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Macaroni and cheese - Patti LaBelle vs Martha Stewart

So in another thread I debated pre-preparing and fridging mac and cheese casserole but have decided to just do it up the day of. We have a favorite family recipe but unfortunately we can't seem to extract the recipe from deep in the family files so it seems I'm off to discover a new fantabulous macaroni and cheese. We are used to a more Southern style-custard based with eggs and so I want to stick closer to this version though am willing to branch out for deliciousness. So far my Google search has revealed these to be two amazing recipes though now I am torn:

Patti LaBelle Over the Rainbow Macaroni and Cheese (http://www.oprah.com/food/Over-the-Ra...)
Martha Stewart Perfect Macaroni and Cheese (http://www.marthastewart.com/271998/p...


Any experience with either of these recipes? Recommendations?

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  1. Martha's sounds waaaay better to me, but I don't know your audience either. She calls for nutmeg, pepper and cayene while Mss LaBelle only calls for seasoned salt (sounds odd to me). The sharpness of the gruyere and white cheddar appeals more to me than velveeta - again that's just my opinion. Hope it was okay to share my thoughts without cooking either

    7 Replies
    1. re: enbell

      Of course, absolutely appreciated.

      Obviously, I am going for decadent here but does anyone substitute evaporated milk or whole milk for half and half in macaroni and cheese casseroles.

      Also, I know it's technically "macaroni" and cheese but any other pasta shapes you like. I'd like to switch it up this year. I've been really into gobetti recently but it might be a bit too big of a noddle to pair with the cheesy sauce.

      1. re: fldhkybnva

        About pasta shapes: my new favorite for mac and cheese is cresti di gallo. It's basically an elbow noodle
        with a fringed crest on one side. It's a bit larger than a regular elbow and a whole lot cuter. It also seems to hold the sauce really well. Admittedly, I can only find them in Italian food shops or gourmet stores that stock lots of different pastas.

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          I like to use the small shells. They hold just the right amount of custard and cheese for me.

          1. re: hippiechickinsing

            Me too, I think shells are best for mac n' cheese

            1. re: cosmogrrl

              I used camapenelle tonight. A new shape for me and quite cute.

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                and a great shape for mac and cheese because it really holds the sauce!

        2. The best Mac and cheese recipe I've found is, believe it or not, Paula Deen's Creamy Macaroni and Cheese. My family goes nuts for it. I omit the eggs (but you said you like them) and add a sprinkle of Emeril's Essence to the mixture. Soooo good!


          1. Our family has tried both, but Patti's recipe edged out Martha's....especially when I used ButterKase instead of the Muenster.

            5 Replies
            1. re: grampart

              Yea, I was initially leaning towards Patti's recipe. What do you think about adding a few oz of parmesan and roasted garlic?

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                I've never used parmesan, but have tried Grana Padano which is very similar. It was very good, but I only did it that one time. Roasted garlic sounds like a great idea.

                1. re: grampart

                  Sorry, another question. I have read a few reviews that this recipe can be dry and not cheesy enough though I can't see how that is possible although perhaps they are not looking for a southern style. It seems many people add more cheese or milk did you do either?

              2. re: grampart

                Your review has made up my mind. I have read some other reviews online - the mac and cheese to this crowd is muy importante - which suggests perhaps additional milk and cheese. Did you find that you were wanting a cheesier final product or good as is (with your ButterKase substitution)?

                1. re: grampart

                  Grampart, I'd love to try this recipe again. What size dish do you use? I think that might be the issue as in the dish was too shallow.

                2. My first instinct was "Patti" -- but I decided to go ahead and read the recipes.

                  Still Patti.

                  If you want a southern-style custard mac and cheese -- Patti's recipe is all that -- and she unashamedly uses Velveeta.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Yes, and I remember so did my grandmother...:0

                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                      Gourmet has a time and place -- and so does Velveeta. :)

                  2. Real Southern mac and cheese is very simple. Elbow macaroni. eggs, butter, milk, and cheese. Here's Virginia Willis's recipe that is absolutely delicious and although similar to Patti's in essence is much less artery clogging...


                    Thumbs down on Martha's recipe, IMO.

                    1. I make it Martha style. I'd never even heard of m&c made with custard until I read the thread with "custard" in the title a couple of weeks ago.

                      Oh, and I make it with cavatappi.

                      1. Mother had two versions of this dish. The only one my father would eat resembles Martha's and the only one the kids liked was close to Patti. Perhaps the starting point on a comfort food as to recipes is expectations based on our history with the food. Now I would surely pick and will try the Martha M&C first and go from there; thanks for the links.

