This is our canonical mac and cheese recipe — ooey-gooey but also complex in flavor. It's also easy to modify. Use different cheeses, layer in sliced tomatoes, swirl in a ribbon of pesto, or swap out the pasta for your own signature macaroni and cheese. Yields 10 to 12 servings.
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 large yellow onion
- ½ cup ground parmesan cheese
- ½ cup plain breadcrumbs
- 3 cups whole milk
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese
- 6 ounces cheddar cheese
- 6 ounces jarlsberg cheese
- 5 tablespoons butter, divided (1 + 4)
- 1 pound small shells or similar pasta
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- Scant ¹⁄₈ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Preheat an oven to 350°F. Peel and smash the garlic cloves. Large dice the onion. Grate the cheeses. Combine the parmesan with the breadcrumbs and set aside.
- In a saucepan, scald the milk on low along with the garlic cloves and thyme.
- Sauté the diced onion in 1 tablespoon butter with a big pinch of salt under just starting to color. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according the package directions, shorting it by 3 to 5 minutes. You want the pasta mostly cooked around the edges but still raw in the center. Once boiled, drain and rinse well under cold running water. Shake to remove as much water as possible.
- Once the milk has scalded, remove the garlic and thyme. In a large pot, cook the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and the flour over medium heat 2 minutes until it start smelling nutty. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the hot milk. Whisk frequently for 5 minutes, until the béchamel has thickened slightly, making sure to get the corners of the pot.
- Whisking constantly, add the nutmeg, mozzarella, cheddar, and Jarlsberg, a bit at a time. Once the last amount of cheese has been added, remove from the heat. Whisk in the onions.
- Combine the cheese sauce and pasta (either pasta into pot or pot into pasta) and toss very well. Be sure there are no bare spots.
- Turn out into a 9x13 or similar sized pan and sprinkle the parmesan breadcrumbs over evenly. Bake, uncovered for 25 minutes. Broil for 60 seconds, until the top has just charred. Serve hot.