Friday, December 19, 2008

Macaroni & Three Cheeses

6 T unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound medium pasta shells
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
4 cups whole milk
4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (1 cup)
4 ounces Havarti cheese, coarsely grated (1 cup)
4 ounces Muenster cheese, coarsely grated (1 cup)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 slices white sandwich bread (or Struan bread)

Variation: Add 6 slices of bacon, cut into halves or thirds crosswise, to the water to boil the pasta and discard when the pasta is done.

Preparing the macaroni and three cheeses:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Butter a shallow 4-quart baking dish (oval or 9-by-13-inch rectangle); set aside.

Generously salt boiling water; add pasta. Cook, according to package instructions, until 2 minutes short of al dente. Drain pasta, and return to pot.

While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium. Transfer 2 tablespoons melted butter to a small bowl; set aside for topping. Add flour and mustard powder to remaining butter in saucepan. Cook, whisking, 1 minute (do not let flour darken). Whisk in milk. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until sauce is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove sauce from heat. Gradually whisk in cheeses; add Worcestershire sauce, and season generously with salt and pepper. Add sauce to pasta, and toss to combine; transfer to prepared baking dish.

Place bread in food processor; pulse until very coarse crumbs form (you should have about 3 cups). Add reserved melted butter, and pulse just to moisten. Scatter crumbs over pasta in baking dish. (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.)

Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until topping is golden and sauce is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. (If refrigerated, bake for 30 to 35 minutes.) Cool 5 minutes before serving.


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