Farmstead Mac and Cheese
Townsman, Boston, MA
“My former restaurant, Farmstead, was a real hub for the food community in Providence and southern New England, and we took pride in sourcing high-quality, small-batch products, including lots of artisan New England cheeses, from producers we knew by name. It was only appropriate that we create a hallmark mac and cheese for the bistro.
This ultra-mac uses a blend of Gruyère, Brie, and cheddar (which you can supplement with any cheese bits or ends that have accumulated in your cheese drawer). You can alter the cheeses based on what you have on hand, but try to choose ones that are similar in texture and flavor to the ones I’ve suggested. The macaroni and cheese can be made up to a day ahead; see the note below if you plan on doing that.” —James Beard Award nominee Matt Jennings, in his 2018 Beard Award–nominated cookbook, Homegrown: Cooking from My New England Roots.
- 1 1/2 cups diced rindless Brie
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 cups whole milk, room temperature
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 3/4 cups bread crumbs
- 1 pound dry penne pasta
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
In a medium bowl, combine the Brie, Gruyère, and cheddar. Set aside 1 cup of the cheese mixture; cover and chill.
In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until the mixture turns golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add the thyme and nutmeg.
Gradually whisk in the milk, bring to a simmer, and cook, whisking, until thickened and smooth, about 4 minutes. Add 3 1/2 cups of the cheese mixture and simmer, whisking, until melted and smooth. Season with salt.
In a large heavy skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat.
Add the bread crumbs and stir to coat them with the butter. Cook, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer the bread crumbs to a plate.
Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Drain. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl, pour the cheese sauce over the top, and stir to coat.
Divide the pasta among eight 1 1/4-cup ramekins and sprinkle each with some of the reserved cheese (alternatively, transfer to one 9 x 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle the reserved cheese over the top evenly).
Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and bake until the edges start to bubble and the tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.
Note: The macaroni and cheese can be made 1 day ahead. Before adding the bread crumbs, cover the ramekins with aluminum foil and transfer to the refrigerator. When you’re ready to bake the macaroni and cheese, drizzle each ramekin with 1 teaspoon heavy cream (if baking in a 9 x 13-inch pan, drizzle with all 8 teaspoons of cream) and cover with foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and bake until the edges begin to bubble and the tops are golden, about 20 minutes more.
Excerpted from Homegrown: Cooking from My New England Roots by Matt Jennings (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Huge Galdones.