• Coarse salt

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni

  • 4 to 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 to 2 1/2 oz)

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk

  • 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white or black pepper

  • 3 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese

  • 1/2 cup coarse fresh or dried bread crumbs


Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Salt a large pot of water generously, so it tastes like the sea. Bring the water to a boil and then add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and whisk until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Still whisking vigorously, slowly pour in the milk. If the sauce gets lumpy, don’t worry; just keep whisking until it becomes smooth again. Lower the heat and simmer (yes, still whisking frequently!) until creamy and smooth, 7 to 8 minutes.

Add 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and pepper. Take the pan off the heat and add 2 1/2 cups Cheddar and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Whisk until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Taste and add more seasonings, if you like.

Drain the macaroni and return it to the pot. Dump the sauce on top of the macaroni and toss thoroughly to coat. Turn out the macaroni mixture into a large cast-iron skillet, a 13-by-9-inch baking dish, or another generously sized casserole dish. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining Cheddar and Parmesan.

One last thing. Melt the remaining butter in a small skillet. (Use 2 tablespoons for uber-buttery bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon for swimsuit-season bread crumbs.) Drizzle the butter over the bread crumbs in a bowl and toss to coat. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the macaroni.

Bake until the crumbs are browned and the macaroni is warmed through, 20 minutes if you’re in a hurry or, if you’re in no rush and prefer a creamier sauce, up to an hour or so. You will need to cover the dish after 15 minutes or so to prevent the crumbs from browning too much. Let the macaroni and cheese rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes before scooping it out in heaping portions.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese by Leite’s Culinaria