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Roasted Garlic Macaroni and Cheese
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It’s taken me 4 years, 4 months and 18 days to publish a recipe for macaroni and cheese. That’s 1,602 days or 38,448 hours. And that, my fellow noodle gurus, is outrageous. I can assure you it’s not for a lack of pasta passion. I’ve dabbled in the Cacio e Pepe, gotten my layer on with Lasagna Bolognese, whisked (and drank) my way to Penne Vodka, but nowhere in that flurry of culinary chaos did I even contemplate the comfort food to end all comfort foods: macaroni and cheese.
The debut of this iconic dish merited more than a classic preparation. Someone cue the whole head of roasted garlic. Yes, a whole gargantuan head of garlic that’s roasted, mashed and then whisked into the easiest, cheesiest cheddar sauce.
Outrageous ideas often have rewarding outcomes. And unlike my decision to cut blunt bangs 3 months ago (how does Zooey Deschanel even see where she’s walking?), this not only sounded like a good idea, but actually proved to be a good idea, bite after creamy bite.
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Roasted Garlic Macaroni and Cheese
For crumb topping:
- 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 cups Panko Japanese bread crumbs
- 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives
For pasta and sauce:
- 1 head garlic
- Olive oil
- 1 pound uncooked pasta (such as cavatappi, shells or rigatoni)
- 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 5 cups whole milk
- 5 1/2 cups coarsely shredded cheddar cheese (white, yellow or a mix of both)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Make the crumb topping:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and chives, stirring to combine. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until toasted slightly. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Make the pasta and sauce:
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Slice the top one-third off the head of garlic. Place the bottom portion on a piece of foil, drizzle it with olive oil, and season it with salt and pepper. Place the top portion back on the head of garlic and crumple the foil to create a sealed packet. Roast the garlic for 30 minutes.
Remove the roasted garlic from the oven and squeeze the cloves into a bowl. Using a fork, mashing the cloves into a paste. Set aside.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Butter a 13x9-inch shallow baking dish.
In a large, heavy saucepot (such as a Dutch oven), melt 1 stick butter over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour and reserved garlic paste. Cook the roux, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes until golden. Whisk in the milk. Bring the sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce it to a simmer and let it cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, mustard powder, salt and pepper until well combined.
Add the pasta and the reserved 1/2 cup of pasta water to the pot, stirring to combine. (It will be soupy.) Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the buttered baking dish. Sprinkle it with the reserved crumb topping and place it on a sheet tray (in the event it bubbles over while baking). Bake the macaroni and cheese for 20 to 25 minutes until it's golden brown and bubbling.
The garlic head can be roasted, and the garlic gloves mashed, 1 day in advance. Store the garlic paste, covered, in the fridge.
The macaroni and cheese can be baked in a large baking dish or several smaller ramekins for individual servings.