Who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese? It reminds me of my childhood and was one of the first things that my mom let me prepare on my own. Kraft made it so easy for me back then and even went the extra step by including a silver envelope of fake orange powdered cheese that just had to be mixed with a little milk. It was “nice and cheesy and really pretty easy,” or so I used to sing thanks to those wonderful commercials.
We rarely eat such over the top decadent cheesy pasta dishes. Having said that…this may well be the best macaroni and cheese ever.
Three kinds of cheese — Gruyère, sharp cheddar and Brie! Whole milk, whipping cream, butter! Fresh breadcrumbs scattered on top. It’s too much, really. But too much in a “I want it again and now” sorta way.
And now, a little trip back to “then.”
Cheesemonger’s Macaroni and Cheese
by Kate and Matt Jennings
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
1 1/2 cups diced rindless Brie (cut from 1-pound wedge)
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon (scant) nutmeg
4 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
1 pound penne pasta
8 teaspoons whipping cream (if making 1 day ahead)
Mix all cheeses. Set aside 1 cup for topping; cover and chill. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until mixture turns golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add thyme and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer until thickened and smooth, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add cheeses from large bowl. Stir until melted and smooth.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs; toss. Stir until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender but firm to bite. Drain. Transfer to large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over; toss. Divide among eight 1 1/4-cup custard cups. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Place cups on rimmed baking sheet. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with foil; chill. Drizzle each with 1 teaspoon cream. Cover with foil; bake 15 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle partially baked chilled or just assembled cups with breadcrumbs. Bake pasta until beginning to bubble and tops are golden, about 20 minutes.