Baked Macaroni & Cheese

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Cheesy, creamy, crunchy, chewy.  That’s what the best macaroni and cheese brings to the table.  I’m not talking about the out-of-the-box stuff – no way.  I’m talking about homemade macaroni and cheese.  I’m talking about beer-infused white sauce and freshly grated cheddar and gruyere.  I’m talking about crispy Parmesan and bread crumb topping, and baking the whole thing until it’s golden and bubbly.  It takes longer, and it dirties more pots (hey,when have I ever complained about a mess?), but it’s soooooo worth the time.  Especially when your hungry brother is in town.  Because if you’re a baker who likes to make a mess, your hungry brother deserves the best boy food you can make!

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

1/2 package cavatappi (or other fun-shaped) pasta
1 small shallot, minced fine
1 cup skim milk
1 cup half-n-half
1 dried bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup beer
cheddar (1 cup grated)
gruyere (1 cup grated)
salt and pepper

  • Preheat oven to 350.  Butter a souffle dish or other large baking dish and set aside.
  • Fill a large stockpot with water and boil for pasta.  When water is boiling, season generously with salt and add cavatappi.  Cook until al dente according to package directions.
  • While the pasta cooks, place the minced shallot, milk and half-n-half in a small pot.  Add the bay leaf and thyme and warm over medium heat.  When the mixture is warm-hot, take off heat and allow to stand.
  • Drain the pasta and place pasta in a large bowl; set aside.  Return the pasta pot, empty, to the stovetop and melt the butter.  When the butter is melted, stir in the flour and cook briefly.  Add the infused milk mixture and the beer and turn heat to low.  Allow to cook for three to five minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
  • Meanwhile, grate the cheese.  When the sauce has thickened, stir in the cheese.  Season to taste with salt (if necessary – the cheese is pretty salty) and pepper.  Pour cheese sauce over pasta and stir to combine.  Spoon pasta into baking dish.
  • If desired, make bread crumb topping – stir together 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle evenly over the top of the pasta and drizzle additional olive oil, if desired, over.
  • Bake 40 minutes, until cheese sauce is bubbly and top is golden brown.

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Yield: Serves 4-6.

Source: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring America

6 thoughts on “Baked Macaroni & Cheese

  1. That pasta shape is the BEST for mac & cheese! Nice big pieces, ridged to hold the cheese, and of course curlicues are just plain fun! But, I can’t find them. Where do you get them?

  2. Emma – Is that a request? =)

    Aislinn – I’ve found cavatappi at both Whole Foods and Wegmans (although at Wegmans the pasta was called something else, despite being the same shape). I agree, it’s the best shape for mac and cheese! I think campanelle would be fun too, but haven’t tried that yet.

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