Baked Macaroni and Cheese

serves 12

*This recipe can easily be divided in half using a 1 1/2 quart baking dish

8 tablespoons ( 4 ounces) unsalted butter, divided

6 slices white bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch cubes

5 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons 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 (18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese, divided

2 cups (8 ounces) grated Gruyère cheese, divided

1 pound elbow macaroni

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.   Spray a 3-quart baking dish with non-stick spray; set aside.  Place bread cubes in a medium bowl.  In a small microwaveable bowl, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter.  Pour the melted butter over the bread crumbs and toss; set aside.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, warm the milk.  In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter.  When the butter starts to bubble, add the flour and cook, whisking for 1 minute.  While whisking, slowly pour in the warm milk.  Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and thickens.

Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the salt, nutmeg, peppers, 3 cups of cheese, and 1 1/2 cups of Gruyère.  Stir until melted; set aside.

Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil.  Add macaroni and cook for 2-3 minutes less than the manufacturer's directions.  Drain the macaroni and rinse under cold water, drain again.  Stir the macaroni into the cheese sauce.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses and scatter the bread cubes on top.  Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack 5 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

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