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It's crucial to cook the pasta until tender--just past the "al dente" stage. In fact, overcooking is better than undercooking the pasta. Whole, low-fat and skim milk all work well in this recipe. The recipe can be halved and baked in an 8-inch-square, broilersafe baking dish. If desired, offer celery salt or hot sauce (such as Tabasco) for sprinkling at the table.
- For the Bread Crumb Topping:
- 6 slices white sandwich bread (good-quality, about 6 ounces), torn into rough pieces
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 6 pieces
- For the Pasta and Cheese:
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 1 tablespoon table salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 5 cups milk
- 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese shredded (2 cups)
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded (2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon table salt
FOR THE BREAD CRUMBS:
Pulse the bread and butter in a food processor until crumbs are no larger than 1/8 inch, ten to fifteen 1-second pulses. Set aside.
FOR THE PASTA AND CHEESE:
Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the broiler. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add the macaroni and
1 tablespoon salt; cook until the pasta is tender. Drain the pasta and set aside in a colander.
In the now-empty Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add the flour, mustard and cayenne (if using) and whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until the mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about
1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk; bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly (the mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the cheeses and
1 teaspoon salt until the cheeses are fully melted. Add the pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to broiler-safe 9 by 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle evenly with the breadcrumbs. Broil until the crumbs are a deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary for even browning. Cool about 5 minutes, then serve.
Recipe reprinted by permission of America's Test Kitchen. All rights reserved.
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