The secret to this ultracreamy version of mac 'n cheese? A little Velveeta mixed in with piquant blue, sharp Gruyère and classic cheddar.
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 8 oz. hollow pasta, preferably elbow macaroni or shells
- 3 slices crustless white bread
- 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1⁄2 tsp. paprika
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1⁄4 cup flour
- 1⁄8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 3 cups milk
- 10 oz. grated sharp white cheddar (about 4 cups)
- 10 oz. grated Gruyère (about 4 cups)
- 6 oz. Velveeta, cut into 1/2" cubes (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 1 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 375°. Bring a 4-qt. saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked halfway through, about 3 minutes for elbow macaroni. Drain pasta; set pasta aside. Tear bread into small pieces and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely ground; set aside. Return pan to medium heat and melt 3 tbsp. butter. Add bread crumbs and stir to combine. Transfer bread crumb mixture to a plate and set aside.
Wipe out pan and set over medium heat. Melt the remaining butter and add the paprika, thyme, shallots, and bay leaf; cook, stirring often, until shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cayenne and stir until mixture thickens, 1 minute. Whisk in milk and cook, continuing to whisk often, until sauce has thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Discard thyme and bay leaf and remove pan from heat.
Stir in cheddar, half the Gruyère, the Velveeta, and the blue cheese; continue stirring until smooth. Stir in pasta and season sauce with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to an 8" x 8" baking dish. Sprinkle remaining Gruyère over top of pasta and then top with bread crumbs.
Transfer baking dish to an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and bake until macaroni and cheese is golden brown and bubbly, 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.