Make-Ahead Tom’s Gruyère Mac and Cheese
We’ve hosted Thanksgiving almost every year since 1990. (I can’t remember ever being that YOUNG!!)
I always ask our guests what is a “must have” tradition at Thanksgiving, and Mac & Cheese is a frequent request. We are crazy about Tom’s Gruyère Mac & Cheese, but Tom’s recipe is not a make ahead as it is at its gooey, oozy, cheesy best fresh out of the oven. The first year I made it for Thanksgiving in the pre-dinner frenzy I forgot to put the milk and egg over it so it was literally pasta and cheese and also dry as a bone. Tom blames this giant cocktail …Oops!
Recently I was gifted the new Barefoot Contessa Go-To Dinners. I was intrigued by Ina’s Overnight Mac & Cheese. Ina soaks the pasta overnight in heavy cream and cheese and bakes it the next day. Brilliant!
Borrowing Ina’s method, I tweaked Tom’s recipe by increasing the amount of liquid and changed it from milk to heavy cream (don’t even want to think about the calories in this baby). Then, I topped it off with panko breadcrumbs for a crispy, crunchy topping.
Everyone has their favorite blend of cheeses, and ours is Gruyère and Parmesan. Whatever blend of cheese you prefer, buy the good stuff and grate the cheese yourself. The pre-grated cheese lacks the creaminess and tastiness of freshly grated.
The pasta and cheese mixture needs to sit at room temperature for about an hour before baking and then just pop it into the oven for 25 minutes while your turkey rests for a delicious, oozy, cheesy mac & cheese delight.
Happy Thanksgiving (or any time for that matter)!!
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz. pancetta, diced
2-3 large shallots, diced
2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence
10 oz. good quality Gruyère cheese (freshly grated)
4 oz. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 package (16 oz.) small Elbow Macaroni
4 cups (32 oz.) heavy cream
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, plus extra for the dish
1 cup Panko crumbs
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
The day before you plan to serve, heat one tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until crispy, remove from pan and let drain on a paper towel. In the same skillet, sauté the shallots with the Herbs de Provence until translucent (add more olive oil if too dry). Remove from heat. Return the pancetta to the shallots and combine them. Season to taste with a couple of twists of black pepper and one teaspoon Kosher salt.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta and cook for 4 minutes (it will be undercooked). Drain (don’t rinse!) and set aside.
In a medium (10-inch) bowl, toss the shredded cheeses together and then remove half and save for the next day. Combine the remaining cheese with the cream, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 ½ teaspoons pepper, the pancetta and shallot mixture and the hot pasta stirring to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate for 24 hours so the pasta can absorb the cream. After a couple of hours you may want to stir it again to be sure all the pasta is coated with the cream mixture.
The next day, allow the pasta mixture to sit at room temperature for one hour. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Butter a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish. Combine the Panko crumbs with the melted butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Stir the pasta mixture well and pour into the prepared dish, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the reserved cheese over the top and finish with the Panko crumbs.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the heated all the way through and the Panko crumbs are golden brown.