- 1 pound penne rigate
- 4 cups half and half
- 4 Tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter
- 6 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika, plus more for garnishing
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 ounces best-quality Gruyère cheese, grated
- 16 ounces best-quality extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated
- 6 ounces best-quality Fontina cheese
- 2 ounces grated real Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set up a stovetop smoker or an outdoor.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook at a rolling boil until just tender. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again and set aside in a large bowl.
Bring the half and half just to a boil in a heavy saucepan and set aside. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another heavy saucepan. Add the flour, and whisk over low heat for 5 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from the heat. Add the hot liquid to the flour mixture, and whisk well. Add the paprika, season with the salt and pepper, and return the pan to a low heat. Add half of all of the cheeses and stir until combined. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens; about 5 minutes. Add sauce to the pasta. Toss well to coat completely.
Coat a 13- x 9- x 2-inch flameproof baking dish/casserole with olive oil, and fill it with half of the sauced pasta. Distribute half of the remaining cheese evenly over the pasta. Repeat layering. Place the dish on a baking sheet, and either smoke at a low temperature for 60 minutes or bake in a pre-heated oven until hot, lightly browned and bubbly, about 20 to 25 minutes.
To smoke the mac and cheese, place the casserole in a smoker or a grill prepared with wood chips until it becomes hot and bubbly and the macaroni and cheese is lightly infused with a smoke flavor. This will take about 60 minutes, but check halfway through the cooking time because smokers and grills will vary.
If a darker crust is desired, place casserole under the broiler, 4 inches from the heat, until the top is golden and bubbling, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately.