Lo Bosworth's Mac and Cheese
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 onion, root on
- 1 clove
- 2 cups milk, plus more if thinner sauce is desired
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 (16 ounce) box macaroni, gemelli, or cavatappi
- 1/8 to 1/4 cup thinly sliced ham cut into small squares
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, divided, plus more if needed
- 1 cup breadcrumbs, plus more for sprinkling
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups grated Gruyere
- Freshly ground nutmeg to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Attach bay leaf to onion by sticking clove through bay leaf like a nail. Place milk in a saucepan over low heat; add seasoned onion.
Boil a large pot of heavily salted water. (Salty water seasons the pasta, so really crank it up.) Cook pasta to al dente, then run under cool water to stop cooking process. Set aside.
While pasta is cooking, quickly fry squares of ham on stove top in 1 tablespoon butter. Remove ham and add 1 more tablespoon butter and the breadcrumbs .
In saucepan, melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat. Once butter has melted, add flour. Stir quickly off the heat until combined, then return to heat and continue to stir for 1 to 2 minutes, forming a roux.
Remove onion from milk, then gradually whisk milk into roux, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Once the sauce boils and thickens, remove from heat and add cheese. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add more milk to thin out sauce if desired
Butter a 2-quart casserole. Add cooked noodles and ham pieces, then stir in cheese sauce. Cover loosely with breadcrumbs and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling.