Maccheroni al forno con pangrattato
Macaroni and cheese (a.k.a. mac and cheese) is a widespread and popular dish throughout English-speaking countries, including Caribbean countries where it is known as "macaroni pie." Sometimes made on the stovetop and sometimes baked, the version made in the U.S., with cheddar cheese, originates in England.
But baked pasta casseroles are, of course, very Italian as well, existing in countless variations and usually incorporating cheese. This baked macaroni in a besciamella (simple white sauce) and cheese sauce is topped with bread crumbs before baking, for extra golden-brown crunch.
This recipe can be made with any type of short, tube-shaped pasta and you can add extra ingredients as your fancy strikes you; in fact, it's a great way to use up leftovers.
- 10 ounces (300 grams) macaroni, elbow macaroni, penne, ziti, rigatoni, or any other short dried pasta
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup (30 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk, preferably not too cold
- A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
- 3/4 cup (60 grams) grated hard/aged Fontina, Gruyère, Comté, or Emmental (Swiss) cheese
- 1/2 cup (40 grams) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1 cup if using a fine Microplane grater)
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- Fine sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Boil the macaroni in abundant salted water just until al dente (7-12 minutes, depending on the type of pasta you are using). Drain well, rinse in cold water, drain well again and set aside.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) and make the besciamella (white sauce):
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
When it's melted, whisk in the flour. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent lumps and burning, until the roux (flour-and-butter mixture) is just slightly golden brown and has a nutty scent, 1-2 minutes.
Gently whisk in the milk whisking continuously to prevent lumps.
Continue cooking until the mixture starts to thicken, another 1-2 minutes.
Stir in the grated cheeses, a little at a time, until they are completely melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You have made a Mornay sauce (besciamella sauce with cheese).
Stir in the cooked macaroni and toss until evenly coated.
Transfer the macaroni to an 11-inch by 7-inch baking dish. Pat the macaroni down with the back of a spatula or wooden spoon so that it is compact and of even height.
Sprinkle the top generously with bread crumbs and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the top is crisp and golden-brown.