                        1. Tillamook Macaroni and Cheese - Top 10 Mac & Cheese Recipes

                          Serious Eats - 7 Mac and Cheese Recipes We Love for National Macaroni Day

                          Guy Savoy Overnight Macaroni and Cheese

                          1. I am a roux mac and cheese girl. Plus all the unnecesary fat and calories for not a lot of flavor yield on PL's... nope. But that does not mean you could not choose some of her ideas. Cheeses perhaps? I like veveeta in mine occasionally, but you don't really need it if you do the bechamel. You could aslo vary up the topping. Crumbs or crunched up crackers (like ritz or Cheezits). I put nutmeg and a dash of cayenne in mine.

                            I am curious about the egg custard version. I have never made it with egg.

                            It occurs to me that the person refusing to give up their recipe should be given the less than optimal mac and cheese. It might force that secrete recipe to the surface. Treachery, trickery and torture family holiday style!

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: Sal Vanilla

                              I was considering it with 1 cup whole milk and 1 cup half and half or perhaps all whole milk and maybe half the butter as I think you are right about the added calories not adding necessarily that much flavor but I've never tried it so not sure.

                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                It's a family get-together with a traditional recipe that you all remember fondly.

                                Screw the calories for today.

                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                  You know, I am not sure the half and half adds all that much. Make sure your cheeses have some punch and then some goo factor (like the velveeta). I add cayenne JUST a inch because I think it amps up the cheese flavor. Don't cook the pasta all the way and then add more sauce than you think you need. It will soak in to the pasta and will also give you a little leeway if you have to keep it heated longer than you anticipated.

                                  PS - I adore sour cream along side and lots of crunchy topping.

                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                    So you think substituting whole milk would be OK?

                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                      Yes. There is no need for half and half - even if striving for the most decadent of decadent. Enjoy your calories elsewhere - they would be wasted here. I love decadence... it already exists here.

                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                        I plan to use European-style butter so that will add a smidge more fat. What would you use? Would you even go to 2% or evaporated or just stick with whole?

                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                          If I were watching my calories I might do half whole and the other half 2%... Maybe even all 2%. Evap? Not sure really. The taste might be off. Hedge the milk fat, but use a nice mix of cheese - melty bits, sharpy bits, nutty taste... no need for expensive, but make one of the cheeses have a sharp taste. dip your spoon i the sauce before you add it to the pasta. If it does not pop and smack your lips, it will thud on the pasta.

                                          Don't forget the sour cream.

                                          My god I am getting weird in my old age. Mac and cheese freako. Daisy sour cream is my fave... if you can get it. Since I am blubbering on.

                                          More sauce than you think... ditto that if you do potatoes au gratin - same cheese sauce btw.

                                          1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                            Well, clearly not trying to save too many calories with the choice of this recipe, but why add extra padding to the hips if it's not even worth the flavor so I might do the milk substitute.

                                            1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                              If you like sour cream, recommend trying Kalona Supernatural sour cream. It lives up to its claims.

                                              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                I assume that 1% or skim would be a no-no if I'm looking for holiday decadence? How much sour cream do you add?

                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                  I say go with whole milk or half and half for silky, creamy decadence. It makes a difference, IME.

                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                    Yea, I imagine it would. Do you think whole milk would have any impact such that you would prefer to use half and half? Just wondering.

                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                      I'm not sure exactly what you're asking, but I would not go lower fat than whole milk, and I wouldn't touch evaporated with a stick. But that's me. :-)

                                  2. Neither, but between the two, Martha's. Patti's has crud in it I don't want to be within ten feet of.

                                    6 Replies
                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                        mcf doesn't eat anything with chemicals - so Velveeta and seasoned salt are "crud" by his/her definition.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            Velveeta, yes, seasoned salt is on the menu.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          mcf, this is off-topic, but have you ever tried using extra-firm tofu as "noodles" for mac and cheese? I make a "bechamel" thickened with pureed cauliflower and tons of cheese, then toss it with tofu cut to the approximate size and shape of macaroni. My husband actually prefers it to mac and cheese made with pasta.

                                          1. re: biondanonima

                                            Nope, I haven't. If you want to discuss more, we can go to special diets. A lot of folks use small cauli florets. When I make it, I make it for others, use Dreamfields elbows and either the original Ronzoni recipe or one of Ina Garten's.

                                            I make a lot of gratins with lots of cheese and cream for us, but none with noodles. May have to try tofu.

