There is hardly a child who doesn’t relish noodles and cheese, but just wait ’til you taste this opulent adult version! The flavors are rich and sophisticated, and it satisfies like nothing else. I’ve been making it for my family for years, and it always gets rave reviews.
Creamy, warming, perfect comfort every time.
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
½ onion, minced
2 ½ cups hot milk
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 small bay leaf
1 pound pasta of choice (you can use the classic elbows, or something more festive)
4 ounces freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
¾ pound Fontina cheese, grated coarsely
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 350.
1. Make Bechamel Sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add minced onion and saute until softened, about 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the flour and continue cooking a few more minutes. Begin adding milk a little at a time, stirring continuously with a whisk. When sauce thickens, add a few peppercorns, thyme, and bay leaf. Sprinkle in a little salt and nutmeg and let cook for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf and peppercorns.
2. Boil pasta in salted water according to package directions, until just al dente.
3. Combine cheeses and set aside. Butter a pretty 3-quart baking dish.
4. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan and add breadcrumbs, stirring until butter is melted and crumbs are evenly coated.
5. Drain pasta and place one third of it in the baking dish. Sprinkle with one third of the cheese, then pour one third of the sauce over the cheese. Grate some pepper on top. Make 2 more layers in the same way, then sprinkle buttered breadcrumbs on top.
6. Put dish in preheated 350-degree oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until well-browned and bubbly. Serve at once.
Serves 4 to 6.