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Dry Mac and Cheese - help

Alright, so this is not the first time this has happened and it baffles me...

I make the bachamel and add the cooked noodles always making sure to add lots of creamy liquid ratio to mac BUT when it comes out of the oven, all the creamy liquid has been absorbed and the mac is dry.

Any hints?

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  1. you may want to try a looser bechamel and cooking the dish for less time.

    you're not rinsing the noodles, are you?

    3 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      Baking dries it out a lot. You either have to make the bechamel much wetter or just run your dish under the broiler to brown rather than baking for any length of time in the oven. It certainly can be trial and error though if you measure everything strictly until you get the right ratio you will have a dish you can replicate every time.

      1. re: escondido123

        I agree w escondido123. I have since stopped baking my Mac & cheese dishes. Seemed no matter how much cheese sauce I made, it was never enough to keep it moist & creamy, especially when leftovers are reheated. A quick turn under the broiler is really all it needs.

        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

          + (another) 1.

          Baked mac and cheese usually sucks. Even if you make a large amount of loose sauce so that it isn't dry, you get soggy noodles. If I'm making it ahead, I store the noodles and sauce separately, mixing the noodles with just enough water, oil, or sauce to lubricate them. The rest goes into its own container. I heat the cheese sauce in a pot, dump in the noodles, and then put under the broiler if there's a topping. If I were determined to come up with a baked mac and cheese recipe, I think I would want to start with uncooked pasta.

    2. I had exactly this problem with America's test kitchen version of Mac and Cheese, it was AWFUL.

      1. possible causes

        Too high a pasta to sauce ratio

        1 Reply
        1. re: rasputina

          No Over cooking, even before I put it in the oven, all the liquid was absorbed..... Any how, I think I just created a new recipe.....
          I baked it off for 1/2 the time and added cream. Now, I'll just grill the top.
          Cross my fingers....

        2. As rasputina wrote, too much pasta for the amount of sauce, especially if it is gone before you even put it in the oven.

          1. Without having your recipe, in general I recommend pouring your hot cheese sauce over the pasta and doing a quick broiler brown and bubble.

            1. Oven-broil or bake briefly, as suggested, but I find it also helps to overcook the pasta. No al dente - you want it to have absorbed a lot of water in cooking, so it soaks up less of the sauce.

              1 Reply
              1. re: greygarious

                That makes sense. I will have to try this. I don't make it very often any more now that my sons are grown and gone. :-(

                1. I am a huge fan of Martha Stewart's mac and cheese recipe. It's amazing. Comes out creamy every time I make it. Reheats beautifully. Best mac and cheese I've had. It is baked, but I do prefer a baked (rather than just broiled) mac and cheese.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: debbiel

                    I am also a big fan of Martha Stewart's recipe. It's always a huge hit,and it's perfect and creamy every time.

                    1. re: debbiel

                      +1 on the MS recipe. It is always a huge hit at parties.

                      1. re: NE_Elaine

                        Is this the Martha Stewart recipe you're referring to?

                        I'm looking for the perfect solution myself

                        1. re: critter101

                          Yes, this is the one that I use. I make it with the cheddar and swiss combination as I did not care for it with the romano. I cook the pasta 1 minute less than called for. I salt the water well when making the pasta. I also mix the last of the chees with the bread crumbs before I sprinkle them on top so the cheese gets nice and crusty.

                          I hope you like it.

                          1. re: NE_Elaine

                            Thanks - and your extra tips sound great!

                    2. You could try soaking the noodles for a hour and a half in salted tap water (found this technique on CI), then baking.

                      I've used this technique successfully for pastitso (once), but when I tried it with egg noodles, they fell apart! Works all right with "sturdy" noodles, though!

                      1. The baked pastas from Al Forno restaurant in Providence use an unusual method. You half cook the penne or shells and then toss with an amazing mix of cheeses and heavy cream that are just mixed cold. It all goes into a large shallow pan and then bakes in a hot oven until the top is quite brown. Absolutely amazing and worth every calorie.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: escondido123

                          I'm intrigued. The result looks dry and gross, but the description makes it sound good.

