Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese
A reliable recipe for homemade mac and cheese is something everyone should on hand and our version of this classic comfort food definitely fills the bill. To get just the right blend of creamy and tangy cheese flavor, we use a combination of smooth-melting, mild muenster and sharp cheddar cheese, enhanced by a bit of white wine, Dijon-style mustard and Worcestershire sauce and a topping of toasted crumbs.
Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 3-3/4 cups whole milk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons dry white white wine (optional)
- 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and freshly ground pepper (white or black)
- 8 ounces muenster cheese, coarsely grated
- 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh (or dry) breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the elbows and cook until tender but not soft (al dente). Drain and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter a 2-1/2 or 3-quart baking dish.
Heat the milk in the microwave or a separate saucepan until very warm, but not scalded. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and blend with a whisk until well combined. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture develops a pale golden color, 3 to 4 minutes. Gradually add the warmed milk, whisking continually until well blended.
Continue cooking, whisking frequently, until the sauce is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 7 to 8 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the pan with a spatula once or twice during cooking to ensure there are no lumps in your sauce. Stir in the white wine, mustard and Worcestershire sauce, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Reduce the heat to low and begin adding the muenster and cheddar cheeses a handful at a time, letting each addition melt before adding more.
Stir until the cheese has melted and the mixture is thick and creamy. Add the macaroni and parsley, mix well, transfer to the prepared baking dish and bake, uncovered for 15 minutes.
While the macaroni bakes, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the breadcrumbs and toss to combine. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the crumbs are lightly toasted, 2 minutes longer. Add the Parmesan and combine.
Remove the macaroni from the oven, top with the crumb mixture and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
Allow the macaroni and cheese to rest for 5 to 7 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 to 6 main course servings (8 to 10 as a side dish)
Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes
Macaroni and cheese tastes really great when layered with sliced tomatoes. Here's how to make the variation:
Follow the recipe above, but transfer only half of the macaroni mixture to the prepared baking dish to start. Top with a layer of thinly sliced plum tomatoes and season with a pinch salt and pepper.
Add the remainder of the macaroni mixture and another layer of tomatoes. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover, top with the breadcrumb mixture and bake for an additional 5 minutes as directed.