Farmstead's Cheesemonger's Mac 'n' Cheese
Matthew Jennings, La Laiterie at Farmstead, Providence, Rhode Island
This is our iconic mac 'n' cheese from La Laiterie at Farmstead. It has the requisite oozy, gooey, cheesy characteristics, but it is elevated by the use of a great sharp Cheddar, earthy and sweet Gruyëre, creamy, piquant ripe Brie, and some good penne pasta. Bake with the crusty breadcrumb top, and heaven awaits.
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyëre cheese
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated very sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
1 1/2 cups diced rindless ripe Brie (cut from 1-pound wedge)
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon (scant) nutmeg
1 quart whole milk
1 3/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
1 pound penne pasta
The Cheese: Mix all the cheeses in a large bowl; set aside 1 cup for topping the casserole. In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until mixture turns golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add the thyme and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in the milk. Simmer over low heat until thickened and smooth, stirring often-about 4 minutes. Add cheeses from the large bowl. Stir until melted and smooth.
The Breadcrumbs: Melt remaining tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toss. Stir and pan-toast until golden-about 2 minutes. Set aside.
The Pasta: Heat oven to 375°F. Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender but firm in center. Drain. Transfer to large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over and mix well. Divide mixture among eight 1 1/4-cup custard cups. Sprinkle each with some of the reserved cup of cheese. Place custard cups on rimmed baking sheet. (The recipe can be prepared up to this point one day ahead. Cover with foil and chill. Store breadcrumbs in an airtight container. If chilled, reheat pasta by missing each with a teaspoon of cream, covering with foil, and warming in oven 15 minutes.)
To Serve: Sprinkle warm pasta and cheese with breadcrumbs. Bake until mixture begins to bubble and tops are golden, about 20 minutes.