Deborah Madison flavors the sauce for her macaroni and cheese with onion, bay leaf, garlic, and thyme and bakes it with Cheddar, Gruyère, Emmenthal, and fresh mozzarella. You can prepare it up to a day ahead of time and bake it when you're ready. Since fruit compliments cheese, Madison suggests pairing the dish with a fruit condiment (sweet-and-sour quinces, dried fruit, or apple-pear chutney) and a medium-bodied, fruit-forward Zinfandel.
- 3 cups milk
- Aromatics: 1 onion slice, 1 bay leaf, 1 garlic clove, 1 small pinch of thyme
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 cups grated cheeses: a sharp, aged Cheddar, aged Gruyère. and/or Emmenthal
- 1 or 2 rounds fresh mozzarella cheese, halved and sliced (optional)
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Cook the macaroni in the boiling salted water until al dente and then drain. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
Melt the butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Stir in the flour, then pour the hot milk through a strainer all at once into the roux. Whisk briskly until the sauce is thickened, then cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper.
Put the macaroni in the baking dish, then pour over the sauce and add the cheese(s). Mix together, even the surface, cover with bread crumbs, and wipe down the sides of the dish. Bake, uncovered, until bubbling throughout and golden on top, 25 to 35 minutes.