Boys will be boys

Wednesday night I had five men over for dinner. It was, of course, a business dinner for my husband. And, it was super easy to cook for. Because, truth be told, men are just big boys and they love the comfort food of their youth. And, if you can spice it up a bit- give it a little bit of adult flavor, they love it even more. Gourmet Mac and Cheese is the perfect dish for any guy…it’s the waist conscience girls that balk.

What makes this Mac and Cheese special? For starters, the creamy richness of this dish sets it apart. This is no bought in a box Mac and Cheese. This is the real deal, made with whole milk and butter. And, the generous use of good cheese and spices take this old favorite to a new level. The nuttiness of an aged Gruyere coupled with the tang of a sharp Cheddar, with a dusting of cayenne and nutmeg thrown in for good measure, create a dish that is sophisticated enough to please the palate of any gourmet yet still makes you feel like you are six. Every time I make this I half expect to hear “Mom, is there any more?” from the guests at the table. And, while the “Mom” part might get left out- there are rarely leftovers when all is said and done!

Gourmet Mac and Cheese

Serves 10-12 as a side
Salt
Olive oil
1 lb penne pasta
1 quart whole milk
6 T. butter
½ c flour
16 oz gruyere, grated
16 oz cheddar, grated
1 t. freshly ground pepper
½ t. nutmeg
½ t. cayenne
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional, but oh, so good)

Preheat oven to 375.

Butter or PAM a 9”x13” casserole dish.

Drizzle oil in large boiling pot of salted water. Add pasta and cook until al dente (remember that the pasta will bake in the oven so I purposely under cook it). Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan but don’t boil it. Melt butter in a large pot and add the flour. Cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, over low heat for 2-3 min. Add the hot milk and cook, continuing to stir constantly, for several more minutes until sauce is thick and smooth. Remove from heat and add nutmeg, pepper and cayenne. Add half the cheddar and gruyere and stir until combined. Add pasta and mix.

Place the pasta mixture in a 9” x 13” casserole, cover with remaining cheese and bacon. (Note: Can be made up to a day ahead until this point. If doing so, refrigerate and add 10 minutes to baking time.) Bake for 30-35 minutes.

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One Comment

  1. Alison Rhoad
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 9:08 am | Permalink | Reply

    I will definitely try this. I use the Barilla recipe….but tweaked…I cook the pasta in the milk! Makes it so creamy!

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