Side Dish Serving Suggestions: (if you use the mac-n-cheese as a main dish) green peas and baked sweet potatoes
From Cook's Illustrated May/June 2004
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 1 T. plus 1 t. salt
- 5 T. unsalted butter
- 6 T. flour
- 1 1/2 t. powdered mustard
- 1/4 t. cayenne (optional)
- 5 c. milk (skim, low-fat, or whole)
- 8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 cups)
- 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
- 6 slices good-quality white bread, torn into rough pieces (optional)
- 3 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces (optional)
- For optional bread crumb topping: Pulse bread and 3 T. butter in food processor until crumbs are no larger than 1/8-inch, ten to fifteen 1-second pulses. Set aside.
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler (if using bread crumb topping). Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is tender (not al dente). Drain pasta and set aside in colander.
- In now-empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour, mustard, and cayenne (if using) and whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 teaspoon salt until cheeses fully melted. Add pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.
- If using bread crumb topping, transfer mixture to broiler-safe 9 by 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs. Broil until 2 crumbs are deep golden, 3 to 5 minutes, rotating pan if necessary for even browning. Cool about 5 minutes, then serve.
Serves 6-8 as a main course; 10-12 as a side dish