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Comfort Food Mac & Cheese Recipe

What is your best no frills (not fancy hard to find ingredients) home made macaroni & cheese recipe (not the blue box)?

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  1. Americas test kitchen has a great recipe!

    1. I've yet to find one. I tried one this year from the Food Network Magazine that looked promising with allegedly a "wing" blue cheese and sauce taste.

      It turned out dry.

      My experience with these mac and cheese recipes of all varieties is getting the ratio right for wet ingredients. Altitude, humitity also can affect the dish, making it dry.

      So, shrug, I've not had luck. Nothing sucks more than shelling out a lot of money for cheeses then the mac and cheese comes out dry or the cheese slightly curdled.

      1 Reply
      1. re: natewrites

        Use evaporated milk as the liquid, to prevent curdling. A bechamel will do the trick, too, but it's more work and if the proportions are wrong, will add to the dryness problem. If you do a stovetop version, keep the sauce a little loose since the dish will thicken as it sits, as the noodles absorb moisture. If you are baking it, make the sauce even wetter - the oven will evaporate more liquid than the stovetop method.

      2. I use Em's Mac and Cheese as a base recipe, but generally substitute my own cheese. I get 2-4 different cheeses, grate or cube them up and then put them in. I'd recommend just getting the best good sharp cheddar you can find (that is reasonably priced - I find the cheaper "NY or Vermont" varieties at whole foods work nicely, as do extra sharp cheddar blocks sold at standard supermarkets (though they tend to vary) - you might have access to good pre-grated cheese but I don't so I bought a cheap grater, you can cube it also). If you make it with cheddar and parmesan it will be really good. Also I sometimes just eat it after I mix in the cheese and skip the oven part, but sometimes I want a buttery "crust" on the sides.

        Naturally you can get creative and perfect your recipe by varying/mixing cheeses. This is really where the taste should come from, to be honest all you really do is make a bechamel, add cheese, wait for it to melt then add cooked pasta. That's basically it unless you want to finish it in the oven.

        src: emeril lagasse, foodtv.com :http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/em...

        Also, for the record, boxed mac and cheese is just about always horrible. If you make a basic homemade mac and cheese with quality cheddar (not super pricey, but ideally something not sold pre-grated and NOT kraft) you won't be able to eat boxed stuff. (some swear that adding processed cheese improves melting, maybe others can comment on this but I prefer to avoid processed cheeses with this - that said I'm sure a little velveeta could make good mac and cheese


        6 tablespoons unsalted butter
        1/2 pound elbow macaroni
        6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
        3 cups whole milk (I've used 2% and it works fine, wouldn't go less than 2% milkfat though)
        1 teaspoon salt
        1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
        Pinch cayenne
        2 1/2 cups grated Cheddar (about 6 ounces)
        1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
        1 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows

        Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside.

        Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain well.

        Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to let the flour brown. Using a whisk, add the milk in a steady stream and cook, whisking constantly, until thick and smooth, 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the salt, pepper, cayenne, and 2 cups of the cheese, and stir well. Add the noodles and stir well. Pour into the prepared dish.

        In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese with the bread crumbs and Essence. Sprinkle evenly over the macaroni and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes.

        Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

        Really easy and doesn't take too long.

        3 Replies
          1. re: Cherylptw

            I wondered the same thing, due to just reading the guidelines here for posting.
            So, here's the link

          2. re: DukeOfSuffolk

            Processed cheese food like Velveeta does indeed help the sauce remain smooth. It doesn't have to be a large percentage of the cheeses used. If you use milk and no flour, it will help prevent curdling.

          3. Alton Brown's stove top mac and cheese--it's super creamy and easy.


            Or, if I want one that is drier, I make a bechamel with cheese and bake.

            2 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                That's the one I use when in a hurry. Works ok with a mixture of cheddar and other cheeses too.

              2. I'm still seeking [probably because it's not possible] the perfect mac and cheese like Stouffers.
                Just found this
                but meantime tonight, I'll do Alton's...it looks good and I have all except the elbows.
                one thing I have discovered is that it can't sit, if there's sit time for mac and cheese
                it gets dry/hard/thick/not creamy and it's really at the point where you just gotta chuck it

                5 Replies
                1. re: iL Divo

                  I agree. The AB mac and cheese is wonderful, but the leftovers are never appealing.

