I have been working on finding and perfecting a great macaroni and cheese recipe for over a year, and THIS IS IT! I started off by trying out several different recipes, and after doing so, I decided that Barefoot Contessa’s was the closest to what I was trying to achieve. I then made her recipe over and over again, making changes and improvements each time. The first change I made was to remove the fresh tomatoes. I’m sure that some people appreciate the tomatoes, but I just wanted a really good “regular” mac and cheese. The next change I made was to switch the fresh white bread crumbs to fresh bread crumbs made from crusty French bread.
At that point, I served it for dinner while my mom was here visiting during the holidays. Everybody loved it, but my mom suggested that it might be better if there was more of the cheese sauce. She was right, but with all of the different ingredients in the sauce and their different measurements, I decided it would be easier to just decrease the amount of macaroni rather than increase the amount of sauce. Instead of using an entire pound of macaroni, I now use just 3/4 of a pound. This last change made it creamier and definitely better.
Recipe by Barefoot Contessa/Heavily Adapted by Winner Dinners
Serves about 6
1-1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs made from French bread
3/4 pound large elbow macaroni
12 ounces (3/4 pound) Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces (1/2 pound) extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)
4 cups milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Prepare the bread crumbs by placing chunks of French bread in a blender and processing until the crumbs are fine. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 375. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling water. Add the macaroni and cook for about 7 minutes. Drain well. Meanwhile, grate the cheeses and set aside.
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. While cooking, add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Turn off the heat and add the Gruyere and Cheddar. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 9×13 baking dish. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with the fresh bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top of the macaroni. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the bread crumbs are lightly browned.