Here's to a cheesy Thanksgiving

Story highlights

  • Award-winning cookbook author Laura Werlin shares her cheesy tips
  • You can add just about anything to mac and cheese
  • Add butternut squash and sage for a Thanksgiving twist
  • If you insist, you can "healthy up" your mac and cheese
It's no wonder the holidays and macaroni and cheese go together so well: They're both warm, comforting and filled with more than their share of cheesy moments.
With Thanksgiving just days away, cheese expert Laura Werlin can show you the whey to macaroni mastery.
Laura Werlin is the James Beard award-winning cookbook author of "The All American Cheese, Wine Book," and "Mac & Cheese, Please!" You can find her on Twitter as @cheezelady if that tells you anything about her fervor for fromage.
Here are her five tips to having a cheesy Thanksgiving.
Return of the mac
Nearly everyone has a childhood memory of macaroni and cheese. The dish is a perennial favorite regardless of age, and is definitely the ultimate comfort food for winter.
I personally like the sweetness that onions add but, if you prefer, you can simply leave them out of this classic recipe. The dish will likely make it into your regular repertoire either way! Once you have a classic recipe, the possibilities are endless for what you can add in - bacon or arugula anyone?
Classic Mac & Cheese
(Serves 6)
1 tablespoon, plus 1 tsp kosher salt
8 ounces small elbow macaroni
5 tablespoons salted butter, plus more for baking dish
2 cups coarse, fresh breadcrumbs (preferably homemade)
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup finely diced yellow onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces medium or aged cheddar cheese, preferably orange, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
6 ounces Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
Cooking Directions:
1.Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8-inch square (1 1/2-quart) baking dish or pan (or six 8-ounce ramekins). Set aside.
2.Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, about 4 minutes. Drain, and reserve the pot.
3.While the pasta is cooking, in a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Turn off the heat and add the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until mixed well. Set aside.
4.Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until the onion is coated with the flour, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for abo