                  1. re: onceadaylily

                    Leftovers of AB man & cheese can be reheated successfully, with some care. I add a bit of milk and reheat in a pan on low heat, stirring constantly. Add a little more milk as needed and you should get the creamy sauce back, almost as good as the first night.

                    1. re: lotuseedpaste

                      True, I was nuking the ever-lovin' life out of it. I admit it. It just looks so unappetizing after sitting, that I never felt inspired to throw any energy behind a resurrection. I'll give it a shot tomorrow.

                    2. re: onceadaylily

                      the idea is hopefully there isn't any left over because it was that good ;:~/

                    3. re: iL Divo

                      One thing is to not just try to reheat the macachee: I cut out blocks of the solidfied leftovers and bread them. They make nice "pasta steaks", baked or pan-fried.
                      If I'm thinking ahead, it really helps to mix in a bit of herbes de provence -- or your favorite seasoning -- or slivers of ham in the still warm leftovers before storing.

                    4. This is the best macaroni and cheese I have ever had. It's super rich and I go a little lighter on the onion


                      1. I love this recipe for Southern Macaroni and Cheese. I didn't think I would like it because it uses eggs to bind instead of a traditional bechamel, but it's outstanding. Creamy, cheesy goodness.

                        Southern Macaroni and Cheese

                        1 lb elbow macaroni
                        1 cup heavy cream
                        1 ¼ cup milk
                        2 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
                        2 eggs
                        ½ tsp salt
                        1 cup panko bread crumbs
                        3 tbsp butter, melted

                        Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly butter a 9x13 baking dish.

                        Begin by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta for 5 minutes, or until it is still very al dente. Drain and set aside.

                        In a large bowl, combine cream, milk, 2 cups cheese, 2 eggs, salt and pepper. Stir until egg is fully incorporated into the mixture. Toss the pasta with the liquid and pour into prepared baking dish. Top with remaining cheddar cheese.

                        To make the bread crumb topping, combine melted butter with the panko; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread topping carefully over the cheddar cheese.

                        Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbling. Let rest for 5 minutes before digging in.

                        1. The best mac and cheese recipe I've made is a NY Times recipe that was posted on this board a while ago. The noodles don't have to be precooked, and there's no sauce to cook. Really easy, really delicious, and ready in about an hour.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: cheesecake17

                            I don't know if either of these are what you were referring to, but here is a NY Times article "Macaroni and Lots of Cheese" http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/04/din... and 2 accompanying recipes
                            1. Crusty Macaroni and Cheese
                            2. Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

                            1. re: Rmis32

                              The recipe I use is "Creamy Macaroni and Cheese." The first few times I made it, I blended the cottage cheese, but now I just whisk it with the milk in a large mixing bowl.

                              1. re: cheesecake17

                                Thanks for the recommendation cheesecake17!

                                For avoiding cooking the macaroni and making a bechmel sauce, this recipe is wonderful!

                                My modifications:
                                1. delete the extra butter on top-it's very rich already
                                2. use 2% cottage cheese and 2% milk
                                3. whole wheat TJ pasta for health
                                4. cheese-the first time, I used TJ extra sharp cheddar. Flavor was excellent, but because of the mature cheese, the sauce separated and it wasn't consistently creamy. The second time, I used 60% TJ cheddar and gruyere and 40% monterey jack. Nice and creamy. Next time, I'll use 50% extra sharp cheddar and 50% monterey jack.

                                1. re: elise h

                                  I also don't add extra butter.
                                  Mostly I use lowfat or fat free cottage cheese, same for the milk.
                                  Bout the cheese...I use the preshredded stuff in the bag, mixed with some Cabot cheddar

                            2. re: cheesecake17

                              I made the NYtimes version yesterday, Cheesecake, and its ok for taste, but the texture is not quite right. Everything was glued together. I like to have the elbows a little looser, ala the stovetop version mentioned above.

                              1. re: DonShirer

                                Yes, it's on the firmer side. I too would prefer a looser texture. Like anything else in life, there are trade-offs. The incredible ease of preparation makes the firmer texture for me very acceptable. Means I get to enjoy mac & cheese a lot more.

                                1. re: DonShirer

                                  to make it "looser," decrease the amount of pasta. decrease the cottage cheese some and increase the milk some...

