I tried yet another mac & cheese recipe. This one had a Mornay sauce, plus an air of authority because it comes from Martha Stewart (but has been simplified over at Food 52). My main problem with this recipe is that it makes too much – more than announced, really. My big baking dish filled up, and I ended up using a disposable 8-inch-square baking dish in addition (I froze the latter for another time). It makes a total of about 12 servings. I used more Gruyère and less cheddar than the recipe calls for, to accommodate the size of my cheese packages, but this made for a somewhat bland dish (I only used a pinch of cayenne pepper). Next time, I’d use more cheddar, and make it extra sharp; I’d also reduce the amounts, or plan ahead and make sure I’ve got disposable cookware that I can store in the freezer for a while (it was a fluke that I had some here, and that’s only because I couldn’t find a glass baking dish of that size). I did like the sauce, and the addition of bread cubes on top helps make it different. It was a good dish, and the Engineer, who is a mac & cheese connoisseur, really likes it.
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, plus more for dish
6 slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn or diced into ¼- to ½-inch pieces
5 ½ cups lactose-free milk
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
4 ½ cups grated lactose-free sharp (or extra sharp) white cheddar cheese (about 18 oz.), divided
2 cups grated lactose-free Gruyère cheese (about 8 oz.) or 1 ¼ cups grated lactose-free Pecorino Romano cheese (about 5 oz.), divided
1 lb. elbow macaroni (or other small pasta shape)
Heat oven to 375 °F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. (I recommend using a second dish as well, one that you can spare and keep in the freezer.)
Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp. butter (alternately, melt butter in the microwave). Pour butter into bowl with bread, and toss. Set breadcrumbs aside. Pull out 1 ½ cups of grated cheddar, and ½ cup Gruyère or ¼ cup Pecorino Romano, and reserve.
Fill a large pot with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. In the same pot you used for boiling the pasta, melt remaining 6 Tbsp. butter over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.
While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 ½ cups Gruyère or 1 cup Pecorino Romano. Stir reserved macaroni into the cheese sauce.
Pour mixture into prepared dish(es). Sprinkle remaining 1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, ½ cup Gruyère or ¼ cup Pecorino Romano, and breadcrumbs over top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. If after 30 minutes it isn’t browned to your liking, broil the topping rather than leaving it in the oven, which may cause the pasta to overcook and the sauce to dry out. Transfer dish to a wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Serve hot.