If I’m going to tweak a beloved classic like macaroni and cheese, the results had better be infinitely better than the tried and true. I swear on my Manolos that this version will not let you down. It’s all about the cheese choices: I use top-quality Taleggio, pecorino, and Parmigiano for sharpness and tang, and creamy mascarpone for richness and texture. At the last minute, I decided to fold some whipped egg whites into it to make the whole thing lighter—tell your guests it’s macaroni and cheese soufflé. I know what you’re thinking: mac ’n’ cheese for a dinner party? If you bake it in individual ramekins (portions spooned from a large casserole are not pretty!) and drizzle a little truffle oil on top, absolutely.
|1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt||9 black peppercorns|
|1 pound imported elbow macaroni||Freshly ground black pepper|
|3 large egg whites||1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg|
|1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter plus more for greasing ramekins||1 cup mascarpone|
|1/2 medium onion, finely chopped||6 ounces Taleggio cheese, rind removed and diced|
|1/3 cup all-purpose flour||6 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated|
|3 1/2 cups whole milk||6 ounces Pecorino Romano, coarsely grated|
|1 bay leaf||1 cup Garlic Bread Crumbs (see link to recipe below)|
|1 sprig fresh thyme||Truffle oil, for drizzling|
Butter the ramekins. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Bring a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add the pasta and stir just until the water returns to a boil. Cook until just al dente, drain, shaking well. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.
melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and stir constantly for 2 minutes; don’t allow the flour to brown. Add 1 cup of the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly. Stir until smooth, and then add the bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and 2½ cups of milk. Increase the heat to medium-high and continue stirring frequently until lthe liquid reaches a boil (don’t let it boil over). Boil for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to low so the milk barely simmers, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, and then strain through a sieve into a very large bowl, working the onions back and forth with a rubber spatula to extract all the liquid possible. Immediately stir in plenty of ground pepper, the nutmeg, mascarpone, Tallegio, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Pecorino Romano, stirring until the cheeses are just melted.
Stir the cooked macaroni into the cheese mixture, then fold in the beaten egg whites. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins, mounding slightly, and top each with a big pinch of the bread crumbs.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is quietly sizzling and the bread crumbs are golden. Let cool for 5 minutes, drizzle with the truffle oil, and serve.
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