I'm going to be honest with you, I really really love the mac and cheese that comes out of the blue box. I really think that it's delicious. So when I tell you that THIS mac and cheese trumps that one, you definitely get the idea of how DELICIOUS this one is, right?
So creamy, cheesy, crunchy from the crouton topping. I am hooked! It does take a little bit of work but it is so worth it. I'm already thinking of the next time I'll get to eat this again.
What makes this recipe so special, from my absolute favorite lady (after Oprah, of course) on earth, is the mornay sauce. Whisking in the cheese into the bechamel creates a nice rich and creamy sauce. I added a little extra flavor to Martha's recipe, my favorite ingredient, Bacon. The bacon not only adds the most delicious smoky flavor but also a nice texture, that extra crunch along with the crouton.
If you have the time (and I know you do), do yourself and everyone else a favor by making mac and cheese from scratch. I made one with and without bacon. I definitely loved the one with the bacon a little bit more. So, you can leave out the bacon, if you want (but why would you though??!).
Bacon Mac and Cheese
adapted from Martha Stewart
1 stick (113g) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 1/2 cups (about 18 oz) grated white sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups (8oz) grated gruyere
1 pound elbow macaroni
4 slices thick bacon
4 cloves garlic, smashed
If using bacon, cut bacon slices into bits and fry on medium-low heat until crispy. Strain and reserve bacon grease.
Preheat oven to 200C/375F. Butter a 9x13 inch pan and set aside (or 3-quart casserole dish). Place the bread in a medium bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Pour melted butter over the bread, toss evenly and set aside.
Warm the milk in a medium saucepan, add garlic cloves. Melt remaining butter over medium-heat and when it starts to bubble, add the flour. Cook, stirring for 1 minute.
Remove garlic cloves from milk. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk to the butter and flour mixture, a little at a time. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes smooth and thick, 8 to 12 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and add 3 cups of the white cheddar, 1 1/2 cups of the gruyere, salt, freshly ground black pepper, nutmeg, cayenne and reserved bacon grease, if using. Set the cheese sauce aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook macaroni for 2 to 3 minutes, until the outside is cooked and inside is slightly underdone. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir in the macaroni into the cheese sauce.
Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheeses and breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Top with crispy bacon bits. Transfer dish to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes before serving.