This recipe, from the Canal House restaurant in New York City's Soho Grand Hotel, has been lifted from my last cookbook, The New Elegant but Easy Cookbook. Some things are worth repeating. I have never met anyone who ate just one serving.
1 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups low-fat milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
10 ounces extra-sharp aged white Cheddar, grated, plus 2 ounces, grated (see Help Note)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
8 ounces cavatappi (see Help Note)
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. In a large saucepan, cook the onion over low heat in the melted butter until the onion is soft but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the flour. Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk until thoroughly blended. Return to medium heat and cook, stirring, until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard and the 10 ounces of Cheddar, the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and hot pepper sauce.
2. Meanwhile, cook the cavatappi according to package directions until just al dente. Drain but do not rinse. Stir immediately into the prepared cheese sauce until well blended. Adjust the seasonings.
3. Spoon the mixture into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Top with the remaining 2 ounces of Cheddar and the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
4. Place the rack in the bottom third of oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes, until the mixture is hot, bubbling throughout, and golden.
Help Note: The finished casserole can be refrigerated before baking. To serve, let the dish return to room temperature and follow the directions in step 4.
The quality and sharpness of the cheese are all-important to the success of this dish. Use a white Cheddar that has been aged at least 2 years. Grafton Village Cheese is always my choice.
Other corkscrew pastas can be substituted for the cavatappi; the sauce adheres beautifully to this shape.
Excerpted from Cooking for Comfort: More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes That Are as Satisfying to Cook as They Are to Eat by Marian Burros (Simon & Schuster, 2003). © 2003 by Marian Burros.
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