When it comes to cooking, I often like take a walk on the wild side of things, but then I gravitate back to my childhood favorites. Mac n’ cheese is right up there on top of my list. Hot, cheesy pasta is not something you turn down, EVER! I found a way to elevate its humble presence.
Crispy crumbs lock the bubbly cheese inside, giving the dish an unexpected crispy texture. This mac n’ cheese casserole takes comfort food from one level to the next.
Mac n’ Cheese Mixture
1-pound elbow macaroni
Kosher salt, to season pasta water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, pre-sifted
2 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup Half & Half or heavy cream, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon mustard powder
Kosher salt, to taste
2 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese, room temperature
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, room temperature
½ cup unseasoned bread crumbs
½ stick butter or oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven 350°F.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook macaroni according to package instructions until al dente. Drain. While the macaroni is still hot, add a tablespoon of butter to prevent the pasta from drying out. Set aside pasta in a warm place.
In a 6-quart pot, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is pale golden and has a nutty aroma, about 4 minutes. Whisking constantly, slowly add milk. Add cayenne pepper, mustard powder, and paprika. Cook, whisking along bottom of pot, until boiling, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in cheeses gradually until melted and sauce is smooth; season with salt. Remove from heat. Pour sauce over pasta and fold.
Transfer pasta mixture to an oven proof dish. Sprinkle crumbs on top of pasta and bake for 30 minutes in preheated oven until crumbs are golden and the casserole is bubbly on the sides.