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Favorite macaroni and cheese - bechamel or custard?

Wow, I must have been living in a cave for several decades. Macaroni and cheese is a family favorite and it's so good that I rarely eat it unless someone in my family's hands have touched it. We had a potluck today at work and I was encouraged to try the "best ever macaroni and cheese" and it was completely different from what I'm used to though of course, my sample size is fairly small. It was very tasty but the texture was completely different. When she shared the recipe, I realized it involved a bechamel sauce with a roux base to my surprise considering our custard-based (I think traditional Southern) recipe. A google search has now made me aware that there are in fact two methods of mac and cheese - bechamel and custard. Out of interest, is there a method you prefer?

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  1. I think I might do a hybrid. I make a bechamel and put eggs in it. Or sometimes leave them out because hubby wants it creamier.

    Recipe?

    Also there might be a third one - my mother never did roux OR eggs - hers was strictly stove-top with milk and cheese. Very gooey.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sandylc

      My family did something similar in the oven -- just layered the noodles with lots of grated cheese and butter, and poured a little milk over the top.

      These days I'm more of a béchamel fan -- the eggs distract too much from the cheese. I'm also not a huge fan of including mustard, which seems to pop up in the stovetop/custard ones. (Odd, because I typically love mustard.)

      1. re: dtremit

        my family recipe is rigatoni, cheddar slices on top, and a bit of milk, in the oven, till crispy on top. We love it. Totally non-standard.

    2. Béchamel sauce
      I have never a recipe that was a custard, though a couple of the Béchamel sauce ones call for an egg( Alton Brown's comes to mind).

      1. We do béchamel in my family but my fiancé does a custard based. I don't like it as much evaluate it doesn't taste like cheese and the pasta tastes over cooked and crumbles.

        1. I've never made it, but SIL did Martha Stewart's recipe once and it was KILLER. Can't remember if had any eggs or bechamel... had TONS of lots of different cheeses. Fed a mob of people, but NOT cheap to make. The crusty corners were excellent!

          10 Replies
          1. re: kseiverd

            I make the Martha Stewart recipe a couple of times a year, it's a bechamel based recipe. It's our family's favorite version.

            1. re: jeanmarieok

              It's my family's favorite as well. I remember trying Patti Labelle's mac and cheese, which calls for two eggs. Would that qualify as a custard version?

              1. re: igrove

                >> I remember trying Patti Labelle's mac and cheese, which calls for two eggs. Would that qualify as a custard version?>>

                Yep.

            2. re: kseiverd

              I have been making the MS Mac and Cheese for years and it is a bechamel style. I highly reccommend it to anyone looking for a MacNCheese recipe. I have already received the request to make it for XMAS again.

              1. re: kseiverd

                Once I tried Martha's recipe, there was no turning back. There's nothing better IMO. I get serious cravings for that mac and cheese!

                1. re: HeyImBack

                  Mac and cheese is critical to our thanksgiving enjoyment so I'm torn Martha vs custard but the Martha reviews are hard to resist. Is it super super creamy? I can't deal if its like an oversauced plate of alfredo from any restaurant chain you'd like to pick :)

                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                    I'd say it's more cheesy than creamy, and not soupy at all. As others have mentioned, it is most definitely not a cheap recipe to make, but in all honesty I have never found a better mac & cheese recipe. In full disclosure, though, the last time I made it, my 10-year old took one bite and said he prefers Kraft (obviously I still have some work to do w/ him!). More for me, I say :)

                    1. re: HeyImBack

                      I would hate to make both, but would love to try this one especially as Patti didn't work out last year. I am definitely all for cheesy. The baked macaroni custard style seems to work when my grandmother makes it but other than that I can't seem to get it to not be a dry hard mess.

                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                        I noticed you posted on the other thread that the Patti LaBelle recipe was bland and didn't reheat well. Martha's recipe isn't bland at all, it's got a bite from the sharp white cheddar and the nutmeg, and it reheats beautifully. Although, I love it so much that I have been known to eat it cold right out of the fridge. Shoot, now I seriously want some!

                        1. re: HeyImBack

                          Yea although I might have been to blame, it wouldn't set and once it did was slightly burned on the bottom. Barely any was eaten other than a small serving and the rest suffered but somehow others made it work so I pondered just using different cheeses though I think I should balk my family tradition and try the bechamel

              2. Another difference in styles - baked or stove top. The Good Eats episode presents a couple of baked versions, and then AB's 'nephew' says he really wants something like the 'blue box', so AB whips up a stove top version using an evaporated milk base.