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Laura's Crumb-Topped Macaroni and Cheese

The thick crumb topping is flavored with pancetta, making this an unexpected version of the classic.

  • servings: 8




  • Coarse salt
  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta
  • 4 slices day-old oat or whole-wheat bread
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, grated (2 cups)
  • 1/2 pound mild white cheddar cheese, grated (3 cups)
  • 1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, grated (3 cups)
  • 1/2 pound fontina cheese, grated (2 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (do not use preground)
  • Freshly ground pepper

Cook's Note

The curves of cavatappi pasta, which is shaped like corkscrews, hold creamy sauce particularly well; similar shaped cut pasta, such as shells and fusilli, may be substituted. Have the butcher slice the pancetta 1/4-inch-thick to make quick work of dicing.


  1. Step 1

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta for 8 minutes; pasta will be slightly undercooked. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.

  2. Step 2

    Pulse bread in a food processor until coarse crumbs form (about 2 3/4 cups).

  3. Step 3

    Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add pancetta, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp, 9 to 10 minutes. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels.

  4. Step 4

    Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons pancetta drippings in pan. Melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat with drippings. Add breadcrumbs, and cook, stirring to coat, until they are light gold and beginning to crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

  5. Step 5

    Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming. (Do not let milk come to a boil.) Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour to butter, whisking until smooth. Add milk, slowly, whisking constantly until combined. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add cheeses, and stir until melted. Stir in reserved pancetta, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Season with pepper.

  6. Step 6

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pasta in a 9-inch-round baking dish that's 3 inches deep. Stir in cheese sauce 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Spread breadcrumbs on top. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until crumbs are deep golden brown and sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Martha Stewart Living, June 2008



Reviews (2)

  • maryalicem 10 Mar, 2009

    I made this last night and we loved it. I've been searching for a homemade mac-n-cheese worth the effort and I think I have found it. I didn't pay attention to the cup measurements - just went by weight. Be sure to use a large pot (not medium) for making the cheese sauce. There is quite a lot of cheese and difficult to stir in a medium pot. We baked it in a 9x13 and it worked out just fine.

  • jacknmac 26 Aug, 2008

    How can 1/2 lb. of two of the cheeses equal 2 cups, but a 1/2 lb. of the other two cheeses equal 3 cups?