Dear Mary: The Ahwahnee takes this comfort food to the next level, boosting it with Parmesan cheese and adding a hint of spice with a little Old Bay seasoning before baking it to toasted golden perfection.
Larry's macaroni and cheese
Total time: About 1 hour
Servings: 6 to 8
Note: Adapted from the Ahwahnee in Yosemite National Park.
1 pound small elbow macaroni
7 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) flour
1/3 cup minced onion
4 ounces finely shredded Parmesan cheese
Heaping 1/2 teaspoon oregano
Heaping 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt
Heaping 1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cups cream
3/4 cup milk
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the macaroni. Cook until the macaroni is al dente, 8 to 10 minutes, or according to the instructions on the packaging. Drain and set aside.
2. While the water is coming to a boil, in a large, heavy-bottom saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and cook, whisking to form a blond roux (the mixture will be very stiff at first, but will loosen slightly as the flour is hydrated), about 2 minutes.
3. Whisk in the onion, then the cheese, oregano, Old Bay, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk the cream and milk in slowly until fully incorporated.
4. Cook the mixture at a very gentle simmer, stirring frequently to cook out the flour taste, about 20 minutes (scrape the bottom of the pan occasionally to prevent the flour from sticking).
5. In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the cheese sauce. Place the mixture in a 3-quart casserole and bake until warmed through and lightly toasted on top, about 30 minutes. Cool a few minutes before serving.
Each of 8 servings: 682 calories; 17 grams protein; 56 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 44 grams fat; 27 grams saturated fat; 145 mg. cholesterol; 3 grams sugar; 412 mg. sodium.