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Macaroni and Cheese…For Adults

Mac & Cheese with Braised Leeks, Asiago and Parmesan Breadcrumbs

If you think Macaroni and Cheese is for kids then check out this version with braised leeks, Asiago cheese and Parmesan breadcrumbs by Chef Viviane Bauquet Farre… remarkable and a complete departure from traditional recipes.

Macaroni and Cheese… For Adults

serves 8

For the leeks

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 leeks 4″ of tops and roots trimmed (about 1 1/2 lbs), cut in half lengthwise, thoroughly washed and cut in 1/4″ slices
  • 4 large garlic cloves skinned and finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup white wine

For the béchamel

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons unbleached white flour
  • 6 cups milk warmed
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • freshly ground nutmeg to taste (use microplane grater)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 oz Wisconsin Asiago coarsely grated (2 cups)

For the bread crumbs

  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Wisconsin Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the pasta

  • 1 lb pennette lisce or macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt (for the pasta water)
  • 1 medium ceramic or glass baking dish buttered

Step 1: To braise the leeks Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and leeks. Toss well and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes until leeks have wilted and just begin to take on a golden color, tossing from time to time. Add the garlic, chili pepper flakes, salt, black pepper and wine. Quickly toss, reduce heat to medium-low and cover pan. Braise leeks for 25 minutes until very tender and all the juices have evaporated (if there is still some liquid in the pan after braising the leeks for 25 minutes, sauté at high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until all juices have evaporated). Transfer to a bowl and set aside.


Step 2: To make the béchamel Place the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. As soon as the butter is melted, whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly for 1 to 2 minutes until the mixture becomes foamy and the flour becomes golden, but not brown. Quickly whisk in the warm milk and cream. While constantly whisking, bring back to a boil. As soon as it reaches boiling point, lower the heat to medium and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes until the béchamel has slightly thickened, still whisking constantly. Add the nutmeg, salt, pepper and grated cheese. Whisk until the cheese has melted and remove from heat.


Step 3: Place the breadcrumbs and parmesan in a small bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and mix well. Set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 375°F.


Step 4: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the salt and the pasta. Cook the pasta about 2 minutes less than the package instructions so that it’s not cooked all the way through (see picture below). Drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Add the leeks and béchamel to the pasta and stir until well blended. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until bubbly on the sides and golden. Remove from oven and heat the broiler on high. Place the mac & cheese under the broiler for a few seconds to brown the breadcrumbs. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Cook’s note: The mac & cheese is best eaten as soon as it’s made. Reheating will make it stodgy. The braised leeks can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated. The béchamel can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. Gently reheat it over medium-low heat and thin with a little milk before using in the recipe. Boil the pasta, assemble and bake the mac & cheese just before serving.

Photo credit: Viviane Bauquet Farre

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