This homemade version of the noodle favorite will make you forget about the boxed orange variety. A sauce made with three kinds of cheeses and a crunchy breadcrumb topping really separate it from its store-bought cousins.
- 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for pie plates
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 5 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (10 ounces)
- 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (4 ounces)
- 1 1/2 cups grated fontina cheese (4 ounces)
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 10 mini (1 cup) pie plates or a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs, and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Warm milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook until butter is bubbling. Add flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Gradually pour warm milk into butter mixture, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in 3 cups cheddar, 1 cup Gruyere, 1 cup fontina, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the nutmeg, paprika, and cayenne pepper.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain, and transfer pasta to cheese sauce. Stir to coat. Divide mixture among mini pie plates or transfer to baking dish. Scatter remaining cup cheddar, 1/2 cup Gruyere, and 1/2 cup fontina over top, and sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs. Bake until cheese is melted and pasta is warmed through, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.