- Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups dry orecchiette
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1/3 (1.7 ounces) cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 cup long-cooking grits
- 4 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
- 6 cups milk, divided
- 1/2 pound okra, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 8 ounces grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 cups fresh bread crumbs (I used brioche)
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Bring 2 quarts water with 2 tablespoons salt to a rolling boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add orecchiette and cook until barely al dente (follow package instructions for timing). Drain and toss with olive oil. Set aside.
Melt 1/3 cup butter In large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add flour and nutmeg cook, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until light blond, about 3 minutes. Stir in grits and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Slowly add 3 cups milk in steady stream, whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 7 minutes.
Add okra, remaining milk, and cheese to mixture. Whisk until smooth and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in cooked orecchiette.
Pour mixture into greased 9 by 13 baking dish. Apply the bread crumbs to top of the baking dish and dot with remaining butter. Bake until golden brown on top and bubbling, about 40 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.