May is an epic month in terms of social gatherings. I unearthed myself from studying for finals and writing papers and was thrown into a whirlwind of social occasions. Of course, the first Saturday of May is the Kentucky Derby as well as our friend’s wine and cheese tasting party. Appropriately, Joe and I got all decked out for Derby. I had a hat on earlier in the evening but traded it out for a headband when we got to the wine tasting.
Believe me, it feels very good for my extroverted self to see people again. The friends that host the wine tasting party are extremely generous and hospitable, and because we were the last guests to leave, we ended up taking home a few of the 40 (!!!) cheeses he had out for us to taste. All kinds of Swiss cheeses, pecorino romano, and one potent blue cheese came home with us, and I really didn’t need to eat all of it. Joe voted via text for gourmet mac & cheese for dinner, so I opted to adapt Ina Garten’s famous Gourmet Mac & Cheese recipe by eliminating the bacon and using the fancy cheeses I had on hand.
Safe to say, this is one of the richest dishes I’ve ever made. I almost skipped the basil breadcrumb topping, but I’m very glad I didn’t because the crunchy topping further accentuated the creaminess of the mac & cheese. And the basil happened to complement the flavor of the bleu cheese perfectly. I’m very thankful for generous friends, the crazy social whirlwind that is May, and 8 mile runs on hills to help me burn off delicious dishes like this one!
Grown-Up Mac & Cheese
adapted from Ina Garten
Yield 7-8 servings
- Vegetable oil
- Kosher salt
- 2 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi
- 1 1/2 cups milk (I subbed soy milk with no problem)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 ounces Appenzeller cheese, grated
- 3 ounces Comte cheese, grated
- 2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch nutmeg
- 2 ounces white sandwich bread, crusts removed
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium 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 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the cheeses, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into 7-8 ramekins.
Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.