This is classic comfort food at its best. I have made this dish for everything from Christmas dinner to kid’s parties and it is always a hit. It is from the cookbook Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten and it remains my most requested recipe.
Some time last year, Ina Garten published two variations of this recipe in her House Beautiful column. One involves adding blue cheese and bacon and the other involves adding lobster. I tried both, and while these are great flavors, our verdict was that the original recipe is still the best.
The only downside of this dish is that it does not reheat very well. The cheese sauce separates and becomes oily instead of creamy. If you are serving a crowd this will not be a problem because it will all get eaten. If you are serving a smaller group I would recommend cutting the recipe in half or baking off only individual servings.
This dish can be made ahead and refrigerated. Increase the baking time to 40-50 minutes.
Mac & Cheese
from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten
1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 pound fresh tomatoes (4 small)
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)
Preheat the oven to 375 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 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) 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 two more, until thickened and smooth.
Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.
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