HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Brewing beer, curing meat, or making cheese? Get great advice

Dry Mac and Cheese - help

TguyMTL Sep 23, 2012 01:10 PM

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?

  1. hotoynoodle Sep 23, 2012 01:18 PM

    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
      escondido123 Sep 23, 2012 01:23 PM

      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
        Dirtywextraolives Sep 23, 2012 03:20 PM

        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
          jvanderh Sep 24, 2012 10:44 PM

          + (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. Ruthie789 Sep 23, 2012 02:06 PM

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

      1. r
        rasputina Sep 23, 2012 02:34 PM

        possible causes

        Too high a pasta to sauce ratio

        1 Reply
        1. re: rasputina
          TguyMTL Sep 23, 2012 03:21 PM

          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. e
          escondido123 Sep 23, 2012 03:28 PM

          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. monavano Sep 23, 2012 03:39 PM

            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. greygarious Sep 23, 2012 06:07 PM

              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
                MrsJonesey Sep 23, 2012 06:16 PM

                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. :-(

              2. Shrinkrap Sep 23, 2012 06:42 PM

                Have you seen this thread?


                1. d
                  debbiel Sep 25, 2012 07:04 AM

                  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
                    jeanmarieok Sep 25, 2012 07:15 AM

                    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
                      NE_Elaine Sep 25, 2012 07:20 AM

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

                      1. re: NE_Elaine
                        critter101 Sep 26, 2012 09:59 AM

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

                        I'm looking for the perfect solution myself

                        1. re: critter101
                          NE_Elaine Sep 29, 2012 04:16 AM

                          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
                            critter101 Sep 29, 2012 07:51 AM

                            Thanks - and your extra tips sound great!

                    2. Chowbird Sep 25, 2012 07:12 AM

                      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. e
                        escondido123 Sep 25, 2012 10:45 AM

                        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
                          jvanderh Sep 25, 2012 02:38 PM

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

                          1. re: jvanderh
                            escondido123 Sep 26, 2012 01:49 PM

                            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
                            Dirtywextraolives Sep 26, 2012 09:26 AM

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

                          3. C. Hamster Sep 25, 2012 08:41 PM

                            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. greygarious Sep 26, 2012 05:08 AM

                              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
                                Dirtywextraolives Sep 26, 2012 09:29 AM

                                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. d
                                Dirtywextraolives Sep 26, 2012 09:32 AM

                                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. SuperGrover Oct 7, 2012 06:39 PM

                                  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
                                    escondido123 Oct 7, 2012 09:51 PM

                                    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
                                      SuperGrover Oct 8, 2012 03:57 AM

                                      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. TLDMAT Oct 12, 2012 10:35 AM

                                    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
                                      macca Oct 12, 2012 10:41 AM

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

                                    2. c
                                      coakes Oct 13, 2012 10:55 PM

                                      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.

                                      Show Hidden Posts