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Sep 21, 2010 04:22 PM

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, :

        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' 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.