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Truly Amazing Mac and Cheese

If your kids prefer mac and cheese from a box, with its powdered “cheese” product, ban the boxed stuff for a few months and it will fade from memory. Then introduce this recipe, with its aged Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Almost every kid will love it at once. 

Ingredients:

For the sauce:  

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 3 cups milk 
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced 
  • 1/2 bay leaf 
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  •   
  • 1/2 lb. macaroni shells or other shape 
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter 
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed grated hard cheeses such as aged cheddar, Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch square or similar baking dish, or 4 to 6 individual baking dishes.

To make the sauce, in a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture forms a ball, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk, 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition until smooth. Return the pan to medium heat and whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. Add the onion, bay leaf and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and cover to keep warm. You should have about 2 1/2 cups.

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), according to the package instructions. Drain, transfer the pasta to a bowl and stir in the butter. Add the sauce, 1 cup of the cheese and the cream, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the pasta into the prepared dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the top. Bake until golden and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Family Meals, by Maria Helm Sinskey (Oxmoor House, 2008).