Mac and cheese pairs with all-American barbecue so well that classic comfort food restaurants treat it as a side dish, right along with baked beans and coleslaw. This unique version stars three different cheeses for a creamy, tangy flavor and a sprinkling 0f fresh herbs for brightness. It is finished under the broiler for a slight char on top.
Three-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese
For this recipe, a pasta with ridges will hold the sauce best. Look for artisanal or whole-grain dried pasta, which has a better flavor than standard boxed versions.
1 lb. dried pasta, such as macaroni or penne rigate
4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, minced
1 Tbs. fresh thyme, minced
2 cloves garlic, crushed into a paste with 1/2 tsp. salt
1 6- to 8-oz. chunk Pecorino romano cheese, very finely grated
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cups heavy cream
5 slices orange or white American cheese
1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a boil. Salt generously and add the pasta, stirring with a large spoon to prevent clumping. Return to a boil and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes; the pasta should be slightly underdone. Drain into a colander, then transfer back to the pot and toss with half the melted butter.
Preheat the broiler to medium-high. Brush the sides and bottom of a large gratin dish or a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with melted butter.
In a bowl, combine the olive oil and the remaining 2 Tbs. melted butter. Stir in the bread crumbs, parsley, thyme, garlic paste and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the pecorino cheese. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Coat the bottom and sides of the prepared gratin dish with some of the bread crumb mixture.
In a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream just to a boil, being careful not to let it boil over. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the remaining pecorino and the American and cheddar cheeses. Whisk gently until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pasta and stir to coat. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.
Transfer the pasta to the prepared gratin dish and top with the remaining bread crumb mixture. Broil, rotating the pan halfway through cooking, until the bread crumbs are golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
For more outdoor cooking recipes and techniques, check out our cookbook Williams-Sonoma On the Grill.