Perfect Macaroni & Cheese
- 6 slices good quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
- 5 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 1/2 cups (about 18 oz) grated sharp white cheddar
- 2 cups (about 8 oz) grated gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 oz) grated pecorino Romano
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
Heat oven to 375°. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish, set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring 1 minute.
Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar and 1 ½ cups gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.
Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes fewer than manufacturer’s , until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. Transfer the macaroni to colander, rinse under cold running water and drain well. Stir macaroni into reserved cheese sauce.
Pour mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 ½ cups cheddar and ½ cup gruyere or ¼ cup pecorino Romano. Scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Serve.