With autumn finally upon us, it’s time for comfort food and stretchy pants. The slow cooker and sweaters are out of storage, and you’re planning the hearty recipes you’ve been dreaming about all summer. What should be topping that list? This classic mac and cheese recipe. Mac and cheese is most definitely my go-to meal: after all, how do you beat pasta and cheese? On the other hand, it’s a dish that can easily go wrong, and no one likes a runny mac and cheese. My classic mac and cheese uses a béchamel base that ensures thick creamy sauce, and can be mixed and matched with any pasta shape or cheese combo you like.
CLASSIC MAC AND CHEESE
serves 6 - 8
½ each yellow onion
7 each whole cloves
4 c whole milk
1 each bay leaf
1 Tbs kosher salt
½ tsp ground white pepper
1 lb pasta, shape of your choice
½ c unsalted butter
½ c flour
3 c/12 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 c/8 oz fontina, grated
Stud the onion by piercing the cut-side of the onion with the stems of the cloves. Place the studded onion in a medium pot with the milk, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Let flavors infuse over the lowest heat possible, without simmering, at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Bring a heavily-salted pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente, according to package instructions.
Strain the infused milk into a large sauté pan, discarding the aromatics, then add the butter and flour, and bring the heat up to medium. Whisk often to allow the sauce to become smooth and thicken, about 10-12 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough that the whisk leaves a trail in the sauce. Turn off the heat.
Preheat a high broiler.
Keep aside about ½ cup of grated cheese, and stir the rest into your sauce base. When the cheese is melted, stir in pasta, then sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top.
Place under the broiler until golden and bubbling, and serve immediately.