                                        2. How about Patti LaBelle's "Over the Top Mac and Cheese"? It's the similar to the Over the Rainbow but with the addition of mozzarella and provolone. Oh yeah, and sauteed shrimp and steamed lobster!

                                          This is the one she referred to on Top Chef that had 7 cheeses.


                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: seamunky

                                            Oh wow, now we might be talking. Although the mac and cheese is drifting into a new price point :)

                                          2. I'm a big fan of Cooks Illustrated stovetop mac and cheese; it was in the first version of The Best Recipe but I don't think it's in the New Best Recipe. It uses egg and a little American cheese. I'm a cheese fanatic, and love fancy cheese, but sometimes that creamy richness is what I want, and a roux just isn't the same. Evaporated milk makes it creamy without the fat of full cream. Plus, waaaay less work than the Martha Stewart version.


                                            1. Martha's for me, in a heartbeat. Patti's has too much Velveeta (I like and use Velveeta for certain things, but I only want it as a minor player in mac and cheese, not in the starring role). I also don't like eggs in mac and cheese - give me a bechamel sauce all the way.

                                              1. I have made Martha's recipe several times over the years (without the nutmeg) and just plain bread crumbs on the top and it's really really really delicious!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: javaandjazz

                                                  Agree on 86ing the nutmeg. I make my m and c Mornay with Sriracha, sharp cheddar, and Gruyere and top the debauch with Romano, more Cheddar, and Panko.

                                                2. I haven't made Patti LaBelle's but I can tell you, Martha's recipe is a real winner. I have made it countless times, and everyone comments on how great it is. I always use 1% milk in it, just because that's what I usually have on hand.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                    I don't ever have milk in the house so will need to buy some, you find 1% is fine? Have you tried it with whole milk?

                                                  2. To the OP and readers here. A very recent thread is too similar. Check out my post on Nathan Myhrvold and team who wrote Modernist Cuisine. IMHO their recipe is way beyond most. Please review:


                                                    1. I'm a huge lover of whole wheat pasta, well, to be exact, Bionaturae whole wheat pasta. For this dish, whichever recipe I decide, would it be best to abandon the whole wheat pasta and just stick with white?

                                                      10 Replies
                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                        I don't mind whole wheat pasta but it has a very assertive flavor that some people don't enjoy. Since this is for a group and it's a decadent holiday meal, I'd stick with traditional pasta (just my two cents).

                                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                          If I were making it for others, I'd stick with white. I'd only make whole wheat pasta for a group if I warned people ahead of time. I'll eat ww pasta, but it is really so different from "real" pasta--very different taste and (especially, to me) texture.

                                                          1. re: Jay F

                                                            Yea, I love the stuff but not sure everyone else does. However, I have decided to top with some croutons for crunch and think that that will be a crowd favorite...or at least I hope so.

                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                              Do not undercook. Give it an extra minute.

                                                          2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                            I'd stick with pure semolina pasta, and it's actually healthier than whole wheat, supposedly a hard wheat so less rapidly digested. And it tastes better.

                                                            I eat extremely low carb as a rule on a daily basis, but when cooking for a holiday for others, I give the people what they love.

                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                              Exactly, hence this recipe with more calories in that I probably eat in a normal day :)

                                                              1. re: mcf

                                                                I'm not sure why I never asked before but I had no idea this was true about the pure semolina vs. whole wheat. Very interesting, is this based on your own experiences. Isn't some whole wheat pasta whole semolina or am I just lost in pasta land? This year the mac is just for two of us who love whole wheat pasta so just wondering before I buy.

                                                              2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                I love Bionature pasta and I used their whole wheat elbows for the MS recipe. It is the only whole wheat pasta I've found with a pleasing texture. I think it works great and is a nice healthier foil to the oodles of cheese in the recipe. :)

                                                                1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                                                                  It is the only pasta in my house these days, well until I bought a box of the blue stuff for this recipe :)

                                                                  1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                                                                    Do you parboil the same amount? Add any extra liquid?

                                                                2. Cook's Illustrated Classic Macaroni and Cheese

                                                                  Cook’s Illustrated Baked Macaroni and Cheese

                                                                  Cook's Country Best Potluck Macaroni and Cheese

                                                                  1. If it's one or the other, Martha's easily takes my vote. I don't go for the Velveeta and seasoned salt thing. I put cayenne, nutmeg, and also dry mustard in mine and it really makes a difference.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                      I'm sure that's delicious, but if the OPs family are jonesing a traditional Southern custard-style M&C, Martha's version, well, in the vernacular? That dawg don't hunt.

