Mac and Cheese

5 stars based on 3 votes

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. I want real Mac and Cheese – the kind that takes center stage at the dinner table and throws all dietary caution to the wind. 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

Servings: 3-4 as a main course, 6 as a side dish

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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.
  5. Note: To reheat leftovers, cover with aluminum foil and warm in a 300 degree oven. Do not microwave.

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    Love this recipe!!! Perfect mac n cheese no matter what cheese you use. Thank you!

    - Irene on December 15, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Great mac& cheese ! Iam new to your site
    And looking forward to try other great recipes. Thank you for sharing! !

    - Catherine on July 21, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I didn’t have nutmeg on hand when I made this recipe but thought the dish was delicious without it.

    - Alicia on July 19, 2014 Reply
  • What would be the issue with using salted butter instead of unsalted? Thanks!

    - Sylina on November 30, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Sylina, Just allows you to control the salt level.

      - Jenn on November 30, 2013 Reply
  • 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.

    - Ponyo on November 7, 2013 Reply
  • 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!

    - Esther on November 5, 2013 Reply
  • 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.

    - Natalie on October 22, 2013 Reply
  • This is great. I like to sprinkle some paprika in it to add a little new flavor. Love this!

    - Amanda S. on March 11, 2013 Reply
  • 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. :)

    - Cynthia on December 23, 2012 Reply
  • If I double the recipe, do I also double the cooking time?

    - Erin on November 13, 2012 Reply
    • Hi Erin, It will take longer to cook but not double…just check it every five minutes or so after the recommended cooking time.

      - Jenn on November 14, 2012 Reply
  • Comfort food doesn’t get better than this! Kids love it!

    - Mandy Burkhart on October 2, 2012 Reply
  • Makes yummy mac and cheese. I mix up the cheeses based on what’s in the fridge.

    - Sri on June 26, 2012 Reply
  • 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?

    - Rachel Bridgeman on June 23, 2012 Reply
    • Hi Rachel! Should be fine to make most of the recipe ahead, then add breadcrumbs and bake at last minute. :)

      - Jenn on June 24, 2012 Reply
  • I like the combination of cheeses.

    - Amy Flick on May 21, 2012 Reply
  • Never made it from scratch, but this might make me start trying!

    - Adrienne on May 16, 2012 Reply
  • Adore Mac & Cheese and Ina Garten!

    - Rebecca on March 6, 2012 Reply
  • 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!

    - Michele Mathis Lavell on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • The BEST mac & cheese…..always a comfort food….this one is gourmet comfort!!!! Yummy, yummy, yummy!!!!

    - debbie on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • 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!

    - Uncorked2 on October 23, 2010 Reply
  • soo good. reheating leftovers tonight with some barbeque. josh gets sooo excited when he hears I am trying one of your recipes – so cute!

    - Tammy McIntyre Goddard on November 15, 2009 Reply
  • A definite keeper! There’s a restaurant here in LA that makes a wonderful mac & cheese w/ truffles on occasion. Amazing.

    http://mydinnerswithrichard.blogspot.com/

    - ilona saari on November 5, 2009 Reply
  • 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.

    - kat on October 24, 2009 Reply
  • Brandy – You can use olive oil in the pasta water but definitely still use unsalted butter for the cheese sauce. Enjoy!

    - Jenn on October 15, 2009 Reply
  • could the vegetable oil be substituted with olive oil?

    - Brandy on October 15, 2009 Reply

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