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Mac and Cheese au Gratin

Rich and creamy mac and cheese, with a panko bread crumb topping! Bountiful amounts of three cheeses...cheddar for sharpness, gruyere for depth of flavor, and parmesan for the topping! The textures and flavors are beautiful. Use cheeses of your choice to make it your own!

Prep Time: 30 minutes Yield: 6-8 servings


16 ounces of cooked pasta, elbow used here, after boiling, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water from the cooked pasta to add to sauce*

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/3 cup unsalted butter

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup pasta water *

4 cups chilled whole milk

4 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese - divided (1 cup reserved for panko topping)

2 cups freshly shredded gruyere cheese

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

a scant few grains of cayenne pepper (optional)

Panko Topping

Mix together:

1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup of reserved cheddar cheese

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and return to original pot, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooked pasta water to use in the cheese sauce. Stir olive oil into the pasta to coat it until mixed with the sauce.

While pasta is cooking, make the sauce, and PREHEAT OVEN to 375 degrees.

In a large heavy bottomed large saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter, then vigorously whisk in the flour. Whisk and cook for a minute, then add the pasta water and 1 cup of the milk. Whisk well to incorporate, then add the other 3 cups of milk. Cook, whisking regularly, until sauce is the consistency of heavy cream, approximately 4-6 minutes. The sauce is perfect when it coats the back of a spoon. Reduce the heat slightly if sauce begins to vigorously bubble. Add in 3 cups of the cheddar cheese, the 2 cups gruyere, then remove from heat. Continue stirring to incorporate the cheese. Sti in the white pepper, paprika, and cayenne.

Pour the sauce into the cooked pasta and stir well. Transfer mixture to 6-8 greased ramekins or au gratin dishes. Sprinkle the panko mixture on top of the pasta. Place on baking sheet. Cook for 20 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbly. Remove from oven, adjust oven rack to broil setting, and broil for an additional minute, watching it carefully so it doesn't burn.

Remove from oven, remove from baking sheet, cool slightly, then serve!

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