To give every bite of mac and cheese the perfect crunch-squish ratio (50:50, according to Amanda), she bakes the pasta on a sheet pan, borrowing techniques from fellow crunch aficionados:
In Cucina Simpatica, pasta is par-cooked, then combined with cream, cheese and other seasonings and baked at 500° F. The high temperature finishes the pasta quickly and toasts the tips on the top layer—a memorable detail.[Jeffrey] Steingarten's gratin involves roasting thinly sliced potatoes and cream on a baking sheet so that the entire gratin is crisp and handsomely browned. And Melissa Clark spreads her kugel in a baking sheet, achieving a predominantly crunchy texture. Back in the macaroni and cheese lab, I combined these three ideas by par-cooking the pasta, folding it together with a few cheeses, spreading it on a baking sheet, and finishing it in a 475° F oven.
Are you all for the crispy top or the creamy center of the macaroni and cheese? Tell us in the comments below!
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).