You can experiment with the cheeses as much as you like: have some extra or leftover, throw it in. Keep in mind that the cheese IS the flavor and a good quantity of flavorful, sharp cheese is best. A smaller quantity of a mild, creamy, melty cheese like Jack adds cheese body with out over powering taste. I bit of cream cheese could be added for balance if all you have are sharp cheeses.
Recipe By: Adapted From Cover & Bake by Cook's Illustrated
Serving Size: 10
4 slices white sandwich bread torn into quarters
2 Tbs unsalted butter melted
1 lb Penne pasta
5 tbs Butter
1 clove Garlic ; mashed
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
6 Tbs all purpose flour ; as required
1 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups Monterey jack cheese
6 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese shredded about 2 2/3
Freshly ground pepper ; to taste
For the topping:
1 Process the bread and butter in a food processor fitted with a steel blade until coarsely ground, about 6 1 second pulses. Set aside. Some grated parmesan would be really good here too.
For the Mac & Cheese:
1 Adjust oven rack to middle and heat oven to 400.
2 Boil 4 quarts water in a dutch oven over high heat,. Stir in 1 T salt and penne. Cook til al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in colander, set aside.
3 Wipe pot dry. Add butter and return to medium heat until melted.
4 Add the garlic, mustard and cayenne pepper: cook until fragrant about 30 seconds.
5 Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly until golden brown about 1 minute.
6 Slowly whisk in chicken broth and milk. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, until mixture begins to thicken. (If for some reason you have used a low- or no-fat milk, this will take a long time, if it happens at all.) The recipe has eight cups of cheese, give it up and use real milk...in for a penny, in for a pound (literally).
7 Off the heat, whisk in the cheeses gradually until completely melted. Season w/ salt and pepper to taste.
8 Add the drained pasta to the cheese sauce and stir; it will be very saucy...this is very very good.
9 Pour into a 9 X 13 baking dish or shallow casserole of similar size.
10 Sprinkle with bread topping and bake until golden brown and bubbling around the edges. 25-30 minutes.
11 Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.
1 Assemble casserole as directed in step 9 but do not sprinkle with bread topping or bake. Wrap dish tightly.- Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for 2 months.
2 Allow casserole to sit at room temp for 1 hour before baking.
3 Wrap dish with foil and bake until casserole is moderately hot 25-30 minutes.
4 Remove foil and continue to cook until bread crumbs are brown 25 minutes longer. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.