                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                        Yea I'm not sure it's up their alley, but does look quite delicious

                                                                    2. OK, well in 2 days I will whipping up a batch of Patti's macaroni and cheese with the following changes:

                                                                      The original recipe calls for a total of 18 oz of cheese and 2 cups of half and half - from a few reviews and your tips I plan to up the cheese to 24-26 oz of cheese by doubling each of the cheeses (muenster, jack, sharp cheddar, mild cheddar) except the Velveeta and adding Parmesan, add a smidge extra liquid (1/2 cup or so) and to use whole milk instead of half and half just because it seems that most people find it extremely decadent and as big mac and cheese fans we'd like to go back for many servings without being completely overwhelmed. Would these be fairly safe changes? Thanks again for all your help.

                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                        I would reduce the quantity of cheese before I reduced the fat by switching to milk from half and half. For me, it reduces the overall texture enjoyment. Just my $.02.

                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                          OK, I was just worried as some said it wasn't cheesy enough though perhaps they were less familiar with the baked style. Do you think 18 oz is enough for 1 lb of pasta?

                                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                            I use about 18 oz. of assorted cheeses with 3 cups of liquid dairy and 12 oz. of macaroni.

                                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                              I do think that it seems more cheesy when you have the creaminess that richer sauce helps to make.

                                                                              1. re: mcf

                                                                                Half and half it is, full gusto to maximize enjoyment. Perhaps I won't fudge too much with the recipe and keep the cheese amount as is. I am very much looking forward to this dish as I have yet to enjoy my yearly intake of massive quantities of macaroni and cheese since I wasn't able to spend Thanksgiving at home.

                                                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                  and bumping the cheese is going to pretty much negate any savings in calories that you're gaining by going to milk instead of cream, anyway.....

                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                    Indeed, thanks to all for the advice. It seems like I should stick with the recipe as is

                                                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                      I generally like to follow a recipe as is the first time through. There are exceptions, of course....

                                                                        2. I looked at both and decided that even though Patti's looked better, I wanted one more like Ina Garten's but creamier. I stumbled on this recipe from Tillmook, whose cheese making I respect: http://www.tillamook.com/community/lo... (Ultimate Mac & Cheese). Made this tonight for the family -- husband and 3 teen foodie-boys-- and they swooned.

                                                                          1. Thanks for all of the recommendations. The final decision for NYE is the Patti version with added Parmesan cheese and a Panko crust. The only decision left is pasta shape - elbow vs cavatappi vs gemelli. I was an idiot and couldn't decide at the store and so bought them all. They won't go to waste and I figured it'd be quicker than deciding on the spot.

                                                                            For any that have made the Patti recipe, it says it serves 6 is that a realistic serving size (seems a bit on the low side for a full casserole)?

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                              It's a 9 x 12, so it depends if it is your main dish. My kids love the Patti recipe. It is my favorite too!

                                                                              1. re: master815k

                                                                                It's just a side dish but we are BIG mac and cheese fanatics! I think I'll just make sure to pick up extra ingredients so a 2nd batch can be made if more is needed for leftovers in the next few days.

                                                                            2. Well, here to report the results on the Patti LaBelle recipe. This macaroni and cheese is very reminiscient of our family style-the cut not oozy cheesy at all variety. I do admit perhaps it could be slightly more cheesy with some added seasonings, as it is somewhat blander than other recipes I have had. The guests were quite pleased. Thank you for your suggestions and opinions.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                I like to add just a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce to my mac and cheese, it adds just a wee bit of oomph. Not a lot, just a teeny bit. I feel it accentuates the other flavors well.

                                                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                  I'll add that the Patti recipe at least in my experience does not work well for leftovers. It turned into a hard brick mass which was very dry. Perhaps you should add extra cream to reheat, but with the other recipes I have used in the past this was never necessary and it reheated great.

                                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                    The small amount of minced onion in the old Ronzon1 recipe really makes a much tastier mac and cheese even though it's such a small amount. 2TBS I think.

                                                                                  2. After visiting Seattle and getting a sample taste, we are raving about Beecher's World's Best Mac and Cheese here. The Beecher's Flagship cheese makes some seriously good sauce -- http://www.beechershandmadecheese.com...

                                                                                    1. I just made the Martha Stewart recipe last night (as adapted by Smitten Kitchen-- have made it many times)) and not only is it fairly simple, it is VERY good. I halved the entire recipe, meaning I used 1/2 pound of pasta, but I think there is soooo much cheese sauce that I could have used 1 whole pound of pasta with half the cheese sauce.

