The other night I had five men over for dinner. It was, of course, a business dinner for my husband. And, it was super easy to cook for. Because, truth be told, men are just big boys and they love the comfort food of their youth. And, if you can spice it up a bit- give it a little bit of adult flavor, they love it even more. Gourmet Mac and Cheese is the perfect dish for any guy…it’s the waist conscience girls that balk.
What makes this mac and cheese special? For starters, the creamy richness of this dish sets it apart. This is no bought in a box mac and cheese. This is the real deal, made with whole milk and butter. And, the generous use of good cheese and spices take this old favorite to a new level. The nuttiness of an aged Gruyère coupled with the tang of a sharp Cheddar, with a dusting of cayenne and nutmeg thrown in for good measure, create a dish that is sophisticated enough to please the palate of any gourmet yet still makes you feel like you are six. Every time I make this I half expect to hear “Mom, is there any more?” from the guests at the table. And, while the “Mom” part might get left out- there are rarely leftovers when all is said and done!
- Olive oil
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 1 quart whole milk
- 6 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup flour
- 16 ounces Gruyère, grated
- 16 ounces Cheddar, grated
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional, but oh so good)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Butter or spray PAM on a 9- x 13-inch casserole dish.
Drizzle oil in large boiling pot of salted water. Add pasta and cook until al dente (remember that the pasta will bake in the oven so I purposely under cook it). Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan but don’t boil it. Melt butter in a large pot and add the flour. Cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, over low heat for 2-3 min. Add the hot milk and cook, continuing to stir constantly, for several more minutes until sauce is thick and smooth. Remove from heat and add nutmeg, pepper and cayenne. Add half the cheddar and gruyere and stir until combined. Add pasta and mix.
Place the pasta mixture in a 9- x 13-inch casserole, cover with remaining cheese and bacon. (Note: recipe can be made one day ahead to this point. Refrigerate and add 10 minutes to the cooking time.)
Bake for 30-35 minutes.