Serves 6 to 8
Macaroni and cheese has to be one of the quintessential American comfort foods. To most people 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 use cheese liberally on the pasta and bake it like a casserole. It appears that this “macaroni” was more similar to the spaghetti of today. A lot of the versions of macaroni and cheese that you may have eaten would have had some form of cream sauce or roux, but here I’ll 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
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound pipette (elbow macaroni is commonly used for this dish in America, but I suggest using pipette, a pasta that looks like a bent pipe)
- 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
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss the fontina and cheddar in a large bowl. Pour the milk over the cheese, and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour, until the cheese begins to break down and dissolve into the milk.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. Once it is boiling, pour the pipette into the water and cook until just al dente (3 or 4 minutes shy of package cooking time). Drain, and return the pasta to the pot.
Grate the bread on the coarse holes of a box grater to get about 1 1/2 cups coarse crumbs. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When it is melted, stir in the bread crumbs, and toss until crisp and toasted, about 3 minutes. Scrape the crumbs into a bowl, and let cool. Butter a 15-by-10-inch baking dish, and coat the bottom and sides with a thin layer of some of the crumbs. Stir 1 cup of the grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano into the remaining crumbs.
Pour the cheese and milk into a pot set over medium-low heat, and whisk in the sage leaves. Cook until the cheese melts, about 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 cup grated cheese.
Pour the cheese sauce into the pasta pot, and stir until all of the pasta is coated with the sauce. Scrape the pasta into the baking dish, and sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs with cheese over the top. bake until browned and bubbly, about 20 minutes.