Best macaroni & cheese is choose-your-own adventure
I'm here as a macaroni-and-cheese lover, not a macaroni-andcheese fighter. The title of the following recipe — “The Actual Best Macaroni and Cheese” — clearly indulges in hyperbole, for the actual best macaroni and cheese is, of course, made the way you like it most. In this celebration of gluten and dairy, everybody should be a winner (except those unable to partake, and sorry!).
RECIPE The Actual Best Macaroni and Cheese
Makes 8-ish servings
1 pound large elbow macaroni or penne
5 tablespoons butter plus about 2 extra for the baking dish and melting
1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour 2 1⁄2 cups whole milk About 4-5 ounces each of four cheeses of your choice, sliced or cubed (see note above; also, this might seem like too much cheese — it is not) 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (Amora brand is magnificent)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated
Paprika (smoked or regular — you choose) A couple/few slices of white bread
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package for al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water. Butter the inside of a 9-by-13-inch rectangular baking dish.
Get yourself a cold beverage — this next part is a bit boring and hot.
Melt the butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, continuing to whisk, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time, then cook while continuing to whisk until thickened to the consistency of light cream. Drop in your trove of cheese a few pieces at a time, whisking constantly, allowing them to melt some before adding more. When it's all incorporated (it will get gooey), stir in the Dijon, then add about 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt and lots of grindings of pepper. Stir, taste and add more Dijon/salt/pepper as you see fit, a little at a time whilst tasting again.
In a large bowl, combine the cheese sauce and pasta, stirring to get the sauce all up in the noodles, then transfer the mixture to your buttered baking dish.
Sprinkle with grated Parm, breadcrumbs and a little paprika.
Cut selected initial(s), numeral(s) or symbol(s) out of slice(s) of white bread with a sharp knife; alternately, you could use a cookie-cutter. (Note: The bread scraps are ideal for sponging the left-behind cheese sauce from your pan and bowl into your mouth.) Position breaddesign(s) atop macaroni, then brush with melted butter.
Bake until the cheese is bubbling and the breaddesign/top is browned, 25 to 35 minutes. Enjoy!