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Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Yield: Serves or Makes 4-6
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Push cloves into the onion half, then place the clove-studded onion, bay leaf, salt, pepper and milk into a saucepan and warm. Do not simmer, just warm to infuse flavors, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
In another pot combine butter and flour and cook to form a blonde roux. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, until flour has cooked out but before the roux starts to change color.
Slowly pour the milk into the roux through a sieve, whisking it in a bit at a time. Make sure to incorporate the milk and let the sauce thicken before adding more. Once all the milk is added and the sauce is thick and bubbling, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese.
In the meantime, cook pasta until just under al dente, about 1 minute less than recommended cooking time. Drain, reserving a little of the pasta water, and add pasta to cheese sauce, using a little pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Stir to combine then transfer to a 9x13-inch baking dish. Add a couple more handfuls grated cheddar cheese on top. You can wrap and refrigerate now until ready to bake.
If baking immediately, place in oven for 15-20 minutes. To get a crispier top, broil for the last couple of minutes. If baking from cold, bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until hot all the way through.