For a classic baked macaroni and cheese, preheat an oven to 400°F. Increase the milk by 1/4 cup. Undercook the pasta by 2 minutes, drain and add to the sauce. Pour into a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup bread crumbs and bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.
- 3 cups milk
- 5 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
- 3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2 Tbs. salt, plus more, to taste
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 lb. macaroni, pasta shells or penne
Make the sauce
In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until small bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan. Remove from the heat.
In a large saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the flour a little at a time, whisking to incorporate. Raise the heat to medium-low and very gradually whisk in the hot milk. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and creamy, about 15 minutes. Add the Gruyère, fontina and cayenne and season with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the cheeses are melted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and set the sauce aside.
Cook the pasta
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the 2 Tbs. salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until al dente, according to the package instructions. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce. Stir to combine and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Pasta, by Julia della Croce (Oxmoor House, 2006).