This is a VERY heavily modified version of Ina Garten's mac and cheese. Pretty much changed everything except the ratios of total cheese, amount of pepper, and milk and butter measurements. The rest I let my brain just kind of go wild with it.
This recipe can easily be halved, for two to four people, or tripled for a catering event. Both proportions taste wonderful and I have had a ton of compliments when I've catered it for my fiance's bowling buddies. They beg for it now when they have a potluck. :) I hope you enjoy it!
2In a 4qt saucepan (or larger), salt the water liberally, and bring to a rolling boil. Pour in about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the noodle of your choice, and check the pasta 2 minutes before the earliest time listed on the package. the outside should be soft, but the inside should be MORE than al dente. It should be firm and hard to bite. Immediately remove pot from heat, strain for a few minutes, and then dump it into your pan to cool down, spreading it out so it won't clump together.
3Wipe out the pan with a towel or paper towel to get rid of any starchy residue. From there, heat the 6tbsp butter until all the way melted. Add the flour. Whisk continuously, cooking on medium until the mixture begins to foam slightly and it takes on a slight "nutty" smell.
4Once you get to that "nutty" smell, turn the heat to low immediately begin to slowly pour in the milk. At this point the roux will usually congeal and the mixture will look horrible. You will wonder, what the heck did I do? But never fear-you just need to get the milk heated up enough so the butter melts and the flour can begin thickening. Cook on low until all lumps are dissolved and the mixture is an ivory color. Immediately remove from heat and add your cheeses.
5Keep stirring until your cheese is mostly melted. Return to buner, heat on low until everything is smoothly incorporated into a cheese sauce. Remove from heat, stir in black pepper.
6If your noodles will fit in the pot you've chosen with the cheese sauce, put them in and gently fold everything in until combined. If not, pour the sauce over the noodles in the pan, and fold everything in there. Now, you can be as creative as you want when topping your mac and cheese. Bacon, pulled pork, pepperoni, pastrami, chips of all kinds, buttered breadcrumbs, or just plain cheese.
7For a 9x13", bake about 30-40 minutes until it's bubbling all the way through and toppings are crunchy.
A 9x9" only goes for about 25-35 minutes. The 3 batch monster in the giant buffet pan takes about an hour to an hour and a half.