Mac and Cheese brings me back to my childhood. Although I rarely eat like this, when I do there is nothing like honoring a classic with whole foods and real ingredients. I believe that every once in a while we should all indulge and revisit those foods that conjure memories of a time when we were young and just discovering the world. I encourage you to make this recipe your own. This is a basic guideline. It is delicious how it is, but get creative. I love the addition of sliced tomato on the top. You can also fold in some bacon, or lobster for an even more decadent version! If you want some spice, add in poblano peppers or jalapenos. Cooking is a personal process, add whatever gets you excited.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cavatappi (my fave) or Elbow Macaroni - 1 lb Whole Milk - 1 qt.
Butter - 5 tbsp divided into 8 pieces
AP Flour - 2 1/2 tbsp
Onion - 1/2 medium
Garlic - 4 cloves minced
Mustard Powder - 1/2 tbsp
Thyme - 4 sprigs
Nutmeg - 1/2 tsp grated
Crushed Red Pepper Flake – 1 tbsp
Extra Sharp Cheddar - 8 oz
Gruyere - 6 oz grated
Parmesan - 6 oz grated
Black Pepper - 1/2 tsp
Panko Bread Crumbs – 1 cup
The Side Salad - this is necessary to balance out the richness of the dish.
Avocado - 2 each sliced
Cherry Tomato - 2 cups (cut in 1/2)
Arugula - 4 handfuls
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
Lemon - juice of 1 lemon
Salt and Pepper - to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cook the cavatappi for 5 to 7 min until al dente. Toss with olive oil and set aside.
Coat a large baking dish with 1 tbsp of butter and set aside.
The Sauce - begin by sweating the onion and garlic, thyme and mustard powder over low heat. Add a touch of salt to help draw out the moisture. When the onions are translucent add milk and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let infuse.
Begin making the roux. In a large pot over medium heat add 2 tbsp of butter and the flour. Continue to stir as it cooks for 3 min. Be sure you do not let the roux get color. Now, slowly add the milk while whisking vigorously.
Continue to cook for another 7 min stirring often. The sauce should thicken.
Remove the sauce (béchamel) from the heat and slowly stir in 1/2 of all the cheeses. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Add the nutmeg if desired.
Pour the sauce over the macaroni and then add the remaining cheese.
Mix 2 tbsp of melted butter and a dash of olive oil with the bread crumbs. Top the dish with bread crumbs.
Bake for about 30 - 35 min until the sauce is bubbly and the top is browned.
For the salad, place avocado, tomato and arugula in a bowl. Add olive oil and lemon. Mix with your hands, season with salt and pepper and serve!