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Best-Ever Macaroni Cheese with Crunch Crumb

Yes, we’ve already given you macaroni cheese (see here and here), but when GoodFood put this dish on the front cover of the March 2013 issue, we just had to give it a go — and now we just have to share it with you! This recipe has elements of both of the previous recipes, but its own personality, and in the end, it may very well be the ‘best-ever’ macaroni cheese — even as fond as we are of the other two recipes. Give it a go and see what you think!

Best-Ever Macaroni Cheese with Crumb Crumb

2 bay leaves – fresh if you have them
1 large leek, washed and roughly chopped
5 cups low-fat milk
4 oz. butter (8 tbs.)
4 oz. all-purpose flour (¾ cup)
1 tsp. dry mustard
10 oz. English cheddar, grated, divided (4 cups, 1½ cups)
2 oz. Parmesan, finely grated (¾ cup)
16 oz. macaroni
6 green onions, finely chopped
2½ oz. pancetta slices
2 hand-cut thick slices bread from a white loaf, cubed
olive oil, for drizzling

Put the bay leaves, leek, and milk in a pan, and heat gently until steaming but just below boiling point. Take off the heat and set aside to infuse for 1 hour.

Drain the milk and discard the leek and bay. Wipe out the pan, then add the butter, flour, and mustard powder. Heat, stirring, until the butter has melted, then cook to a paste for 1 minute. Splash in some milk gradually and stir until smooth and completely incorporated. Add the rest of the milk, a little at a time at first, then gradually add more as the mixture gets saucy. Heat, stirring all the time and scraping the bottom of the pan so it doesn’t catch, until the sauce is bubbling and nicely thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in 4 cups of the cheddar and half of the Parmesan. Season really well – keep tasting as it will need a generous amount of salt.

Cook the macaroni following package instructions, until it is almost tender but still has a bit of chew to it. Drain well, then stir into the cheese sauce with three-quarters of the green onions. Scrape into a large ovenproof dish (or several individual ones).

Scatter the remaining 1½ cups cheddar over the macaroni, then alternate between draping over pancetta slices (bunching them up a bit) and scattering with the bread cubes and remaining green onions. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and add a very little drizzle of oil – holding your thumb over the bottle so just a trickle comes out. Can now be cooled, covered, and chilled for up to 1 day, or frozen for up to 1 month.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Bake for 40 minutes until bubbling and crunchy and golden on top (if using individual dishes check after 30 minutes).

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