INGREDIENTS, SINGLE OR DOUBLE BATCH
Elbow macaroni, 1-1/4 lb or 2-1/2 lb
Vegetable oil, 1 Tbsp or 2 Tbsp
Grana Padano cheese, grated, 6 oz or 12 oz
Jarlsberg cheese, shredded, 6 oz or 2 oz
White Cheddar cheese, shredded, 1-1/4 lb. or 2-1/2 lb
Heavy cream, 6 cups or 12 cups
Fine sea salt, 1 Tbsp or 2 Tbsp
One secret of Ashley’s macaroni au gratin is its freshness—it doesn’t hold well. The macaroni can be boiled several hours in advance, covered with plastic wrap, and stored at room temperature. The cheese can be shredded or grated, packed in ziplock plastic storage bags, and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Large stockpot for parboiling the pasta and then cooking it further in the cream; two or three half sheet pans for holding the boiled macaroni; at least two flameproof baking dishes, each measuring about 9 by 13 inches (be sure they are flameproof, as the gratins will be broiled).
BIG BATCH NOTES
You can make one giant pan of macaroni and cheese in a hotel pan, or divide the mixture among a few baking dishes and broil them one after the other. They will not fit in the broiler all at once, but they do cook quickly, especially if the macaroni mixture is freshly mixed and warm.
Incredibly rich, creamy, and filling, this macaroni gratin needs little in the way of accompaniment, though a green salad or other green vegetable is always welcome.
Bring a large pot of salted water (about 8 quarts) to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and return to a boil. Once the water is boiling, cook the pasta until barely al dente, 5 to 7 minutes, then drain well and divide between two (or more if making a double batch) half sheet pans. Drizzle the macaroni evenly with the oil and mix well to keep the noodles from sticking together. Let cool completely.
Position a rack about 4 inches from the heat source and preheat the broiler. Combine the grana padano, Jarlsberg, and Cheddar cheeses in a large bowl and mix well. Set aside 60 percent of the cheese mixture for the topping. Reserve the remaining 40 percent for mixing with the macaroni.
In the same large pot used for boiling the pasta, combine the cream and salt and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes; the cream will foam up and then subside into a simmer. Add the macaroni and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cream starts to thicken just slightly and coat the macaroni, 2 to 4 minutes. Start adding the reserved 40 percent of the cheese mixture in small handfuls, stirring and waiting for each addition to melt and incorporate into the sauce before adding more.
Divide the mixture between two large, shallow, broiler-safe baking dishes, each about 9 by 13 inches if making a single batch or among four dishes if making a double batch. Mound the reserved cheese over the top, dividing it evenly.
Place a filled baking dish on a half sheet pan to catch any drips, then place under the broiler and broil, rotating the dish as needed to brown evenly, until the cheese melts and caramelizes into a golden brown crust, 3 to 5 minutes. Watch the gratin carefully, as every broiler is different. Remove from the broiler and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Repeat with the remaining filled dish(es). Serve immediately.