serves: 6 - 8
Macaroni and cheese has to be one of the quintessential American comfort foods. To most it brings back fuzzy memories of a childhood family table. Even Thomas Jefferson had a thing or two to say about this dish. He ordered a macaroni making machine and instructed the cook to liberally use cheese on the pasta and bake like a casserole. It appears this “macaroni” was more similar to the spaghetti of today. I can’t help but think that roots of this dish are Italian. So, as a lot of the recipes for macaroni and cheese you might have eaten would have some form of roux, cooked flour and milk, here I give you a recipe for this dish as an Italian in Italy would make it. A simply delicious rendition.
3 cups grated fontina
5 cups grated cheddar
4 cups milk
1 3 to 4-inch piece day old Italian bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
2 cups grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 large fresh sage leaves
1 pound pipette
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. In a large bowl, combine fontina and cheddar. Pour milk over. Let cheese sit in the milk for 30 minutes to an hour, until the cheese begins to break down and dissolve into the milk.
Grate bread on the coarse holes of a box grater to get about 1 1/2 cups coarse crumbs. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter. When butter is melted, add breadcrumbs. Stir and toss the crumbs until crisp and toasted, about 3 minutes. Scrape crumbs into a bowl and let cool. Butter a large baking dish and coat the bottom and sides with a thin layer of some of the crumbs. Stir 1 cup of the grated Grana or Parmigiano into remaining crumbs.
Pour cheese and milk into a pot and add the sage leaves. Whisk over medium-low heat until cheese melts, about 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 cup grated Grana or Parmigiano. Meanwhile, add pipette to boiling water. Cook until very al dente (3 or 4 minutes shy of package cooking time) and drain. Return pasta to pot. Add cheese sauce and stir until all of the pasta is coated with the sauce. Scrape pasta into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Bake until browned and bubbly, about 20 minutes.