My Mmmmac’n’cheese (with variants)

A dish of homemade Mac’n’Cheese is a dish of love.

(original post)

Mac’N’Cheese with HAL’s Variants

1 pound elbow or penne pasta

4 c milk, heated
1 stick butter
1/2 c flour
1/2 medium onion, studded with 4-6 cloves
bay leaf
few grains cayenne or Aleppo pepper
1/8 tsp dry mustard

12 oz Swiss cheese, preferrably Gruyere, grated (4 cups)
8 oz cheddar, extra sharp, grated (2 cups) Note: you can use any combination of cheese, including blue, goat, Gouda, just as long as you have some good sharp cheddar and Gruyere which provide the necessary tang and flavor notes for mac’n’cheese.

1/2 tsp pepper (or less)
1 T salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 # tomatoes (4) sliced
2 T butter
1 1/2 c fresh bread crumbs (or Panko)
1/2 c Parmesan, grated
1/4 c. chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 375.

In a saucepan combine butter and flour, cook 3 minutes, then add hot milk, whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil and add clove studded onion, bay leaf, dry mustard and simmer on low, very slowly, for 20-30 minutes. Remove onion and bay leaf, make sure all cloves are removed as well. Add pepper, nutmeg and slowly stir in cheese until melted, do not boil. Taste for salt and add up to 1 T if needed.

Meanwhile, cook pasta 2 minutes less than package directions say and drain. Place in a large bowl.

Toss pasta gently with cheese sauce, pour into a casserole (or smaller casseroles). Top with sliced tomatoes.

Mix together bread crumbs, butter, parsley and sprinkle over pasta. Sprinkle on the Parmesan.

Bake 20-35 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

Allegedly, a pound of pasta serves 6-8, wow! Not in my house. Usually I put these into individual ramekins and smaller casseroles, like my darling flame red stoneware set from Le Crueset (thanks Rats!).

……

In case you want to jazz it up a bit, here is a variant:

Saute a pound of crimini mushrooms (or any combination of wild and/or cultivated mushrooms) on med-high heat until golden brown (don’t crowd pan), in 1/4 stick butter. Season with salt and pepper and reserve.

When pasta is cooked, toss with 1 T truffle oil, then add the cooked mushrooms.

Make the recipe for cheese sauce as above and follow the rest of the directions.
………

Yet another variant, my personal favorite:

Cook 1/2 pound diced bacon until browned and crisp.

When pasta is cooked and drained, toss with 1 T truffle oil. Add cooked bacon and mix well.

Make the recipe for cheese sauce as above and follow the rest of the directions.

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