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I recently made Ina Garten's "grown up" mac and cheese dish.
The recipe features Gruyere, extra-sharp cheddar, and blue cheese, plus bacon and breadcrumbs.
I thought Garten's mac and cheese was delicious, and perfect for Thanksgiving.
The holidays are nearly upon us, which means it's time to indulge in one of the most universally-beloved pastas.
I'm talking about mac and cheese, obviously.
I'm a huge pasta fan, especially when the recipe is by Ina Garten (I've even been ranking them!). So before Thanksgiving this year, I decided to try her "grown up" mac and cheese.
Here's how it went.
Ina Garten's "grown up" mac and cheese features bacon, basil, and plenty of cheese.
To make Garten's "grown up" mac and cheese for four, you'll need:
4 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi
4 slices white sandwich bread
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
6 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbed (Garten recommends Roquefort)
8 ounces thick-sliced bacon
3 cups milk
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons freshly-chopped basil leaves
½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
First, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and prepped the bacon.
I placed my bacon on a sheet pan, arranging it in one layer. Garten recommends placing a baking rack over the sheet pan, but I didn't have one so I just lined mine with aluminum foil to avoid making a greasy mess.
I cooked my bacon for 15 minutes, until the strips turned crisp, then transferred them to a plate lined with a paper towel.
While the bacon was in the oven, I prepped my breadcrumbs and started cooking the pasta.
I sliced the crusts off my sandwich bread, cut each slice into smaller pieces, and roughly chopped my basil.
Then I threw my pasta into a large pot of boiling salted water, letting it cook for around six minutes. I opted for cavatappi over elbow macaroni because I believe it's better at carrying the ooey gooey sauce of a great mac and cheese.
Once my noodles were al dente, I drained the pasta and set it aside.
And I grated a lot of cheese.
If you're making this for Thanksgiving, just recruit some family members to help!
I threw my chopped bread and basil into a food processor to make the breadcrumbs.
After a few pulses, my breadcrumbs were ready!
Once the bacon had cooled a bit, I gave it a rough chop.
Garten kept her bacon pieces pretty chunky while demonstrating this recipe on an episode of "Barefoot Contessa," so I did the same.
Then I began warming up some milk for the roux.
I heated the milk in a small saucepan, making sure not to boil it.
While the milk was heating, I began melting my butter.
I added the butter to a pot set over medium-low heat.
Then I added flour to the pot with the melting butter.
I stirred the butter and flour together over low heat for two minutes.
"This cooked butter and flour is going to act as a thickener for the sauce," Garten explained during the episode.
As I whisked the flour and butter together, I added the hot milk.
Garten says you should cook the sauce for about one or two more minutes, until it's thickened and looks smooth.
"It's not incredibly thick, but what it does is it just coats the spoon," she added.
I took the pot off the heat and added all of my cheeses, plus seasoning.
Garten recommends adding one teaspoon of salt, some freshly-ground black pepper, and the nutmeg.
"It's a really classic spice that's used in gratins," Garten says in the episode. "You won't know it's there, but it'll make everything taste better."
I added the cooked cavatappi to the pot, as well as the chopped bacon.
I gave everything a good stir as a delicious cheesy scent filled my kitchen.
Then I poured my mac and cheese into a casserole dish.
Garten used individual gratin dishes while making this on "Barefoot Contessa" since she was only making it for herself and Jeffrey. Since I doubled the recipe to make dinner for my family, I used a 12-inch casserole dish instead and it was the perfect size.
I sprinkled my breadcrumbs over the mac and cheese and then threw the dish into the oven.
I didn't end up using all of the breadcrumbs because I had already fully covered the top, but my family later said they wish there had been more — so I recommend using every last crumb!
If you're planning to make Garten's "grown up" mac and cheese the day before, just throw your dish into the fridge overnight and bake it right before you want to serve it.
Garten says to bake the mac and cheese for 35 to 40 minutes, but my pasta didn’t need that long.
While reading reviews of Garten's recipe on the Food Network's website, I saw that many people said their mac and cheese had turned dry after baking it for the recommended amount of time. Many people recommended baking the pasta for 25 minutes or less.
I checked my mac and cheese at the 20-minute mark and saw the breadcrumbs were already starting to brown. The breadcrumbs were beautifully golden at the 25-minute mark, so I took my dish out of the oven.
The moral of the story? Not all ovens are made equal, so check your mac and cheese as you go.
My pasta was still bubbling as I started to serve dinner, and it looked like a creamy, cheesy dream.
The sound from the bubbling sauce was so satisfying, I couldn't resist taking a few videos of it.
My family all watched with excitement as I dug my spoon through the breadcrumbs and pulled up a scoop of ooey gooey noodles. Dinner couldn't come soon enough!
Garten’s "grown up" mac and cheese is easy, delicious, and a great Thanksgiving side dish.
My parents and sister were all huge fans of Garten's mac and cheese. The texture is velvety rather than cloying, and I loved the balance of flavor between the Gruyere, cheddar, and blue cheeses. The Roquefort definitely adds a bit of tang, so if you're making this for someone who really dislikes blue cheese, maybe only do half so you're still getting the depth that it adds. But, personally, I'm not a huge blue-cheese fan and I didn't find it overpowering.
I also loved how the smoky bacon cut through the cheesiness — I'd even recommend throwing in an extra slice or two. The crunchy breadcrumbs on top were also a huge hit, adding a lovely contrast to the creamy noodles underneath (definitely don't skimp on them).
I think the flavors of Garten's mac and cheese are perfect for a holiday side and would pair really well with turkey. We also enjoyed eating it as a main course for dinner.
If you're looking for a great traditional Thanksgiving dish with a twist, Garten's "grown up" mac and cheese is a great pick.
Read the original article on Insider