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A Killer Mac 'N' Cheese

Serves 8-10

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
10 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
6 fresh bay leaves
1 quart reduced-fat (2 percent) milk
4 cups elbow macaroni
8 tomatoes
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
A few springs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
Optional: a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce, such as Lea & Perrins
Optional: a grating of nutmeg
3 big handfuls of fresh bread crumbs
Olive oil

Get a large saucepan of salted water on to boil. Melt the butter in a large ovenproof saucepan, or Dutch oven, over a low heat, then add the flour and turn the heat up to medium, stirring all the time, until you get a paste -- this is your roux. Add all the sliced garlic -- don't worry about the amount, because each slice will caramelize like toffee in the roux. Keep cooking and stirring until golden and the garlic is nice and sticky. Add the bay leaves and slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time to ensure you get a nice smooth sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, then leave on a low heat to simmer and tick away, stirring occasionally. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Farenheit.

Add the pasta to the pan of boiling salted water and cook following the package instructions. Meanwhile, roughly chop the tomatoes on a board and season them well with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta and add it immediately to the sauce. Give it a good stir and take the pan off the heat. Stir in your grated cheese, chopped tomatoes, and some of the thyme leaves. A little Worcestershire sauce added now is nice, so is a little grating or two of nutmeg. Now work on the flavor -- taste it and season it until it's hitting the right spot. You want it to be slightly too wet because it will thicken up again in the oven, so add a splash of water if needed.

If you've made your sauce in a Dutch oven, leave everything in there; if not, transfer it to a deep earthenware dish. Bake it for 30 minutes in the oven, until golden, bubbling, crispy, and delicious.

While it's cooking, put your bread crumbs and remaining thyme into a frying pan with a few drizzles of olive oil over a medium heat. Stir and toss the crumbs around until crunchy and golden all over. Remove from the heat and tip into a nice bowl. Serve your macaroni and cheese in the center of the table, with your bowl of crispy bread crumbs for sprinkling over, and a lovely green salad.

Wine suggestion: dry Italian white -- a good pinot grigio

Excerpted from Jamie's America by Jamie Oliver. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.

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Jamie Oliver