Perfect Mac N Cheese
8 tablespoons (½ cup or 1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for dish
1 - small shallot, fine dice
1 or 2 - large cloves garlic, thinly sliced - OR - fine mince
½ - cup AP flour
5 ½ - cups +/- WHOLE milk
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ - teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ - teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 - cups +/- grated cheese*
1-pound macaroni; I prefer Orecchiette, Elbow is traditional
2 TBS salt for pasta water
½ cup Panko bread crumbs plus ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano - combined
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling top
Preheat oven to 375*
1. In large pasta pot cook pasta according to package directions, stopping 1-2 minutes less than called for (it will finish cooking in oven).
2. Butter sides and bottom of a medium casserole dish; set aside. Heat milk in saucepan over medium heat, just to simmer.
3. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook until just softened - about 1-2 minutes. Add flour and cook - stirring constantly for approximately 1-2 minutes (blond roux).
4. Slowly pour milk into roux while whisking constantly. Continue cooking and whisking just until mixture becomes thick.
5. Reduce heat; add all seasonings, whisking to combine. Add cheese and whisk until thoroughly melted / combined. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set mixture aside briefly to cool slightly.
6. In a large bowl combine pasta and sauce, stirring thoroughly to combine. Transfer to casserole dish and top with Panko / Parm mixture. Drizzle liberally with Olive Oil.
7. Place in oven and cook until top is golden brown and cheese begins to "bubble".
8. Remove from oven and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 - 20 minutes prior to serving. Serve with extra sauce if desired.
9. Bon Appétit!!
* Experiment with different cheese combinations - I like Sharp Cheddar / Manchego (sheep's milk) / Gruyere, topped with the Parm - YUM! For extra creaminess you can substitute 1-cup heavy cream for 1-cup milk, and / or add ¼ cup Mascarpone.