Cheese, a butter crunch, pasta. These three combined ingredients create a wonderful comfort dish in so many different iterations, and today, I am sharing a classic that involves all three of these wonderful, delicious details in my French Mac & Cheese.
What makes it French, you may be wondering? It is the base of the béchamel sauce, one of the classic five Mother Sauces as Georges Auguste Escoffier coined the distinction that remains fundamental to the basics of classic French cuisine. And in today’s episode, I will walk you through all five sauces and explain each.
Along with the basics of the béchamel sauce which is simply butter, flour and milk, we will be topping our macaroni & cheese with a twice baked topping that adds even more cheese and a lovely, buttery and nutty crunch which pairs well with the cheesy, yumminess of the baked Mac & cheese that hides beneath.
Today’s recipe is one I enjoy making on those days when it is perhaps a little chilly outside or I just need some ‘warmth and simplicity’ and lovely, cozy reminders of what I enjoyed eating as a child (albeit it was out of a box when I was a child, and I ate every bite ☺️). But today’s recipe needs no box, only simple ingredients and a little know-how and you will be making this recipe in your sleep when you too want to cozy-in and enjoy some classic comfort food, French style.
Between the topping that is toasted before it goes in the oven, so twice baked, and the larger macaroni pieces, this traditional macaroni & cheese is decadent and ideal comfort food.
Choosing an overly large macaroni noodle makes each bite quite grand and holds sooooo much more cheese. That is a definitely, ‘yes, please’ in my book.
Now to the episode! I do hope you enjoy.
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Links shared during the episode:
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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.
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