There are just some foods that you associate with comfortable, casual dining. Casseroles are one type that comes to mind. Another is pizza, which can satisfy the heartiest of appetites.
The following baked mac ‘n’ cheese recipe was adapted from one at Lawry’s Carvery in Los Angeles, which was covered by Times food writer Noelle Carter.
And yes, it is the same Lawry’s that originated the seasoned salt.
Lawry’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese
¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 large bay leaf
4¾ cups milk
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 1 tablespoon butter, diced
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
4¾ cups plus 1½ cups grated Cheddar cheese, divided
1¼ cups heavy cream
2 pounds penne pasta
1½ cups shredded Parmesan cheese
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Place the peppercorns, thyme and bay leaf in a small piece of cheesecloth or coffee filter, and tie together to make a sachet. In a large saucepan, place the milk and sachet and bring to a simmer over low heat, careful not to boil. Remove from heat.
While the milk is heating, in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat, careful not to brown. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the flour to form a roux. Stir the roux occasionally for 5 minutes, watching that it does not stick to the base of the pot.
Slowly whisk in one-fourth of the milk to form a paste. Slowly whisk in the rest of the milk and the sachet, and season with the 2 teaspoons salt and cayenne pepper. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and stir in 4¾ cups cheese and cream until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is smooth. This makes a scant 2 quarts cheese sauce. Remove and discard the sachet, and set aside.
While the cheese sauce is cooking, make the pasta. In the large pot of salted boiling water, cook the penne to very al dente, about 7 minutes (the pasta will continue cooking as it bakes). Drain the pasta and cool under running water.
Place the pasta in a large bowl, and toss with the cheese sauce. Pour the pasta and cheese sauce into a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle over the remaining 1½ cups Cheddar cheese and the Parmesan cheese. Bake until the cheese topping is melted and lightly colored, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.
Yield: Serves 16.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 657 calories, 25 grams protein, 52 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 39 grams fat (24 grams saturated), 117 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams sugar; 514 milligrams sodium.