1 pound elbows, shells, cavatappi, farfalle, fusilli or other short, tube-shaped pasta
2 cups whole milk
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1-inch pieces
12 ounces sharp or white Cheddar, grated
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper
Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water until just barely al dente; drain.
Meanwhile, bring milk up to a simmer in a large pot. (The pot should be large enough to hold all the pasta when cooked.) Reduce heat to low, add cream cheese, and whisk until it’s completely blended and no lumps remain. Add Cheddar cheese and butter, whisking until everything is completely melted. Season with salt and a generous amount of pepper.
Add cooked pasta and stir to coat. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until the sauce has thickened and is coating each piece of pasta nicely, 2 to 3 minutes; sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. Season again with more salt and pepper before serving.