                              2. This is my family's recipe, which I actually haven't made in a really long time since my husband doesn't like pasta (*gasp of horror*). As you can see, it uses a bechamel sauce, but it's really simple. Also, just as an aside - Trader Joe's frozen macaroni and cheese is really incredible - not like the box kind at all. I hardly ever eat frozen food but it makes a really tasty lunch.

                                CLASSIC MACARONI & CHEESE

                                12 oz. macaroni, cooked and drained
                                2 T. butter
                                1¼ cups cheddar cheese, shredded
                                6 T. butter
                                6 T. all-purpose flour
                                ground black pepper, to taste
                                3 cups milk
                                Dash paprika
                                ½ cup bread crumbs

                                • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
                                • In a casserole, combine macaroni, 2 T. butter, and cheese; toss to mix.
                                • Melt the 6 T. butter over low heat in a heavy saucepan.
                                • Whisk in the flour and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring, until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Keep stirring for 1 minute more.
                                • Remove from heat and stir in the milk.
                                • Return to heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute.
                                • Pour the white sauce over the macaroni mixture. Stir to combine.
                                • Sprinkle bread crumbs and paprika on top.
                                • Bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown on top.

                                Makes 6-8 servings.

                                1. This has become my go-to recipe for the last few years.

                                  Patti Labelle's "OVER THE RAINBOW" MACARONI AND CHEESE

                                  1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

                                  1 lb Elbow Macaroni

                                  8 Tbsp (1 stick) plus 1 Tbsp Butter

                                  1/2 Cup (2 ounces) Shredded Muenster Cheese (I substitute ButterKase)

                                  1/2 Cup (2 ounces) Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese

                                  1/2 Cup (2 ounces) Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

                                  1/2 Cup (2 ounces) Shredded Monterey Jack

                                  2 Cups Half-And-Half

                                  1 Cup (8 ounces) Velveeta , cut into small cubes

                                  2 Large Eggs , lightly beaten

                                  1/4 tsp Seasoned Salt

                                  1/8 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper


                                  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a deep 2 1/2-quart casserole.

                                  2. Bring the large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the oil, then the elbow macaroni, and cook until the macaroni is just tender, about 7 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain well. Return to the cooking pot.

                                  3. In a small saucepan, melt eight tablespoons of the butter. Stir into the macaroni. In a large bowl, mix the Muenster, mild and sharp Cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheeses. To the macaroni, add the half-and-half, 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese, the cubed Velveeta, and the eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the buttered casserole. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and dot with the remaining one tablespoon of butter.

                                  4. Bake until it's bubbling around the edges, about 35 minutes. Serve hot.

                                  1. Martha Stewart's mac and cheese is the only recipe I'll make. I think it's even better on day 2.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: mdepsmom

                                      +1 on Martha's recipe. Maybe I'll make it for Christmas eve.

                                      1. re: mdepsmom

                                        +2 on Martha's recipe. So good.

                                        1. re: mdepsmom

                                          This is the one I make, too. However, I make only half the sauce, with all the topping and the full 1 lb. of pasta. The first time I made it, it was to "saucy" for me. I can also buy less, but better, cheese this way!

                                        2. My husband's kids go nuts for mine, which is basically my mother's recipe from when I was a kid. The bechamel sauce will seem too runny, but that's the point - the noodles absorb so much moisture that you really want it runny before you bake it. This makes a pretty large amount.

                                          12-16oz macaroni
                                          4 T. flour
                                          6 T. butter
                                          5 c. whole milk
                                          3-4oz. velveeta
                                          12oz. (or more) shredded sharp cheddar
                                          a handful of parmesan
                                          a few oz. of any other cheese you like (I sometimes use shredded mozzarella for stringyness, swiss/emmenthaler/gruyere for nuttiness, blue for sharpness, whatever)
                                          1 t. dry mustard
                                          a pinch of cayenne
                                          salt and pepper to taste
                                          more shredded cheddar for the top
                                          a few slices of white bread

                                          Cook the macaroni until just al dente. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saute or saucepan and add the flour. Cook for a few minutes until just blonde in color, then slowly add the milk, whisking constantly, until you have a smooth and lump free sauce. Add the velveeta and shredded cheddar (and any other cheese you want melted into the sauce) and continue to cook over medium until all the cheese has melted. Add the parmesan, mustard and cayenne and season to taste. The sauce should be RUNNY. If it's not, thin with additional milk. Stir in the drained pasta and any cheese that you want to add for texture (i.e. shredded mozzarella, crumbled blue, etc.) and pour into a buttered baking dish. Whiz the bread with the additional cheese in the food processor until it becomes crumbly and spread it over the top (you can also use plain buttered breadcrumbs or larger, crouton-like pieces of bread). Bake at 350 for 40-45 min until bubbly all over, then run it under the broiler to get the top extra crispy.

