(by Kristal Damron)
1 gal. water
2 T. kosher salt
1 lb. macaroni, penne cut
2 oz. olive oil, divided
1/2 large shallot, minced finely
28 oz. half-and-half
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. white pepper
8 oz. sharp shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz. mild shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz. mozzarella shredded cheese
optional: 1 T. flour and 1 T. of water mixed together
2 T. unsalted butter
2 oz. minced parsley
Bring water to boil in a large stockpot, and add salt.
Cook pasta al dente.
Drain in a colander but do not rinse, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
Drizzle pasta with 1 oz. olive oil to prevent sticking.
Heat 1 oz. olive oil over medium heat, and sauté minced shallot until softened.
Reduce heat to low, and add half-and-half very slowly.
Cook until temperature reaches 160 - 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Stir in nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Gradually add half of each cheese while stirring.
If the cheese sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water (it will thicken as it cools).
If the cheese sauce is too thin, stir the flour and water mixture, and add it to the sauce.
Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
Stir in butter.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl, combine pasta and cheese sauce, to cover the pasta completely (you may not use all the sauce).
Pour into a 9 x 13 baking pan, spreading evenly.
Add remaining shredded cheeses on top.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden brown.
Sprinkle with parsley.
Cool slightly before serving.
(Read Mushy Stuff, the story that accompanies this recipe.)