Macaroni baked with a cheese sauce seems to be comfort food throughout Europe. Babinski presents two versions in Gastronomie Pratique. One version is sans cream and the other, presented below, contains a small amount. In fact, the cream sauce used in this recipe is much thicker than those common today. By the time the completed dish finishes baking, most of the liquid is gone and the macaroni is coated with an intermittent layer of melted cheese and baked cream.
     The recipe calls for cooking the macaroni in salted water along with an onion and a clove. Any flavor this imparts to the macaroni seems to be elusive.
     Babinski does not describe the shape of the macaroni he used for this dish. The actual shape is probably not important, and the term macaroni in Babinski’s day probably referred to all tube-shaped, dried pasta products.
macaroni au gratin à la crème
1 clove, wrapped in a piece of muslin
1/2 small onion
20 grams coarse salt
150 grams macaroni, or other tube-shaped, dried pasta
2 tablespoons butter
10 grams (about 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
pinch ground nutmeg
125 grams heavy cream
30 grams Gruyère cheese, grated
30 grams Parmesano-Regianno cheese, grated
1.  Push the clove into the root end of the onion. Place onion and salt in a large saucepan along with sufficient water for cooking the macaroni. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni, reduce heat to simmer, and cook until tender.
2.  Melt half the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes without allowing the flour to color. Whisk in the cream. Continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and thick. Mix in the nutmeg. Set aside and keep warm.
3.  Preheat broiler.
4.  Brush a gratin dish with 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Drain the macaroni, discarding the aromatics, and return the drained macaroni to the same saucepan. Add the sauce along with the Gruyère and half the Parmesan to the macaroni and mix well. Place the macaroni mixture in the gratin dish and level the top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Dot the top with the remaining butter.
5.  Bake the macaroni under the broiler until the top is partially browned, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Yield: 2 servings.
Ref: Henri Babinski, Gastronomie Pratique, page 810.

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