Best Creamy Mac and Cheese?
I have used the recipe for "Really the Best Ever Macaroni and Cheese" from the L.A. Times - the recipe name does not exagerate (linked in the chowhound post below). The only change I make is using half cheddar and half jack instead of just cheddar (plus there is gruyere too). Definitely use panko for the bread crumbs.
Oh, and make sure your arteries are clear:
I like this version a lot - I think it came from Martha Stewart, about 10 years ago. I'll paraphrase a bit, just in case....
Mac and Cheese
6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
8 tablespoons butter
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
couple gratings of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp worchestershire
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
1 pound elbow macaroni
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
2. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, worchestersire, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.
4. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer's directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; top with breadcrumbs. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes.