Comfort food = Cheese and Pasta quite often in my house, and as the forecast has snow in it for the next couple of days in Bend, I thought sharing this recipe was a spot-on good idea.
Granted, many of you may be savoring a deliciously beautiful spring day, so tuck this recipe away for the coming autumn and winter, but for those of us who are snuggled back inside, waiting for the opportunity to step back into our gardens, here is a recipe that will delight the tastebuds, tickle your childhood memories of eating Mac & cheese out of the box, and just take it to a more luxurious level, however, nearly just as simple. ☺️
The key is, as you probably guessed, quality cheese and butter.
Find your favorite mild cheddar cheese, yet one full of flavor, maybe a bit of nuttiness to it, and to add even more luxury, don’t leave out the heavy cream suggested (you can just substitute it for more whole milk – but do use whole milk – again, you are adding flavor which will satiate and leave you not wanting more after one serving). And as always, use the best high quality butter (high butterfat percentage) you can.
The French detail is the making of the béchamel sauce – very simple, just follow the steps shared in the recipe, adding the cheese last and adding fleur de sel and pepper (freshly ground) to taste before prepping for the oven.
The crispy topping combining both panko and more cheese pair oh so well with the creamy, hot pasta.
I recently enjoyed this recipe on a Monday evening, paired with roasted broccoli, a glass of crisp Chardonnay, settled in for the final episode of The Gilded Age, and had a wonderful evening. I hope you enjoy as well.
Simple French Mac & Cheese
Pasta & Sauce
- 8 ounces large elbow macaroni
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, best quality you can find (high butterfat percentage)
- 2 1/2 Tbsp flour
- 1 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups Gruyere, grated, freshly and in large pieces
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano finely grated
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- fleur de sel to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 Celsius).
- Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the elbow pasta to al dente, but no more. Drain and set aside. Toss with 1 tsp of olive oil to prevent from sticking together. Set aside while you make the sauce.
- Make the béchamel sauce: In a medium sauce pan over low heat, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, gradually add the flour, whisking as you add until smooth. Then add the milk and cream. Whisk until smooth and slightly thickening. Lastly, add the Gruyere and and whisk until smooth and all is combined. Sauce should become thick. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Use a medium souffle pan or 8×8 casserole dish. Place the pasta in the pan/dish. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and mix until tossed and all elbow pasta has sauce.
- In a dry skillet, add the panko and butter over med-low heat. Lightly toast the panko or stir with a wooden spoon (not to brown, but to add flavor from the butter). Toss consistently so as not to burn. Using a food processor, combine the panko breadcrumbs and Parmigiana Reggiano. Sprinkle on top of the pasta and sauce, evenly and don't be stingy.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Top should be golden brown. Serve immediately and enjoy with a side of roasted vegetables and a glass of wine.
~Find more TSLL Recipes in the Archives