By Tom Valenti
From Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals: 125 Home Recipes from the Chef-Owner of New York City’s OUEST and ‘CESCA by Tom Valenti and Andrew Friedman
Is it just me, or do people take macaroni and cheese for granted? I think the lack of appreciation began with those prepackaged macaroni kits in which low-grade pasta comes in one bag and an unidentifiable cheese goop or powder in another. This recipe is my attempt to illustrate a simple truth: If you approach macaroni and cheese with the same care that you do other pasta dishes, making a thoughtful decision about the pasta and the cheese, it is pretty special. Here, I recommend a small pasta such as tubetti or tubettini, though you might opt for the kitsch value of elbow macaroni. Use a fresh, creamy goat cheese that you know and love or, if you don’t have one, you will in all likelihood do just fine with an inexpensive vacuum-sealed one.
This recipe includes a béchamel – a creamy sauce of egg, butter, flour, cheese, and milk – which is used in a number of classic pasta recipes, especially lasagna. Usually it’s made with milk that’s been preheated in a separate pot, but I find that by allowing the milk to make contact with the bottom of the pot before whisking with the other ingredients, this is not necessary.