macaroni & cheese gratin

for my halloween spookfest last weekend, I decided that appetizers just weren't hearty enough for my guests, so I made macaroni and cheese gratin. that's one of those things that looks pretty when dolled up with herb broiled tomatoes and buttery breadcubes on top. besides, the crunch that comes from the crust mixed with the smooth sauce is perfection.
macaroni & cheese gratin
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
6 slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/2 inch pieces
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
4 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (note: Tillamook or Cabot is best)
1 1/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound large elbow macaroni
3 hothouse tomatoes, sliced

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 Tablespoons butter. Pour butter into bowl with bread, and toss. Set breadcrumbs aside.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk (note: this step is important). Melt remaining 6 Tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.

While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick (note: cook over medium-low heat. I think the sauce will be more smooth if you don't rush the thickening process.)

Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 cup Pecorino Romano; set cheese sauce aside.

Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, and breadcrumbs over top.
Lay sliced tomatoes on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, coarse salt, freshly ground pepper and thyme leaves. Broil for about 10 minutes until softened. Let cool for a few minutes and then arrange on top of the gratin (over the breadcrumbs).

Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes; serve hot.


summer said...

i just stumbled upon your lovely blog here and i'm loving scrolling through it!
this recipe looks scrumptious- can't wait to try it

Court and Britt said...

hope you don't mind me looking at your blog! I have been following the Nienie story. WOW, you have one AMAZING family!!

Your macaroni looks YUMMIE!! I like to do once a month cooking, do you think this dish would freeze very well? I would probably need to save the bread crumbs & tomatoes for the night of? Anyway curious what your thoughts were:)

elizabeth said...


I don't think this dish would freeze well because of the sauce. when you reheat it, I think it would curdle. if you're not going to cook it right away, you could make it a few days before (without cooking) and save the breadcrumbs and tomatoes until right before popping in the oven.

that's just my two cents. :)

Melanie Anne said...

Ok--this sounds perfect for Halloween! Yum! Warm, cheesy and toasty--my boys will love it!

Susie Writes.... said...

thank you for sharing this wonderful dish...I know my family will LOVE it along with c jane's crock pot chocolate cake..YUMMY!! also, want to add what a touching post about "playing nice" on your family blog. So many people just don't "get it". It is so sad. I feel I know your family so well. What a wonderful family with such love and faith. We too have been through terrible tragedy and the out pouring of love is amazing. Then, there are people that cannot help but say and do unthinkable things. Please know our little community in Iowa is praying for your family.

Anonymous said...

Gratin mac 'n' cheese? Now that's just fantastic. I'll be wending my way though your recipes for a good long while! :)

Bryce and Candice Blood Family said...

I just tried this recipe, it's in the oven now and it is going to be sooo delicious. The sauce was so tasty and creamy, seriously, the best rue I've ever made. Num Yummy! Thank you for sharing your talent!