                                          1. America's Test Kitchen has been mentioned, and I'm going to second that but specify: Cook's Country Make-Ahead Creamy Mac and Cheese. The sauce is creamy and delicious and the noodles are just the right texture. The fact that you can pull something this good out of your freezer in a pinch is amazing, plus it makes a perfect comfort food item to give to a new mom/bereaved family/etc.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: JBinGR

                                              Yum...These all sound great. I can't wait to try a few of the recipies...over the next couple months of course as I am sure they would go right to my hips. ;)

                                            2. Our family recipe for Macaroni & Cheese, of course. :-) It's a baked Mac and Cheese with custard holding everything together. I was truly astonished the first time I was ever served a mac and cheese with bechamel sauce base that was cooked on top of the stove! It must've been after I had gone off to college. Everyone I knew made the baked variety. This was passed down from my great-grandmother. She was born in 1889 and their cook taught her how to make this - at what age I don't know, but my Mom says she was baking it all her life. (Mom was born in 1930.) I'm sure the eggs were freshly gathered and the milk fresh from the dairy cow as they lived on a farm and had such animals. And the butter would have been freshly made, too.

                                              Macaroni & Cheese

                                              12 oz dry macaroni
                                              4 eggs, beaten
                                              3½ cups milk - maybe a little more
                                              2 to 3 Tbsp chopped butter
                                              1 pound cubed cheddar cheese

                                              Cook macaroni in boiling water until still firm and drain. Layer in 3 quart casserole dish with the butter, cheese and salt. Stir together the eggs and milk and pour over macaroni. If milk does not come to the top add some more. Bake, covered, at 350°F for 30 minutes then uncovered for 15 more minutes.

                                              1. my girlfriend and I were talking about Mac/Cheese [a couple of years ago] asking who has the best recipe of either someone she knows or I know or one of us. we got no where. then about 3 months ago she sent me an email saying she'd made this and it was **OOTW..........................
                                                so, 3 or so weeks ago I got it all and made it.
                                                now I will say it makes serving for 36 so I cut in in thirds and made it that way.
                                                of course why I didn't leave the recipe alone and try it on it's own merit I have no idea but I had to use the kind of cheese I wanted in there, not the one or ones recommended. either way it was de bom.................

                                                give it a try, easy enough..............

                                                **out of this world

                                                1. Comforting and very basic...start with fake-o Bechamel using (shock!) nonfat milk and SmartBalance plus flour. Substitute shake or two of Cholula for the more traditional nutmeg. Make the fake-o Bechamel into fake-o Mornay with grated cheddar. Stir it all into boiled macaroni in a baking dish. Top with more cheddar, Gruyere, and Romano. Bake at 350 F. until bubbly. Drink two Old Fashioneds while doing this stage. Brown under broiler. ("Many's the night I've dreamed of cheese, toasted mostly." Ben Gunn in Treasure Island, as referred to in the original NYT). Sprinkle lightly with (more shock and horror) salt and eat in front of TV, thinking about the healthy salad you should have made. Save some for lunch and eat a sleeve of Oreos.

                                                  1. Can't get any easier than this:

                                                    1 cup of macaroni
                                                    large lump of butter
                                                    couple handfuls grated or cubed cheddar cheese
                                                    1 cup evaporated milk or cream
                                                    dash of pepper

                                                    Cook macaroni in salted boiling water until tender. Drain. Put drained macaroni back in pot along with butter, cheese, milk, and pepper. Stir occasionally until cheese melts. If you want, you can then turn this into a greased casserole dish, add some more cheese on top and sprinkle some sugar on top to make it brown nicely and bake at 350 until bubbly.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: vafarmwife

                                                      My family recipe is like this, except we don't even bother with the butter. It's the opposite of a creamy, rich style, which I've often tried and generally found to be "too much." In our case, cheese and milk melt together, maybe even in what some would call a controlled curdling,

                                                      And we finish it at the table with some squirts of KETCHUP, which polarizes people more than anything I've seen this side of arguments about chili and barbecue....

