Source: Cook's Illustrated's New Best Recipe
CI's Notes: It's crucial to cook the pasta until tender--just past the "al dente" stage. In fact, overcooking is better than undercooking the pasta. Whole, low-fat, and skim milk all work well in this recipe. The recipe can be halved and baked in an 8-inch-square, broilersafe baking dish. If desired, offer celery salt or hot sauce (such as Tabasco) for sprinkling at the table.
Serves 6 to 8, or 10 to 12 as a side
Bread Crumb Topping
6 slices white sandwich bread (good-quality, about 6 ounces), torn into rough pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 6 pieces
Pasta and Cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon table salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered mustard (I use at least 2 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
5 cups milk (see note) (I used skim milk and it worked beautifully)
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese , shredded (2 cups)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese , shredded (2 cups)
1 teaspoon table salt
Note: I often skip the breadcrumb part and just do a stovetop mac and cheese. Still very good and it's faster and uses less dishes.
1. For the bread crumbs: Pulse bread and butter in food processor until crumbs are no larger than 1/8 inch, ten to fifteen 1-second pulses. Set aside.
2. For the pasta and cheese: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is tender. Drain pasta and set aside in colander.
3. In now-empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming. (At this point I often add 2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed with the side of a knife.) Add flour, mustard, and cayenne (if using) and whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 teaspoon salt until cheeses are fully melted. Add pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.
4. Transfer mixture to broiler-safe 9-by 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs. Broil until crumbs are deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, rotating pan if necessary for even browning. Cool about 5 minutes, then serve.
I talked about this recipe HERE.