It’s been one hot summer. In Israel, I feel like every summer people always say that it’s the hottest summer ever. I seem to recall the previous summers being just as hot and humid. It is the Middle East after all. Being pregnant in the summer has only made it that much more unbearable and the only relief I could find was either stuck inside with the air-con on full force or in the pool. Not many options for a girl who gets major cabin fever.
Being stuck in a home with the A/C on 24/7 can make one slightly confused during the summer. Instead of craving summery foods- light, fresh, fruity, I started to crave hearty wholesome, comfort foods more suited for a late October day. Growing up in America, comfort food to me equals macaroni and cheese. Being that my mom wasn’t much of the creative cook (sorry mom), I was left to devour Kraft’s 5 minute macaroni and cheese. I loved it as a kid, but I’ve tried it as an adult and it makes me cringe. I thought it was about time to make my own delicious recipe for the most comforting food around.
The best thing about this dish is that it reheats like a gem- nearly almost as good fresh out of the oven. It’s a great dish to make in the beginning of the week to have in your fridge all week long as leftovers (post about leftovers coming soon). I used cheddar and gruyere, but you could really use any cheese that melts well such as mozzarella or provolone. Definitely do a combination of cheeses; it adds depth to the flavor.
Ingredients for 6-8 servings:
½ stick (2 oz./60 grams) butter
3 slices white bread, day old, crusts removed and coarsely chopped
2¾ cups whole milk
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2½ cups (250 grams) cheddar, grated
2½ cups (250 grams) Gruyere, grated
½ pound (250 grams) elbow macaroni or small shells
2 medium tomatoes, sliced ⅛-inch thick
1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter an 8-inch by 8-inch (20 cm. by 20 cm.) baking dish and set aside. Place the bread pieces in a food processer and mix until small crumbs. Place bread crumbs in a small bowl.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the crumbs, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.
3. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter begins to bubble, gradually add the flour and stir for one minute until all flour is incorporated.
4. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk gradually into the skillet with the flour and butter. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8-10 minutes.
5. Remove the skillet from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 2 cups cheddar cheese, and 2 cups Gruyère; set the cheese sauce aside.
6. Meanwhile, cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni for 2-3 minutes, only until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is hard. Drain the pasta and rinse, rinse under cold running water. Stir the macaroni into the cheese sauce.
7. Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup Gruyère. Place the tomato slices over and the cheese and then evenly spread the breadcrumbs over the tomatoes. Bake until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, serve hot.