Apple-Cheddar Mac & Cheese


Apple-Cheddar Mac & Cheese

This recipe offers an unexpected spin on a classic comfort food. Makes 4 servings.

1¼    cup dry elbow macaroni (5 ounces)
1½    cup small diced, unpeeled, tart green or red apples
2       tablespoons butter
¼      cup finely chopped onion
2       tablespoons all-purpose flour
2¼    cup whole milk (or lower fat milk)
1       small bay leaf
2?     cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 10 ounces)
½      teaspoon dry sherry
         Ground white pepper
?      cup plain panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or regular bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 1½-quart round casserole or four 4-inch ramekins.

2. Cook pasta in large saucepan according to package directions until al dente. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Return pasta to saucepan. Add apples.

3. Meanwhile, melt butter in medium heavy saucepan. Add onion, and cook over medium heat about 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in flour; cook and stir about 1 minute or until fragrant.

4. Slowly stir in milk with wire whisk. Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly. Add bay leaf. Reduce heat to low, and cook sauce for 10 minutes, stirring often.

5. Remove bay leaf. Stir in 2 cups cheese and dry sherry. Stir about 1 minute or until cheese is melted. Remove from heat; season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. Add cheese sauce to pasta-apple mixture; gently stir until well combined. Transfer mixture to prepared casserole or ramekins. Sprinkle with remaining ? cup cheese and panko. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven about 30 minutes or just until heated through and lightly browned. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.
Courtesy U.S. Apple Association