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½ cup grated cheddar cheese
½ cup grated fontina cheese
½ cup grated gruyère cheese
1 ½ cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano *
1 pound elbow macaroni
1/4 cup panko
7 tablespoons butter *
4 tablespoons flour *
2 cups half and half *
1 garlic clove, at least
Salt & pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Add the flour and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and whisk in the half and half little by little. Cook until thickened, about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove from the heat, season with the salt, pepper and ½ cup grated parmesan. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Cover and set aside.
* Double the béchamel sauce for a creamier mac ‘n cheese — 8 TBSP butter, 8 TBSP flour, 4 cups half and half, and 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and macaroni. Cook until the macaroni is very al dente (almost cooked through… it will cook more in the oven).
Drain and return the macaroni to the pot. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and the garlic and stir to combine. (IMPORTANT and worth it!)
Add the béchamel sauce and stir until well combined. Set aside.
Grease a 3-quart baking dish and set aside.
In a large bowl combine ½ cup parmesan, cheddar, fontina and gruyère cheeses. Toss to combine.
Place one-third of the macaroni in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with one-third of the mixed cheeses. Top with another third of the macaroni and another third of the cheese mixture. Repeat with the remaining macaroni and cheese mixture.
In a small bowl combine panko with some grated parmesan. Sprinkle this over the top of the macaroni and cheese.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the macaroni and cheese is bubbly and hot and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.