yummiest.
Lee White of Old Lyme has been a food editor and restaurant reviewer for more than 25 years. You can email her at email@example.com.
Glam Mac and Cheese
From Food Network Magazine, March 2019
Yield: serves 4
12 ounces fusilli
⅓ cup diced pancetta
1 small handful of fresh thyme
3 scallions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon mustard powder
¾ whole milk (2 percent is fine)
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
7 ounces dulcelatte or gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
(about 1 cup)
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 ½ cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 handful chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook just less than al dente, as the pasta will be cooked again in the oven. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta, return it to the pot, and set aside.
Fry the pancetta in a medium skillet over medium heat until it just starts to brown and crisp up, then add thyme and scallions and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add the skillet’s contents to the pasta.
For the sauce, put butter, flour, nutmeg, and mustard powder in a small saucepan set over medium heat and cook, stirring, until butter has melted. Mix milk and cream together in a pitcher and add a little to the flour and butter in the saucepan, stirring well. Keep adding milk mixture bit by bit, stirring well each time (be sure to get into the corners of the pan, as flour often lurks there). Once the sauce has fully come together, turn up the heat and boil for a minute or two. The sauce will thicken considerably. Remove pan from the heat.
Add two-thirds of both the cheeses to the sauce while it is still hot and combine well. (It may be a bit lumpy; that is fine.) Season to taste with salt and pepper and add to the pasta mix. If the cheese sauce thickens too much, add some of the pasta water. Stir everything together and spoon into 4 large ramekins or a shallow, 3-quart casserole.
Sprinkle the top with the rest of the cheese and the breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese starts to bubble and the topping goes brown. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.
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