Top Tier Mac & Cheese
Who doesn't love Mac & Cheese? I don't know anyone.. and if you don't, well we probably can't be friends. I'm always trying different versions of Mac & Cheese, there are so many different options with respect to flavors. I'm often disappointed when I order it in a restaurant, but there are some exceptions that pleasantly surprise me. There are a few important attributes for the best Mac & cheese. It has to be creamy, the cheese must be ooey and gooey, loads of flavor, and it has to have a nice browned crust on top. This recipe is at the top of the list for me and I hope you enjoy it too.
6 tbsp. butter, divided
2 large sweet yellow onions, thinly sliced, I used vidalia
8 oz. pasta - I used medium shells, but you can use a curly pasta as well
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 cup cream
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup grated fontina cheese
2 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup grated sharp white cheddar
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush 4 to 6 ramekins (depending on size) or one large baking dish with butter.
-In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally. Cook for approximately 30 minutes or until the onions are caramelized to your liking.
-Cook Pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package instructions until al dente. Drain pasta.
-In a medium saucepan, melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Add flour and cook, stirring 1 minute. while whisking, slowly pour in milk and cream until combined. Bring to boil and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring until sauce is thickened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the mustard. Then stir in Fontina, 1 cup of the Gruyere, and cheddar until cheese is melted. Remove from the heat, stir in the pasta, caramelized onions, cayenne. Season with salt and pepper.
-Melt remaining tablespoon of butter and incorporate into the breadcrumbs. Stir in the fresh thyme, salt, pepper, and if you like you can add a bit more cayenne depending on your taste.
-Divide the mixture among ramekins and top each with remaining gruyere, followed by bread crumbs. Bake until sauce is bubbly around the edges, and the bread crumbs are brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- I know that you will be tempted to taste this right away... but don't!! Let it cool first and enjoy.