Our one-year wedding anniversary was celebrated this past Sunday; and though we vowed to use our wedding china for a home-cooked dinner date to celebrate, I thought I'd surprise Alex with a less-expected dish for the antique dinnerware. His very favorite comfort food, macaroni and cheese, has been a consistent request. I adapted a recipe from his dear family friend Suzi, who gifted the recipe to our recipe box collection we received during a Little Rock wedding shower!
I'm a huge fan of the crispy garlicky crust, which adds a texture I enjoy to fold into the creamy context of the pasta. The casarecce pasta shape, which you can find in the Whole Foods Market pasta aisle, is utterly elegant, effortlessly catching the cheeses and looking quite marvelous on Alex's grandmother's heirloom dinner plate.
I served this pasta dish alongside a super easy, flavorful sous vide New York strip. Coated in garlic powder and fresh rosemary, an air-tight bag held the New York strip in a 130-degree water bath (thanks to our Anova sous vide) for 2.5 hours. Then, once patted dry and allowed to rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board, we drizzled oil atop the perfectly-cooked steak and threw it on the cast iron for 30 seconds on each side to create a golden crust.
Alex and I definitely enjoyed enriching in our defrosted wedding cake top layer for the anniversary finale; but I must admit that we both sacrificed a few bites of dessert for extra mac and cheese!
Note: My dish is half of typical mac and cheese recipes! If you're serving a big crowd, definitely double up. Alex and I frankly didn't need all of the leftovers tempting us from the fridge!
Makes 4-6 servings
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup panko
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup grated parmesan
MAC + CHEESE
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound dried casarecce pasta
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup light cream
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 cups grated gouda + white cheddar (choose your preferred ratio!)
1/4 cup parmesan
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in middle of oven. Butter a pie dish (or 8x8" pan).
2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter and oil. Add panko and garlic, and stir until crumbs are golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Transfer crumbs to a small bowl. Stir in Parmesan and salt; set aside.
3. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add casarecce and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.
4. In a medium pot over medium-low heat, melt butter. Sprinkle flour over butter and whisk to incorporate, creating a roux. Then, cook with a wooden spoon until roux turns a golden color, about 3 minutes. Gradually pour in milk and cream, whisking constantly to incorporate into a béchamel sauce. Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a low boil, whisking constantly. Then, reduce to a simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until béchamel is thick, about 2 minutes.
5. Add salt and white pepper, followed by cheeses in two batches. Remove from heat once completely melted. Add pasta to the pot and stir well to coat. Transfer to buttered dish and sprinkle topping evenly.
6. Bake until golden and bubbling, 15-18 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.