                          1. re: jvanderh

                            Believe me, it is neither dry nor gross. Done properly there are crunchy bits on the top and the creamiest baked pasta you will ever eat....and it goes for $20 for two at their restaurant.

                          2. re: escondido123

                            al Forno is delicious, thanks for that link, escondido123!

                          3. I had your problem at first but I loosened my sauce (wetter: more milk) and used more of it.

                            That's really the simple solution.

                            1. I once wrote down this recipe for M&C made with uncooked pasta but have never tried it, nor do I recall the source:

                              2 tablespoons butter
                              1 cup whole milk cottage cheese
                              2 cups whole milk
                              1 teaspoon dry mustard
                              Pinch cayenne
                              Pinch nutmeg
                              1/2 teaspoon salt
                              1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
                              1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
                              1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked.

                              1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tablespoon butter to butter a 9" round or 8" square baking pan.

                              2. In a blender, puree cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together. Reserve 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

                              3. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 1/2 hour, until browned. Cool >15 minutes before serving.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: greygarious

                                I know when I make wild mushroom lasagne, which has a bechamel, the lasagne noodles are not cooked. Then again, they are either fresh noodles, or store bought no boil kind. It comes out wonderfully, but can't recall how much sauce it uses, I will have to hunt it down.

                              2. My sister passed this recipe on to me, and it is the best one I've tried yet. Not sure of her source, though. And it doesn't come out dry at all, but it's only briefly broiled, which I really think is key:

                                Four-Cheese Classic Mac

                                Prep: 10 mins
                                Cook: 14 mins
                                Broil: 3 mins

                                1 box (16 ounces) cavatappi or cellentani (corkscrew-shaped pasta)
                                3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
                                3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
                                2 1/2 cups 2% milk
                                1 teaspoon onion powder
                                1/2 teaspoon salt
                                1/4 teaspoon black pepper
                                8 ounces Gouda cheese, grated
                                4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
                                4 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
                                1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
                                2/3 cup plain panko bread crumbs
                                Chopped fresh parsley (optional)
                                1. Heat broiler. Coat a 9 x 9-inch broiler-safe baking dish or six 1-cup ramekins with nonstick cooking spray. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook 11 minutes, following package directions. Drain and transfer to bowl.
                                2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add flour, whisking to blend. Gradually add milk; whisk until smooth. Bring to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat, stirring, then add onion powder, salt and pepper. Simmer 3 minutes, then remove from heat.
                                3. Stir in Gouda, Cheddar, Swiss and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth. Mix into cooked pasta and pour mixture into prepared dish(es).
                                4. In medium-size microwave-safe bowl, melt remaining 1 teaspoon butter. Stir in panko and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Divide evenly over pasta. Broil 3 minutes or until browned. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

                                1. I really love this recipe. It's not a bechamel and as long as you cook it for the minimum time it is nice and moist.


                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: SuperGrover

                                    Reads like a bechamel without the fat, no? I have to assume the cheese powder--what the heck is this stuff--has flour in it.

                                    1. re: escondido123

                                      I always though a bechamel started with you mixing the flour with a fat and then adding in the liquid and cooking until it got thicker. This you just sort of just dump everything together. I get Cabot cheddar cheese powder. KAF sells cheese powder too but I bet it's just the same stuff repackaged.

                                  2. I don't mean to toot my own horn but as the Editors Choice winner of a Mac and Cheese competition here on Chow, I suggest you try my 3 cheese recipe with panko bread crumbs. the top can be made as crunchy as you like depending on the amount on panko on top and if you put it under a broiler. But the mac is soft and gooey.


                                    I am always open for suggestions to make it even better.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: TLDMAT

                                      Heavy cream and three kinds of cheese- sounds delicioius! This may be my dinner tonight!

                                    2. Baking is for lasagna. I think the best way to make it creamy and keep it that way is to serve it stove top style. If you must encrust it with something then use the broiler. I've even skipped the bechemel altogether and simply used a little more cheese to tighten it up.

                                      My problem is KEEPING it creamy in the warmer to last through the dinner rush, so I've had to make it in smaller batches to keep it as fresh as possible.