I wanted to name this recipe "Humble Pie" because it contains Velveeta, a product I consider to be the bottom of the food chain, but nonetheless absolutely essential to the consistency of the macaroni and cheese. True foodies might scoff at such a plebeian ingredient, but sometimes comfort food requires certain sacrifices. It's a small price to pay for a dish that everyone loves.
8 tablespoons butter, divided
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (about 3 or 4 pieces of fresh white bread pulsed in a food processor)
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayene pepper
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
8 ounces Velveeta processed food product (i.e. fake cheese), cubed, if possible
8 ounces colby cheese, shredded
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and toss with the breadcrumbs. (You can cut back on the butter here if you want, but with all that cheese, what's the point?)
2. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and macaroni and cook until almost tender. Drain and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a large pot. Stir in the garlic, mustard, and cayenne. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whatever you do don't burn the garlic or you will have to start over.
4. Stir in the flour and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and broth. Bring to a simmer. Cook, whisking often, until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.
5. Off the heat, whisk in the cheeses (real and fake) until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the drained macaroni, breaking up any clumps, until well combined.
6. Pour into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the breadcrumbs. Bake until golden brown and bubbling around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Note: Don't use pre-shredded cheese because it contains an anti-caking agent that doesn't melt well in this dish.
Assemble the casserole as directed through step 6, but do not sprinkle with the breadcrumbs or bake. Store in the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days before serving. The casserole can also be frozen, wrapped in an additional layer of foil, for up to 2 months. Allow the macaroni and cheese to sit at room temperature for 1 hour before baking. (If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before letting it sit at room temperature.)