Mac and Cheese

Mac n cheese 6b

Believe me, when there are impatient and hungry children to feed, I reach right for the blue box in the pantry. It’s easy, and I certainly never get any complaints. But every once in a while, I crave Mac and Cheese and, frankly, the boxed stuff simply won’t do.

Mac n cheese 2

What I want is the real Mac and Cheese – the kind that takes center stage at the dinner table and throws all dietary caution to the wind. The kind that’s enveloped in a rich, creamy sauce made from Gruyere and Cheddar cheese and topped with crispy, buttery bread crumbs. The kind that warms you up on a chilly fall night…that’s the kind of home-cooked, wrap itself around you Mac and Cheese I’m talking about.

Mac n cheese

And no one does it like Ina Garten. This recipe is modestly adapted from her Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook. I’ve omitted her sliced tomatoes (elegant as they are, my kids would have no part of them) and cut her recipe in half. The quantity is perfect for my family – two big eaters and two little ones – but if you have older children or a bigger family, you can easily double the recipe.

Mac n cheese 2b

Mac and Cheese
Adapted from Ina Garten
Printable Recipe

Serves 3-4 as a main course, and 6 as a side


Kosher salt
Vegetable oil
½ pound macaroni, cavatappi or penne (8 ounces)
2 ½ cups milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
¼ cup all-purpose flour
6 ounces Gruyere, grated (about 2 cups)
4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 cup)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup fresh white bread crumbs (2-3 slices, crusts removed and torn into ¼” pieces)


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Drizzle a bit of oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, or just slightly underdone. Rinse with cold water and drain well.

3. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, but don’t boil it. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium (2-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a few minutes more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, ½ tablespoon kosher salt, pepper (¼ tsp), and nutmeg (¼ tsp). Add the cooked pasta and stir well. Pour into a 2-quart baking dish.

4. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter, combine with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle evenly over pasta and cheese sauce. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on the top.

*To reheat leftovers, cover with aluminum foil and warm in a 300 degree oven. Do not microwave.
*Note that this recipe calls for kosher salt. If you have to substitute regular salt, use less.


Mac n cheese 1a

Bread Crumbs (crusts removed, torn into small pieces)

Making the cheese sauce – butter and flour in the pan
Mac n cheese 7b

Thickened sauce with milk, cheese and seasoning
Mac n cheese 6

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  • Brandy

    could the vegetable oil be substituted with olive oil?

  • Jenn

    Brandy – You can use olive oil in the pasta water but definitely still use unsalted butter for the cheese sauce. Enjoy!

  • kat

    your blog is absolutely fantastic! i’ve made this recipe, the pumpkin bread and the supernatural brownies (it’s officially now my go-to brownie recipe). just wanted to say that you are doing a fantastic job! the blog is beautiful and your photos are gorgeous and incredibly helpful. i can’t wait to try more of your recipes.

  • A definite keeper! There’s a restaurant here in LA that makes a wonderful mac & cheese w/ truffles on occasion. Amazing.

    link to

  • soo good. reheating leftovers tonight with some barbeque. josh gets sooo excited when he hears I am trying one of your recipes – so cute!

  • This was REALLY good, but I did feel like this needed a bit more seasoning. We added more black pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes at serving. Loved the consistency and base flavors. Might try mixing up the cheese blend next time. Keep the great recipes coming! I’m trying out your pancakes tomorrow morning. yum!

  • debbie

    The BEST mac & cheese…..always a comfort food….this one is gourmet comfort!!!! Yummy, yummy, yummy!!!!

  • Michele Mathis Lavell

    Mac and cheese is the best when the sauce is made from a roux. I started doing this last year and haven’t looked back since. Adding a little bit of dijon mustard to the sauce gives it a nice kick too!

  • Rebecca

    Adore Mac & Cheese and Ina Garten!

  • Adrienne

    Never made it from scratch, but this might make me start trying!

  • Amy Flick

    I like the combination of cheeses.

  • Rachel Bridgeman

    Hi Jen, I am planning on making this as a side dish with for some company. Do you know if I can make most of the recipe ahead of time (morning) and leave it in the fridge, and then add breadcrumbs and bake at the last minute?

    • Jenn

      Hi Rachel! Should be fine to make most of the recipe ahead, then add breadcrumbs and bake at last minute. :)

  • Sri

    Makes yummy mac and cheese. I mix up the cheeses based on what’s in the fridge.

  • Comfort food doesn’t get better than this! Kids love it!

  • Erin

    If I double the recipe, do I also double the cooking time?

    • Jenn

      Hi Erin, It will take longer to cook but not double…just check it every five minutes or so after the recommended cooking time.

  • Cynthia

    Made thia last night for guests as a side dish to the beef brisket – it was a huge hit! Creamy and rich, but not too heavy (and gave me an excuse to finally buy a grater). Thanks for another winner. :)

  • Amanda S.

    This is great. I like to sprinkle some paprika in it to add a little new flavor. Love this!

  • Natalie

    This is a great recipe! I skipped the fancy cheese and just used cheddar and it was still divine. I found that this was enough sauce for almost an entire box (16 ounces) of pasta. I will definitely be making this again and again in the upcoming colder months.

  • Esther

    Excellent! I loved the penne in it! I even used low fat milk & cheese in it & it was great! I also omitted the bread crumbs & just topped with a little cheese. Another keeper!

  • Ponyo

    My go-to mac ‘n cheese recipe! I cut corners a little and sometimes use already grated cheese, and panko for the bread crumbs and it comes out just fine.

  • Sylina

    What would be the issue with using salted butter instead of unsalted? Thanks!

    • Jenn

      Hi Sylina, Just allows you to control the salt level.

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