This rich dish is immoderate comfort food at it’s very best and is guaranteed to warm up the family in the cold months to come. Ask my stepson, Douglas, who considers it the ultimate mac and cheese – the cheesier the better! (Feel free to experiment with different cheeses: Edam, Asiago, Manchego, Stilton, fontina or pecorino). Douglas loves to get in the kitchen to cook up a batch, but he’s not so thrilled when it comes to the clean-up. Luckily, this doesn’t generate too many dirty dishes, which seems to be key when getting teens interested in cooking.
Makes 6 servings
- 2 3/4 tsp (13 mL) sea salt
- 1 lb (500 g) penne
- 6 cups (1.5 L) milk
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsp (12 mL) Dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) shredded aged cheddar cheese
- 1 cup (250 mL) shredded Swiss or Gruyère cheese
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) crumbled Cambozola or chèvre
- 1/3 cup (75 mL) grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C)
Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring 4 quarts (4 L) water to a boil; add 2 tsp (10 mL) of the salt. Add the penne and stir a few times until it comes to the boil. Cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. (It should still have a little resistance when you bite into it.)
In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium-low heat just until warm (do not let come to a boil). In another saucepan, melt the butter; whisk in the flour and let the mixture bubble for a few minutes. Pour in the warm milk, whisking, and cook until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the mustard, nutmeg, remaining salt and pepper; simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the cheddar, Swiss and Cambozola cheeses. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Pour into a 13- x 9-inch (3 L) baking dish. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and bake until golden and bubbling, 30 to 40 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.