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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 21, 2001

This macaroni recipe calls for simmering pasta in milk

By Joan Namkoong
Advertiser Food Editor

I'd been dying to try this recipe ever since I saw it in the book "The Best American Recipes 2000" by Fran McCullough and Suzanne Hamlin. It is, as the authors of the book say, a recipe that is "completely extravagant in every possible way."

Cooking pasta in milk, then dumping the milk might seem very wasteful. It is. But what it does to pasta is amazing: Every bite oozes with creaminess. Added creaminess comes from a white sauce made with heavy cream to coat the cooked pasta afterward. Then there's the Gruyere cheese topping, bubbling and golden brown. As the authors said, this is an extravagant dish. And very, very good for macaroni and cheese.

The recipe is by Benoit Guichard and was printed in Food and Wine magazine last year. It starts with 3 quarts of whole milk (check our market basket price chart for the best price on a gallon this week). Don't wince at the 1/4 cup of salt that goes into the milk to cook the pasta. And be sure to use the ice cubes to stop the cooking.

You could probably eat this dish by itself with a salad and make a meal of it; no doubt you will have seconds, if not thirds. Or serve it with a simple roast chicken or a piece of grilled fish. It was good cold the next morning - folks who like cold lasagna will appreciate this. This mac and cheese is rich, decadent and delicious - what more can I say?

Macaroni Gratin

  • 3 quarts whole milk
  • 4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • Fresh grated nutmeg to taste
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 pound dried ridged penne pasta
  • 2 trays ice cubes (about 2-3 dozen cubes)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese (about 3 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives for garnish

In a large saucepan, heat the milk and garlic over high heat until bubbles appear around the edges. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove and discard garlic. Measure out 1 cup milk and reserve; set aside remaining milk until you are ready to cook the pasta.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly until the sauce is completely smooth. Season with a large pinch of salt and generous amounts of white pepper and nutmeg. Return the pan to low heat and cook the sauce, whisking constantly, until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool slightly and stir in the heavy cream. Season with salt.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Butter a 9x13-inch gratin dish.

Add 1/4 cup salt to the remaining milk and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat, so the milk is just simmering for about 10 minutes or until al dente. Remove from the heat and add the ice cubes to stop the cooking. When all the ice cubes have melted, drain the pasta in a colander and transfer to a large bowl.

Add the sauce to the pasta and toss to coat. Transfer the pasta mixture to the gratin dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake for about 10 minutes or until bubbling around the edges. Turn on the broiler and broil, rotating the dish, until the cheese is golden, 2-3 minutes. Let the gratin stand for 5 minutes, then season generously with white pepper, garnish with the chives and serve. Serves 8.