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Author Notes: If you're going to go all out and make a stick to your ribs, warms you from head to toe, coma inducing pan of macaroni and cheese, why not gild the lily? Browned mushrooms are one of my absolute favorite foods, and their earthy flavor pairs so well with nutty cheeses like gruyere, raclette, and aged cheddar (plus, the raclette makes the sauce extra creamy). I love the sweetness that the leeks add to the mix too. I started out with Martha Stewart's classic mac and cheese recipe, and took it from there! I use Clotilde Dusolier's technique of making bechamel without dirtying an extra pot for the milk--it works every time! —ChristineB
Serves at least 10 (or 6 with plenty of leftovers!)
- 3/4 pound cavatappi, macaroni, penne....any medium sized pasta that is vaguely tubular
- 5 large leeks, cleaned, trimmed of dark green end, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2 inch half discs
- 5 cups white button mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped (I have small ones and quarter large ones)
- 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons olive oil
- 5 cups whole milk
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 12 ounces gruyere, shredded
- 6 ounces raclette, cut into small cubes (it doesn't shred easily, since it's so soft)
- 6 slices white bread (I like using something crusty for more texture)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Heat two large skillets, one over medium heat and one over high heat, and add 1/4 cup olive oil to each pan. Add leeks to the medium heat pan and the mushrooms to the high heat pan, and season to taste with salt (both vegetables should be salty enough that they are delicious to eat on their own). Cook leeks until soft and just starting to brown, and cook mushrooms until golden brown and slightly crisp. Combine the two vegetables in a large bowl and set aside.
- Heat a large heavy pot over medium heat. Melt the butter, and then add the flour, whisking until the flour has absorbed all the butter liquid. Add milk (it's okay if it's cold!) a splash at a time, whisking constantly, and adding more only when the milk has been completely incorporated into the roux. Once the mixture begins to resemble more of a liquid and less of a solid, you can add the milk more quickly, until you're out. Foolproof! :) The mixture should be pretty thick immediately, so take it off the heat and add all the cheeses, whisking until smooth. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. This is the pot you'll mix all the vegetables and pasta in.
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until just shy of al dente. Drain, and pour into the cheese sauce, Add the leeks and mushrooms, stirring to combine.
- Tear bread slices into approximate halves, and place in a food processor with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Process until you have rough crumbs (I like some larger chunks for texture).
- Pour the pasta mixture into a 9 x 11 in pyrex pan (or an equivalent size casserole dish), evenly distribute the breadcrumbs over the top, and bake in the preheated oven until golden brown on top. Allow the baked pasta dish to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.