Macaroni & cheese is a strong contender for the ultimate comfort dish, if you’re dairy-inclined and have a need for pasta. I can usually pass by the chocolate aisle when I’m driven by my monthly craving monster, but the promise of melted, golden cheese is enough for me to cancel all appointments left in the day — I’m gonna need some time alone with the cheese. To eat it all. There is a fire in this soul and it cannot be put out but for the warm, smothering embrace of cheddar or gouda.
If you’re gonna commit some cheesy sins, might I recommend using fontina? It’s a gentler cousin to cheddar and melts so superbly, you gotta try it if you’ve never strayed from the classics. My favorite recipe is from Annies-Eats because it produces equal parts crispy and creamy bites which should satisfy a wide spectrum of cheesy cravings.
I used half fontina and half havarti because I was making a double-batch and didn’t have enough of either kind, but they paired beautifully. While I typically skip the breadcrumb topping, the addition of nutmeg is essential — don’t leave it out!
Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees F. Boil 1 lb. of elbow pasta, removing it from heat and draining just before it finishes cooking (we’re gonna bake it in the oven later to finish it off). Put on your favorite upbeat album and gather the rest of your ingredients, shred your cheese, cube your cold butter (it’s way easier when it’s cold, but don’t work so hard cubing it perfectly), and put that cubed butter in a large bowl.
Put your warm, drained pasta into the cubed butter bowl, then alternate pouring in a bit of cheese and warm cream into the bowl. Don’t forget that nutmeg! Since I don’t do the breadcrumb topping recommended in the recipe, I usually toss the extra butter into the recipe, but you may not be as much a butter fanatic as I am. Pour everything into a 2-quart casserole dish and pop in the oven. Your macaroni & cheese is ready when it’s molten and bubbling, about 20 minutes.
Serve with some fancy flaked salt, a side salad and a glass of wine to complete the mood. Or, eat it directly from the casserole dish with a big spoon because I won’t tell if you won’t.