                                                                                      14 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                                                                                        I think this year I'm trying Martha's for Thanksgiving. The Patti's was OK out of the oven but as mentioned above seriously bland and the leftovers were awfully dry. Not what my grandma used to serve us so I'm not sure where I went wrong.

                                                                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                          The original Ronzoni recipe, even though it includes American cheese, is really good. Basic, but right texture, creamy, a bit of minced onion and gratin on top just perject comfort version, I think:

                                                                                          50 min | 10 min prep

                                                                                          2 tablespoons butter

                                                                                          · 1/4 cup finely chopped onion

                                                                                          · 2 tablespoons flour

                                                                                          · 2 cups milk

                                                                                          · 3/4 teaspoon salt

                                                                                          · 1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard

                                                                                          · 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

                                                                                          · 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

                                                                                          · 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

                                                                                          · 8 ounces sliced American cheese, broken into 2-in . pieces

                                                                                          Heat oven to 350.
                                                                                          In medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter; add onion. Cook 2 minutes. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk and seasonings; cook, stirring frequently, until mixture boils and thickens.
                                                                                          Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Stir cheeses into milk sauce.
                                                                                          In 2-Qt. baking dish, stir together pasta and cheese sauce. Add crumb topping.
                                                                                          Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

                                                                                          1 cup bread crumbs (panko works great)

                                                                                          3 TBS melted butter

                                                                                          Mix and spread on top of mac and cheese. Can broil at the end to brown more if needed.

                                                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                                                            This seems pretty similar to Martha's. I'd love to make a mac similar to Whole Foods but a wee bit less cheesy - I think they use a bechamel sauce or even just a jar of Alfredo. I planned to order from them this year as I like their version throughout the year but they aren't making the breadcrumb less version this year. I'm pondering whether I'll save myself trouble and just scrape it off before baking or see if they can make it without which might be difficult given it's made off-site in bulk.

                                                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                              I work for Whole Foods and they are SUPER accommodating, have you asked anyone if there is a possibility of getting the breadcrumb-less version? Generally they'll be more than happy to do whatever you need.

                                                                                              1. re: marietinn

                                                                                                You read my mind. I give up on deciding so called and ordered from prepared foods today. Might attempt the Patti again since its different style from WF but likely will go with what I've ordered. When ordered ahead the crack mac as we call it never disappoints. Thanks for the tip though.

                                                                                          2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                            Report back with how you like it! Your post reminded me I haven't made it in a while... must remedy that next week!

                                                                                            1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                                                                                              It looks like the best option, I was pondering exchanging some of the milk for evaporated but probably should stick to it as is.

                                                                                              1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                                                                                                My only hesitation is MS's recipe seems perhaps too creamy for the group.

                                                                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                  I double the amount of pasta. It makes way too much sauce for the amount of pasta recommended, IMO.

                                                                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                      All this talk of mac and cheese, I actually made a batch tonight. I had 3 cups of whole milk I needed to use (leftover from making vanilla ice cream) so it was almost the perfect amount for a half batch of Martha's mac and cheese. Well, I should say a half batch of sauce with the whole amount of pasta! The half batch of cheesy bechamel is sooooo enormous that I still think it's a lot even for a whole pound of elbows. It's in the oven now making my house smell so good!

                                                                                                      1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                                                                                                        Oh no, you're tempting me. Interesting that the bechamel is for so much. I think with your tip for using double the pasta it might just be the sort of baked texture I'm after without being dry.

                                                                                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                          I omitted the breadcrumb topping this time and shouldn't have, as it got a little too browned on top. (My mom likes that part, me not so much). Delicious otherwise!

                                                                                          3. I grew up with making Mac n cheese with beaten egg, half n half, mustard, salt and butter and a mixture of sharp and mild cheddar. Adding any seasoning salt changes it from Mac n cheese to something else.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: blueways

                                                                                              Do you have a recipe or proportions? This sounds like how my grandmother makes it.

                                                                                            2. I once had a question here on CH, asking why my mac n cheese separated. I was advised to use some processed cheese like American, Velveeta or Cream Cheese .. I chose cream cheese (along with cheddar, etc.) and no longer had problems.

                                                                                              I vote for cavatappi...

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: walker

                                                                                                I think cream cheese is how Whole Foods does it it too. Sauce never seems to separate or get grainy on the hot bar.