Mac & Cheese

I love mac & cheese, probably above all other comfort foods. It’s my weakness. If it’s on a menu- I have to get it. Every time. I know I’m not alone- it’s one of the most frequently googled recipes on the internet! But you can stop the search – I have the best Mac & Cheese recipe you’ll ever need!

I think it was back in 2005 when I became obsessed with making the perfect baked mac & cheese. In one weekend I made 5 different batches…and none of them were keepers. And so the quest continued. It took over a year to find the right recipe to work with and then I did. And then life changed!

What I discovered is that its all about the roux. Once you learn to get your roux just right, you’re well on your way to mac & cheese heaven. To do this, I find slow and steady wins this race. You want to be sure to stir in the milk gently until it coats the back of a spoon nicely. Then off the heat you add the cheese and you have yourself a luscious, glorious cheese sauce.

All you need to start your Mac & Cheese quest is Ina Garten’s Mac & Cheese Recipe.

Once you master that, you can create an endless amount of variations from it. You can compleatly change the flavor of the dish just by changing up the cheeses. However, what you don’t want to change is the texture. So be mindful to use good melting cheeses to prevent your mac from becoming greasy instead of gooey. Some of the best melting cheeses include asiago, cheddar, colby, fontina, gouda, gruyère, havarti, monterey jack, and muenster. Stay away from cheeses such as manchego, roquefort, and feta that tend to expel oil and will ruin the texture of your dish.

Ok, here is the best party of this mac & cheese. It can be made in advance and even portioned into individual servings if you wish to. Prepare the recipe entirely and refrigerate until ready to heat. Take it out of the fridge for about 30 minutes before you are ready to put it in the oven.

My Version of Ina Garten's Mac & Cheese

Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins

Ingredients

  • Kosher Salt
  • 1 pound elbow, cavatappi or medium shell pasta
  • 1 quart milk (I use organic whole milk)
  • 8 tablespoons, unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup flour (I use King Arthur's unbleached all-purpose flour)
  • 12 ounces Gruyere, grated (4 cups)
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed) Panko breadcrumbs are a fine substitute.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Bring a large pot water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, Drain well.
  3. As soon as you drop the pasta, start working on your sauce.
  4. Heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Meanwhile, Melt 6 (of the 8) tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk
  5. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth.
  6. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth.
  7. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and the pinch of nutmeg. You are looking for a smooth, luscious sauce. Taste it for seasoning before next step.
  8. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a one 3 quart casserole dish or multiple smaller baking dishes.
  9. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top.
  10. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Helpful Hints

  • The most important thing to remember is that Macaroni and Cheese does NOT reheat well. It will break. So if you don't intend to eat it all, split it up into smaller cassarole dishes and cook it as needed.
  • Don't buy pre-shredded cheese. It contains all kinds of unnecessary additives and does't melt as well. Instead grate your own and you'll be rewarded.
  • It will appear to be overly cheesy when you pour it into the casserole dish but don't freak out. The pasta absorbs it much more than you think so just trust it. You'll thank me!

Recipe Review

  • easy to follow directions 9.0
  • taste 9.0
  • presentation 10.0
  • feedback from tasters 10.0
  • would make again 10.0

User Rating

5 (1 Votes)

Summary

10Score

Look no further for the perfect baked macaroni & cheese recipe. Once you learn the basics, get creative with new flavors and additions!