My former restaurant, Farmstead, was a real hub for the food community in Providence, Rhode Island and southern New England, and we took pride in sourcing high-quality, small-batch products, including lots of artisan New England cheeses, from producers we knew by name. It was only appropriate that we create a hallmark mac and cheese for the bistro. This ultra-mac uses a blend of gruyère, brie, and cheddar (which you can supplement with any cheese bits or ends that have accumulated in your cheese drawer). You can alter the cheeses based on what you have on hand, but try to choose ones that are similar in texture and flavour to the ones I’ve suggested. The macaroni and cheese can be made up to a day ahead; see the note below if you plan on doing that.
Farmstead Mac and Cheese
Serves 6 as a main course
160g coarsely grated gruyère cheese
170g coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
340g diced rindless brie
5 tbsp unsalted butter
30g plain flour
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
scant ¾ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
960ml whole milk, at room temperature
100g fresh breadcrumbs
450g dry penne pasta
Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
In a medium bowl, combine the gruyère, cheddar, and brie. Set aside 125g; cover and chill.
In a large saucepan, melt 4 tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until the mixture turns golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add the thyme and nutmeg.
Gradually whisk in the milk, bring to a simmer, and cook, whisking, until thickened and smooth, about 4 minutes. Add remaining cheese and simmer, whisking, until melted and smooth. Season with salt.
In a large heavy skillet, melt the remaining 1 tbsp butter over medium-high heat.
Add the breadcrumbs and stir to coat with the butter. Cook, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Drain. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl, pour the cheese sauce over the top, and stir to coat.
Divide the pasta among eight ramekins and sprinkle each with some of the reserved cheese (alternatively, transfer to one 23x33cm baking dish and sprinkle the reserved cheese over evenly).
Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and bake until the edges start to bubble and the tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.
Note: The macaroni and cheese can be made 1 day ahead. Before adding the breadcrumbs, cover the ramekins with aluminium foil and transfer to the refrigerator. When you’re ready to bake the macaroni and cheese, drizzle each ramekin with 1 tsp heavy cream (if baking in a 23x33cm pan, drizzle with all 8 tsp of cream) and cover with foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and bake until the edges begin to bubble and the tops are golden, about 20 minutes more.
Extracted from Homegrown by Matt Jennings (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Huge Galdones.