Choose a good sharp Cheddar as a base. You can also add parsley or other herbs before baking.
2 tbsp / 30 ml unsalted butter
2 tbsp / 30 ml all-purpose flour
2.5 cups / 600 ml whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream (18% or 35%)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 lb grating cheese (we recommend Applewood Smoked Cheddar)
1/4 tsp / 2 ml each sea salt and black pepper
12oz / 340 g pasta (elbow or corkscrew)
1.5 cups / 375 ml Panko or fresh bread crumbs
3 tbsp grated Parmesan or other cheese
PREHEAT OVEN to 400°F / 200°C. Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven and butter a 3-quart / 2.8 L baking dish. Set a large pot of unsalted water over high heat.
While the water heats, melt butter in a large saucepan. When the butter has finished foaming, stir in the flour, whisking until the flour takes on a little colour, about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and pour in the milk slowly, while whisking continuously. Return the pan to medium heat. Stir until the mixture begins to thicken (about 5 minutes) and then take the pan off the heat again; stir in the cream, mustard, and three-fourths of the cheese. Stir in the salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the hot sauce. Set the sauce aside.
Cook the pasta just al dente. Drain (don’t rinse) and quickly stir the pasta into the cheese sauce, then pour into the prepared plan, scraping all the cheese sauce into the dish. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the pasta. Sprinkle the panko over the cheese, and sprinkle the Parmesan on top of that. Bake until the mixture is bubbling on the edges and showing some golden brown colour on top, 25 to 35 minutes. Let the dish cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
For a spicier version, you can add jalapeno Havarti from Say Cheese.
SOURCE (recipe and photo): Cowgirl Creamery Cooks, 2013, ISBN 978-1-4521-1163-6