my sister's mac 'n cheese is like no other. anyone who's had it talks of nothing else for days. so of course i asked her for the recipe - in the hopes of gaining the same accolades for myself - and learned there really wasn't one. figures. so i interrogated her about the process (béchamel-based, no eggs, always baked), what cheeses she used (always a bit of bleu) and why she avoided others (mozzarella adds little more than stringiness)....then i had to go home and try to come up with my own version. here's what followed:
i chose cavatappi pasta because it's tubular...and twisted...and grooved (thereby tripling its cheese-sauce-grabbing capabilities.) i think i've read somewhere that of the grocery store pasta varieties, de cecco is the best.
the five cheeses i used this go-round were: fontina, gruyere, cheddar, bleu and parmesan. here they are all grated and crumbled:
i cooked the past al dente...
...made the béchamel (LOTS of béchamel as this dish needed to serve 24 people) and added the cheese (not pictured) and stirred until the cheese melted
then i combined the pasta with the sauce
and stirred (gently)
this is what it looked like before i spooned the gloppy gooey mess into casserole dishes and topped with buttered panko crumbs:
after 30 minutes in a 350-degree overn, it looked like this:
and then it was gone.
for every pound of pasta (cooked in salted water), you will need 5 cups of béchamel, and a pound and a half of cheese (i know, i know, just don't think about it.)
to make the sauce: melt 1/2 cup butter and add 3/4 cup flour. then stir and cook over med heat until slightly browned. add 5 cups milk and cook (stirring) until thickened.
add 3 T dijon, 1 t salt, 1/2 t fresh ground pepper and 1/4 t cayenne and stir some more.
now throw in your cheeses, stir until they're melted and the sauce is done!