Well, I say "classic" but that's only because it's a basic recipe. I don't care how old you are, a good mac n cheese is hard to pass up. Don't be deceived by the simplistic appearance, this dish is a real crowd pleaser and can be varied in endless ways. It also only takes about 25 minutes to make.
Start with a Béchamel. I season it very simply with sea salt and white pepper, then add Gruyère, Parmesan Reggiano, and Sharp Cheddar to taste which is a twist on a classic Mornay. If you like a bit of heat, you can also add a little Cayenne or Chipotle. I can't emphasize enough the importance of tempering the milk when making the Béchamel. If you don't follow this step, you risk the sauce turning out lumpy from the shock in temperature between the Roux in your sauce pan and the milk, which is not acceptable. Remember, cook with whole milk. That's right, Nancy...I said WHOLE milk.
I like the sauce to be on the thin side for mac n' cheese, so if in doubt, thin a bit more with milk. When dripping the sauce into the pan, it should immediately incorporate without resting on top or forming drip lines. It should have just slightly more viscosity than milk. It should also coat the back of a spoon and shine like a coat of paint. This is perfect. The sauce should be creamy and smooth, not thick and starchy. It needs to cook for a bit 15-20 minutes to get rid of the starchiness of the flour.
Once the sauce is ready, set the oven on Broil at 500 degrees. Now carefully add sauce and noodles (al dente please) into a baking dish or enamel coated cast iron dish. Be generous with the sauce which should cover the noodles well. Next take smoked paprika and dash on top which adds great flavor. Then more shredded Sharp Cheddar, Gruyère, Parmesan Reggiano, and fresh bread crumbs from the center of a baguette. Bake until the bread crumbs and cheese are golden and bubbling (8-10 minutes). Serve immediately...it's guaranteed to please.