Classic Macaroni and Cheese

Published May 1, 2004.

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Why this recipe works:

For a macaroni and cheese recipe that would appeal to adults and kids alike, we kept things simple, staying away from pungent cheeses and overly rich eggs and cream. Instead, we tossed al dente pasta with a béchamel-based cheese sauce, using a combination of sharp cheddar for flavor and… read more

For a macaroni and cheese recipe that would appeal to adults and kids alike, we kept things simple, staying away from pungent cheeses and overly rich eggs and cream. Instead, we tossed al dente pasta with a béchamel-based cheese sauce, using a combination of sharp cheddar for flavor and Monterey Jack for creaminess. To give our macaroni and cheese recipe a crunchy topping, we tossed homemade bread crumbs with melted butter, sprinkled them over the casserole, and browned the dish quickly under the broiler.

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Serves 6 to 8, or 10 to 12 as a side

The test kitchen’s favorite elbow macaroni is Barilla Elbows. Serve with hot sauce and/or celery salt.

Ingredients

  • 3 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled, plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • Salt
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)

Instructions

  1. 1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler. Pulse bread and chilled butter in food processor until coarsely ground, 7 to 10 pulses; set aside.

    2. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until tender. Drain macaroni and set aside in colander.

    3. Melt remaining 5 tablespoons butter in now-empty pot over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour, mustard, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk until smooth. Bring mixture to boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses until fully melted. Add macaroni and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.

    4. Pour mixture into 13 by 9-inch broiler-safe baking dish. Top with bread-crumb mixture and broil until crumbs are deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, rotating dish if necessary for even browning. Let rest for 5 minutes. Serve.

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