Macaroni and Cheese

Finally, a Mac and Cheese that kids will love and parents will be happy to serve.

If you want to freeze this, line the pan with enough aluminum foil to hang over both sides. When it has set and/or cooled, you can lift it out of the pan by pulling up on the foil and placing the whole thing in a resealable plastic bag. This way you can freeze it without losing the use of the pan. You can also cut it and freeze it in individual pieces.

Serves 6 to 8.

1 pound shaped pasta, such as macaroni, cavatappi, shells, or tubes
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ to ¼ teaspoon white pepper
2½ cups whole milk
2½ to 3 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Gruyére cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (optional)
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, well drained, chopped (optional)

½ to ⅓ cup Romano cheese
2 cups bread crumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

3. Place the butter in a large pan and cook over low heat until it melts. Gradually add the flour, salt, and pepper, stirring all the time. As soon as it thickens, gradually add the milk, whisking constantly until the mixture has the consistency of heavy cream, about 1 minute. Gradually add the cheddar, Gruyére, and Parmesan cheeses, stirring all the time. Add the cheese mixture to the pasta and stir to combine.

4. Stir in the basil and tomatoes, if desired, and place in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

5. Combine the Romano and bread crumbs in a small bowl, and sprinkle evenly over the pasta. (You can cover and refrigerate the dish up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months.) Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately.

From The $50 Dinner Party: 26 Dinner Parties That Won’t Break Your Bank, Your Back, or Your Schedule (Simon & Schuster, 1998)