1. Classic Baked Mac and Cheese
8 ounces fusilli or other short pasta
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk, heated
1 bay leaf
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded gruyere cheese
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking, 2 minutes, then whisk in the milk. Add the bay leaf, nutmeg and 1 teaspoon salt and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thick, 8 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and stir in 2 cups cheddar and the gruyere. Stir in the pasta and the reserved cooking water to make a loose sauce.
Butter a 2-quart baking dish; add the pasta mixture and top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar. Bake 15 minutes.
2. Butternut–Blue Cheese Peel and cube 1 small butternut squash; roast at 425 degrees F until tender, about 20 minutes. Make Classic Baked Mac and Cheese, using 2 1/2 cups cheddar in the sauce and replacing the gruyere with 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese; add the squash. Top with 1/4 cup each cheddar and blue cheese and broil until melted. (Do not bake.)
3. Italian Make Classic Baked Mac and Cheese, replacing the cheddar in the sauce and on top with fontina. Top with 1/4 cup each panko and grated parmesan before baking.
4. Beer and Brat Make Classic Baked Mac and Cheese, replacing 1 cup of the milk with pilsner beer. Add 3 browned sliced bratwurst; increase the cheddar on top to 1 cup.
5. Kielbasa Make Classic Baked Mac and Cheese, replacing the cheddar in the sauce and on top with horseradish cheddar. Add 12 ounces browned diced kielbasa; top with 1 cup crushed pretzels before baking.
6. Truffle Sauté 1 pound sliced mushrooms in olive oil until browned. Make Classic Baked Mac and Cheese, replacing the cheddar in the sauce with 2 cups grated truffle cheese. Add the mushrooms; top with 1/4 cup gruyere instead of the cheddar.
7. Onion Lovers’ Cook 2 sliced large onions in butter until golden brown, 15 minutes. Make Classic Baked Mac and Cheese, adding the onions and 1 bunch chopped scallions. Bake, then sprinkle with canned fried onions.
8. Lobster Make Classic Baked Mac and Cheese, using all cheddar; add 12 ounces chopped cooked lobster. Top with the cheese and a mix of 1/2 cup panko, 1/4 cup chopped chives and 1 tablespoon melted butter; broil until golden. (Do not bake.)
9. Smoked Mozzarella Make Classic Baked Mac and Cheese, adding 1/2 cup each sliced roasted red peppers and diced smoked mozzarella. Top with the cheddar and broil until melted. (Do not bake.)
10. Bacon Make Classic Baked Mac and Cheese; add 8 slices crumbled cooked bacon before baking.