To many turkey day enthusiasts (us included) Thanksgiving dinner just isn’t complete until a steaming dish of baked macaroni and cheese hits the table. This recipe can be the centerpiece of any special occasion not trumped by a large, golden bird, however, because it’s no ordinary elbows ‘n cheddar. Thinly julienned carrots, red peppers and zucchini add vibrant color and sweetness to balance this dish’s rich cheesiness.
Fontina is one of the greatest melting cheeses we’ve ever encountered, perfect for a creamy bechamel sauce. Balance its buttery, mild flavor with sharp, nutty gruyère and you have a cheese combination any shape of pasta would be only too happy to swim in; however we love cavatappi for its sauce-catching tubular shape and ridges. Finished off with a cheese and herbed breadcrumb crust, this macaroni and cheese promises no leftovers.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large red bell pepper, julienned
- 2 medium zucchini, julienned
- 2 medium carrots, julienned
- 1 1/2 pounds cavatappi or other tubular pasta
- 6 cups bechamel sauce
- 1/2 pound, plus 1/2 cup fontina, grated
- 1/2 pound, plus 1/2 cup aged gruyere, grated
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
- 1 tablespoon tabasco sauce
- 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 egg, beaten
- kosher salt to taste
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and saute the vegetables in the olive oil until just cooked through, about 3 minutes, and set aside.
- Cook pasta to al dente, drain and return to pot.
- While pasta is cooking, gradually whisk half a pound of grated fontina, half a pound of grated gruyere, half the thyme leaves and the tabasco sauce into bechamel in a large saucepan over low heat until smooth and creamy.
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Mix breadcrumbs, melted butter, remaining thyme and reserved 1/2 cups each of fontina and gruyere in a medium bowl.
- Pour bechamel over pasta, add vegetables and beaten egg and stir gently to thoroughly combine. Add salt to taste.
- Spread pasta evenly in a large casserole or baking dish, then sprinkle evenly with breadcrumb, herb and cheese mixture.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are browned and crisp.
- Allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving.