Today is National Macaroni Day and this mac and cheese is one of my favorites. In the picture above I used rotini, but that’s only because I really like rotini. I love the way the sauce gets trapped in the spirals.
This mac and cheese definitely falls into the comfort food category, but it’s not your typical mac and cheese. It’s warm, cheesy, creamy and loaded with fall flavors. The sharp white cheddar combines nicely with the Gruyere, which is similar to Swiss. The bay leaves and the nutmeg remind me of autumn.
While the flavors are a little more “grown up” kids still like it. Last fall, we made this for 120 youth at a weekend retreat. All the serving bowls came back empty!
If you wanted to make this in your camp kitchen, you could cook the pasta at home or in camp and combine all the ingredients in a Dutch oven. I’d recommend a 12-inch for the batch below. If you camp with carnivores like I tend to, you could also add a protein like cubed ham or sliced salami. You could also add a few vegetables if you wanted to bulk it up. However you decide to make it, this is a great mac and cheese.
4-quart baking dish or 12-inch Dutch oven
16 ounces (1 pound) macaroni, rotini or other short pasta
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup flour
4 cups whole milk
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
5 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
3 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until not quite al dente. Drain the pasta.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan or a Dutch oven over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and continue whisking 2 minutes, then whisk in the milk. Add the bay leaf, nutmeg and salt, and simmer about 8 minutes, whisking occasionally, until thick. Remove the bay leaf and stir in 4 cups cheddar and the Gruyere. If you’re using a Dutch oven, stir in the pasta and top with remaining cheddar or butter a 4-quart baking dish; add the pasta mixture and top with the remaining cheddar. Bake in a 400°F oven, using 19 coals on top and 10 underneath, for 15 minutes.
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