Hearty Baked Mac and Cheese

This hearty macaroni and cheese is very easy to customize - make it as strongly flavored or a mild and creamy as you like.Ask your cheesemonger to recommend their favorite blend.

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly pepper
4 cups hot milk
4 cups grated cheese; use just comte or a young cheddar or try a mixture of good melting cheeses, Comte, Fontal, Cheddar, Gruyere, Cantal, Pomerol, Gorgonzola...
1 lb. cooked pasta, we particularly like to use Penne, Fusilli, Strozzapreti or Garganelli
1⁄2 cup cream
1⁄2 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350°. Melt 4 Tbsp butter in a medium stainless-steel saucepan over low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until flour taste is cooked out. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk in hot milk, 1/2 cup at a time, and cook, stirring, until sauce thickens. Reduce heat to low and stir in 2 cups of cheese. Stir over low heat until cheese is melted.
Combine pasta and sauce in a large bowl. Scoop 1/2 of pasta mixture into greased 11x9 inch glass pan. Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese over. Scoop remaining pasta mixture on top of this and cover top with remaining cup of cheese. Pour cream over assembled macaroni and cheese. Melt remaining butter in a skillet, toss with breadcrumbs sprinkle over macaroni and cheese. Bake until crumbs are golden. 10-15 minutes. 

Serves 6 as a main dish, 10 as a side.