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Classic Macaroni and Cheese

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Classic Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

   For the bechamel:
    4 cups whole milk
    8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
    ½ cup all-purpose flour
    1 tablespoon kosher salt

   2 tablespoons salt
   1 pound dry elbow macaroni
   3 cups grated aged sharp cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
   1 cup grated gruyere cheese
   Salt and pepper to taste
   1 cup panko (optional)

Procedure

For the bechamel:  In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over high heat, turn off heat and set aside.  In a large heavy pot, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the flour, stirring contantly until the mixture turns light brown, about three minutes.  Turn heat down to low and whisk in the hot milk, adding it graudally until the mixture coats the back of a spoon about 2 minutes; add salt and remove from heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Add about 2 tablespoons of salt and bring back to a boil.  Add the macaroni and cook until tender (about 10 minutes).  Drain and set aside.

Put the bechamel sauce back on medium heat and add the cheeses; stil until melted and smooth.  Add the pasta and stir until heated through.  Serve immediately.

Optional:  Preheat oven to 400°F.  Butter a 5-quart casserole. Spoon the macaroni mixture into the dish.  Sprinkle the panko over the top and bake until heated through, about 10-15 minutes.  Serve immediately.

To make ahead of time:  Make the dish up to the point of adding the panko; reserve panko until ready to bake.  Cover and refrigerate the dish for up to 24 hours.  Remove from the refrigerator, sprinkle with reserved panko and bake in a preheated 400° oven until heated through, about 20 to 25 minutes.

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