- 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
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir until well combined. Pour into the prepared casserole dish.
- 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.
- 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.