Ultimate mac and cheese

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Ultimate mac and cheese
This is the ultimate macaroni cheese. I like to add diced pancetta but you can substitute chopped mushrooms if you prefer a vegetarian option. This recipe also makes a great side dish, just bake in individual ramekins and reduce the final cooking time by 5-10 minutes.
  • 250g macaroni
  • 100g pancetta, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 480ml full fat milk
  • 1 onion studded with 2 cloves and a bay leaf
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 40g plain flour
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp English mustard powder
  • 150g mature cheddar, grated
  • 50g gorgonzola, grated
  • 50g gruyere, grated
  • 3 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 25g panko breadcrumbs, blitzed to a fine powder
  • 50g parmesan, grated
  • 2 baby leeks, trimmed and finely sliced
  • large pinch smoked paprika
1. Preheat the oven to 200C.2. Cook the macaroni in a large pan of boiling salted water for 2 minutes less than the recommended cooking time. Drain and keep to one side.3. Fry the pancetta until it starts to brown then add the red onions, garlic and thyme and cook for a further 3 minutes.4. Heat the milk and studded onion until almost boiling, reduce to a simmer and let the flavours infuse for 5 minutes.5. Meanwhile, gently melt the butter over a medium heat then stir in the flour, nutmeg and mustard powder. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, being careful not to colour the mixture.6. Add the milk to the cooked flour, one ladle at a time, and keep whisking to ensure it is fully incorporated before adding the next. This will ensure you have a perfectly smooth sauce. 7. Once all the milk has been added, turn up the heat and boil for one minute to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 of the gorgonzola, cheddar and gruyere cheeses. Add the fresh parsley and season to taste.8. Mix the sauce, pasta and fried pancetta and transfer to a large casserole dish. 9. Mix the remaining cheeses and the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the pasta and then scatter a few pinches of smoked paprika. Bake for 20 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.10. Serve immediately with a fresh green salad and a glass of white wine.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: Serves 4