                                                    2. I love Alton Brown's mac and cheese recipe. Its never failed me. (Foodnetwork.com)

                                                      1. I have tried several mac and cheese recipes - several very gourmet, but I stopped experimenting once I made this recipe I found on All Recipes - Chuck's Favorite Mac and Cheese:


                                                        It takes about 5 minutes to mix together and it is AMAZING. Everyone always requests the recipe.

                                                        1. Here's a creamy version that I made last night.

                                                          12 oz medium pasta shells
                                                          2 cups 2% milk
                                                          3 tablespoons butter
                                                          3 tablespoons flour
                                                          5 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
                                                          approximately 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
                                                          approximately 3 ounces Gorgonzola, cut into bits

                                                          Cooked shells in boiling salted water about 7 minutes. (Package directions call for 8 minutes for al dente.) Drain and set aside in a bowl.

                                                          Prepare bechamel sauce. (Prior to adding the milk, I cook the flour somewhat longer than recipes typically call for, stirring very frequently.) When the sauce is thickened, gradually add all cheese, stirring, and continue cooking until fully melted.

                                                          Pour cheese sauce over the cooked shells and combine well. Pour mixture into casserole.

                                                          Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for approximately 35 minutes. Remove lid and cook another 5-10 minutes.

                                                          Note: I like shells more than macaroni since it think the sauce gets inside the pasta well taking care of any dryness problem.

                                                          1. Another option - not that much different from other posts, but here it is anyway. This was originally a Cooking Light recipe, but I changed the cheeses around to avoid Velveeta.

                                                            1/3 C flour
                                                            2 2/3 C milk - I use skim
                                                            2 1/2 C shredded cheese - I use 1 8-oz block sharp cheddar, fontina to 2 C, and 1/2 C grated parmesan (the good stuff, not Kraft sawdust)
                                                            salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
                                                            3 C dry macaroni, cooked
                                                            Seasoned bread crumbs (optional)

                                                            Fake bechamel: whisk flour and milk together, bring to a simmer/slow boil and cook for about 8 min or until thick. Add cheeses a little at a time and stir until smooth. Season to taste.
                                                            Stir in macaroni. Transfer to greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
                                                            Bake at 325F for 30 min or until crunchy on top.

                                                            My grandmother's old standby is absurdly easy:

                                                            2 C dry macaroni, cooked
                                                            2 C shredded cheddar cheese
                                                            2 T butter/margarine
                                                            1 can cream of tomato soup
                                                            About 1/3 soup can water
                                                            Mix everything - bake at 325F for 1 hour.

                                                            1. "Best" is subjective for sure.How can Mac and Cheese taste anything but best when your craving, as I was last night. I like to taste the cheese and taste the macaroni. Two distinct tastes in my mind. I can't make the URL go live in this post, so Google search "Old Fashioned Macaroni and Cheese by Matt Gordon". This story and recipe is great. Easy ingredients, don't substitute on the Old Cheddar, that's key .Don't scrimp on the butter on top of crumbs. This isn't Light. For a smaller batch about 1/2 use 1-1/2 cups elbow mac. and 2 cups cubed cheddar or more 1/2 inch cubes, stir it in. . 400 degrees is OK but on the 1/2 batch start watching at about 40 minutes.Don't dry it out. On the 1/2 batch my 6-1/2 X 8-1/2 X 2-1/2 pan was barely big enough.Boiled over a bit. Don't tell my wife. This won't be sloppy or gooey. If you want that use a different recipe. This is how I remember my mother's Mac and Cheese 60 years ago. Cheesy goodness. She bought elbow mac in a five pound box.

                                                                1. I don't eat mac and cheese, but I love to make it. I make for others, leaving a portion for Mr. Sueatmo who otherwise would never get it. I make it from the newest ed. of Joy of Cooking. Baked Macaroni and Cheese, p 326. Forgive me, but I don't want to type out a version; it comprises a recipe for Bechamel and a recipe for assembling the casserole. It makes a lovely dish. I do taste it, and I think it is wonderful.