This decadent riff on the comfort food classic uses multiple cheeses and meats. Chef Stephanie Izard, Top Chef winner and author of Girl in the Kitchen ($23; amazon.com), employs a surprise secret ingredient: apples! "When people say they don't like fruit in their food, I just tell them to trust me. This is my job!" Read on and prepare to get cozy with Izard's take on macaroni and cheese.
Serves: 8 to 10 as an appetizer, or 4 to 6 as an entree
¼ cup unsalted butter, plus 3 tbsp
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1½ cups Panko-style bread crumbs (available in most grocery stores)
6 cups whole milk
1 small onion, halved
4 oz. bacon (3–4 slices), cut into ½-inch pieces
3 Fuji apples, peeled and diced
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
¾ cup diced sopressata or other similarly spiced cured meat
¾ cup chopped deli-style cooked ham
1 lb. dried shell pasta
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1½ cups grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese (reserve ½ cup for topping)
1 cup grated aged cheddar cheese
1 cup grated smoked Gouda cheese
1 cup grated Havarti cheese
1. In a large saucepan melt 3 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook until garlic is soft and fragrant (1–2 minutes). Add bread crumbs and quickly mix to combine. Remove mixture to a bowl.
2. In a medium saucepan combine milk and onion over medium heat. Bring milk to a low simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. As the milk simmers, return large saucepan to the stove and warm over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy (10–12 minutes). Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside, keeping the leftover fat in the pan.
4. Add apples to the hot bacon fat in the pan, sautéing until softened (1–2 minutes). Remove apples and place in a bowl; add vinegar and toss to coat.
5. Add sopressata to hot pan and sauté until crisp (about 1–2 minutes). Remove and mix with chopped ham in the bowl with apples.
6. Mince the crisped bacon and place in bowl with bread-crumb mixture; toss to combine. Preheat broiler to high.
7. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook according to package instructions.
1. As the pasta cooks, melt ¼ cup butter in saucepan over medium high heat. Sprinkle flour over butter and whisk together to form a paste. Let mixture cook until it begins to smell nutty (1–2 minutes).
2. Slowly strain simmered milk and onion (½ cup at a time) into the pan with butter and flour, whisking well to avoid lumps, and discard onion. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let sauce thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 5 minutes).
3. Add 1 cup mozzarella, cheddar, Gouda, and Havarti to the sauce, stirring as the cheese melts.
1. When pasta is done, drain and add to cheese sauce along with apple mixture. Stir to combine all ingredients; pour into a lightly greased 13" x 9" baking dish.
2. Sprinkle bread-crumb mixture and reserved mozzarella evenly over the top of dish. Broil until bread crumbs are golden and cheese bubbles (about 4–5 minutes).
3. Serve immediately, or keep warm in a 200°F oven for up to 30 minutes.