Smoky Mac and Cheese

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Ingredients:

  • Softened butter, for the baking dish
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 pound smoked Gouda cheese, shredded
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 to 4 dashes hot sauce
  • 1 ½ cups half and half
  • 1 pound mostaccioli, cooked according to the package directions
  • 1 cup crushed crackers or seasoned bread crumbs

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside.
  2. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Pour in the milk all at once and whisk until smooth. Continue cooking, whisking frequently, until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.
  3. Reserve 1 cup of the cheese for the topping. Whisk in the remaining cheese a handful at a time until melted. Stir in the pepper, salt, and hot sauce. Stir in the half and half.
  4. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir until well combined. Pour into the prepared casserole dish.
  5. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Combine the cracker crumbs, the melted butter, and the reserved 1 cup shredded cheese in a medium bowl. Toss to combine. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the casserole.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Let the casserole stand for 5 minutes before serving.

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