Recipe of the week: Steakhouse macaroni & cheese

What makes this mac n cheese recipe all ‘Steakhouse’? Its multiple cheeses and crème fraiche for extra-richness and smoked paprika for a hint of smokey heat

Ingredients
1 pound dried bite-size pasta tubes
6 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
6 tablespoons flour
1 bay leaf
1 fresh nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, then to taste (see Note)
4 cups half & half
1 1/4 cups crème fraiche
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grey sea salt, plus extra as needed
3 cups freshly shredded Gruyere cheese
1 3/4 cups freshly shredded aged cheddar cheese
3/4 cups freshly grated mozzarella cheese
Black peppercorns in a pepper mill
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Method
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 4 quart square baking dish

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente

Melt the butter in a 4 quart sauce pan. Whisk continuously and sprinkle in the flour. Continue to wish and cook until the roux starts to take on a lightly golden color. Add the bay leaf and, whisking continuously, gradually pour in the half and half and cook until smooth. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until the mixture has thickened, 14 to 16 minutes. Season with freshly grated nutmeg, cayenne and freshly ground black pepper. Retrieve and discard the bay leaf. Whisk in the crème fraîche and salt and bring the mixture to a simmer

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 1/4 cups each of the Gruyere and Cheddar until melted

Add the pasta to the cheese sauce. Stir in 2 cups more of the Gruyere and the 3/4 cup mozzarella. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish, and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining Gruyere and Cheddar evenly over the top and finish with an even sprinkling of breadcrumbs

Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the oven and cook until it is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and let sit for 10 minutes

Serve Steakhouse macaroni and cheese very warm with a vinaigrette salad and Chenin blanc

Note: Smoked paprika is readily available in every major grocery store. If you cannot find or do not have smoked paprika, substitute ground cayenne pepper