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Almond-Crusted Macaroni and Cheese

Updated November 28, 2017
This image courtesy of Gentl & Hyers

Macaroni and cheese is one of the most notable American comfort foods, with a long, gooey, and yummy history. It was already on the menu at the White House during Thomas Jefferson’s administration; Jefferson even had the pasta imported from Italy. The addition of a crisp almond crust makes this warm, homey dish truly stupendous. This macaroni and cheese makes a great repository for bits of leftovers, such as ½ cup diced ham, a cup of steamed broccoli florets, or even a cup of sliced mushrooms, lightly sautéed in a little olive oil. Just mix any of them, or a combination of them, into the sauce when you are adding the pasta. If you like your mac and cheese with a little kick, add ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper with the salt.

Makes8 large servings

Preparation Time30 min

Cooking Time30 min

Cooking MethodBaking

CostModerate

Easy

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Game Day

Recipe CourseMain Course, Side Dish

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Halal, Kosher, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Vegetarian

EquipmentBaking/gratin Dish

MealDinner, Lunch

MoodBlue, Stressed, Tired

Taste and TextureCheesy, Creamy, Nutty, Savory

Type of DishCasserole, Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6 cups (24 ounces) shredded cheese of any kind, such as sharp cheddar, havarti, or a combination
  • 1 pound short pasta, such as elbows, medium shells, or farfalle
  • 1 cup (4½ ounces) finely chopped slivered almonds
  • ¾ cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme

Instructions

  1. You will need: One 9-by-13-inch gratin or casserole dish, lightly buttered

  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  3. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Add the bay leaves and set the pan over low heat. (If the milk starts to bubble around the edges, remove it from the heat.) Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Gradually whisk in the flour and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until smooth and bubbling, about 5 minutes. The butter-and-flour mixture will begin to stick to the bottom of the pan slightly; be careful not to let it scorch. Remove the bay leaves from the milk and gradually whisk the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and cook, stirring frequently and paying special attention to the bottom edges of the pan, until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the shredded cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Keep the sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is ready.

  4. Cook the pasta until al dente.

  5. Drain the pasta in a colander and add it to the sauce. Toss until thoroughly coated. Transfer the pasta and sauce to the gratin dish. Stir the almonds, breadcrumbs, and thyme together in a small bowl. Strew the mixture evenly over the top of the pasta. Bake until bubbly and browned, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

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