As the cold weather settles in and I am trading my pedicured toes and flip flops in for ugly feet in socks and uggs, I am also trading our weeknight meals of grilled chicken in for comfort meals like macaroni & cheese and soup. As I debate how we can move out of this freezing cold state without losing our jobs, I will try and comfort myself with my new heated steering wheel in my car and lots of comfort food. If you get the winter blues as the season changes from crisp sweatshirt weather to abnormal cold and dark afternoons, then try this gourmet mac n cheese. It is unlike any have tried and it is incredibly rich and creamy. Serve with a salad and you’ve got an inviting winter dinner to lift your spirits.
1 pound cavatappi
1 quart milk (4 cups)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water liberally. Add the cavatappi and cook according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta.
3. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked pasta and stir well. Pour into a 9 by 13 casserole dish.
4. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the panko bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the cavatappi is browned on the top.
Serves 6-8 people. Adapted from Ina Garten’s Macaroni & Cheese