HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipes

Anything goes here, not looking for a specific method or style. I plan to make several and pick my favorite from the bunch.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. I am a mac and cheese purist. No eggs or condensed milk or chicken broth in mine! I also stick with cheddar and cheddar-like cheeses and skip the recipes that stray into gruyere or some form of blue cheese or mozzarella. Like I said, I am a purist in this case. So over the years I have tried recipes that are generally simply macaroni and some form of cheddar-based sauce mornay, which is a cheese sauce made starting with a bechamel (flour, butter, milk). For years I had a recipe that came off a box of macaroni. It added some minced onion, dry mustard, and cayenne to the sauce. These days my current fave is the baked macaroni and cheese recipe in Cover and Bake (from Cook's Illustrated). It calls for chicken broth, but I just substitute more milk instead. Making the entire recipe with 2 percent milk instead of whole milk and the chicken broth works very well too.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PinchOfSalt

      Excellent, thank you kindly. I will add it to my list to try!

      1. re: chabrab

        Here is a link to an online version of the recipe. Sometimes I do the crumbs, sometimes not. I definitely up the sharpness of the cheddar-like cheese compared to what the recipe says. And I have skipped the garlic and been entirely pleased. Enjoy!

        http://culinarycravings.net/2011/08/1...

    2. Another purist here! We swear by this one: http://www.goodeatsoftexas.com/macaro...

      You could jazz it up a little with breadcrumbs on top, but we like it just "as is".

      I did see a pretty darned good-looking recipe for crab macaroni and cheese (http://www.betterrecipes.com/blogs/da...), but the family wouldn't go for all those types of cheese. I've been planning to try it but change the cheese.

      Also, I love to use Cellentani pasta (our fav). I know it doesn't have the hole in the middle like elbow for the cheese, but it's curly and ridged enough to grab onto the sauce.

      1. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/pa...

        This is a huge hit with friends and family. If you can get past who wrote the recipe, it's actually very good. (I don't use the eggs)

        8 Replies
        1. re: Njchicaa

          Mac and Cheese is one dish I trust Paula Deen to do well :)

          1. re: juliejulez

            Everyone and I mean everyone who has had it loves it and asks for the recipe. I add a bit of Emeril's Essence seasoning to it for an extra bit of flavor. It's very good and that is coming from someone who is not a PD fan

            1. re: Njchicaa

              I don't have a slow cooker - doesn't cooked macaroni, cooked for an additional 3 hours turn into mush?

              1. re: 512window

                I didn't even know there was a slow cooker version! The recipe I use has it going into the oven for 45 min or so until everything is hot and bubbly!

                1. re: 512window

                  The recipe I've been using all these years wasn't for a slow cooker. I mix everything together and bake until hot and bubbling. That's what the recipe said to do!

                  I'll pull out my copy of the instructions tomorrow...

                  1. re: Njchicaa

                    The one online says: Set the slow cooker on low setting and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

                    Maybe it's like her recipe for English Peas.

                    Your way makes much more sense to me! Never change if it works.

            2. re: Njchicaa

              Campbell's Cheddar Cheese Soup???????

              1. re: sandylc

                YES and you'd never know! I'm a big snob about canned soups and such but I can't complain about it here.

            3. Extra-sharp cheddar is the main cheese in mine, but I enhance it with a creamy monterey jack and a nutty parmesan.

              Butter and parmesan breadcrumbs on top are great - grinding your own from a good baguette or italian loaf is the best.

              A bechamel-based sauce enhanced by dry mustard, nutmeg, and cayenne is the best. Eggs based upon personal preference.

              1 Reply
              1. re: sandylc

                I am with you on the cheddar. For me it needs to be at least "sharp". Medium cheddar makes dull mac and cheese - at least as far as I am concerned.

                1. I'll take a smoky baked mac & cheese above all others:
                  - Smoked gouda, sharp white cheddar & fontina
                  - Smoked paprika instead of nutmeg
                  - Chipotle (powder or pureed chiles) instead of cayenne
                  - 1 tsp. dry mustard in the sauce
                  - Bacon optional

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Yes to all...smoked gouda mac & cheese is so so good! Enhancing it with chiles & bacon is guilding the lily

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      I forgot to mention, I prefer shells over elbows because they hold the sauce better and they're easier to spear with a fork.

                    2. I like my mac and cheese pretty simple, like I remember it as a kid. I still revert to my tattered Betty Crocker cookbook for the most basic recipe...classic bechamel sauce with a bit of dry mustard added to the sauce. Add in a mix of cheddar, parmesan (not too much, just to add that parm-saltiness), and...cringe...american cheese slices. Not the peel the cellophane off kind, but the kind you get at the deli counter. Mix it with elbow macaroni and bake until browned on top. Always my go-to.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: dordalina

                          Why cringe?? I rely on the American cheese slices (deli style like you said) to make it gooey. I think this is a cheaper option if one doesn't have sodium citrate.

                          I didn't see anyone mention this recipe yet - this is our most recent success that mixes American cheese instead of sodium citrate:
                          http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                          I want to try the Modernist recipe below though to see if it's worth upgrading to sodium citrate.

                        2. I'll preach the non-traditional gospel when it comes to mac and cheese whenever and wherever I can.

                          To wit:

                          I grew up on boxed mac & cheese. Years ago, I tried a mac and cheese with a proper mornay/cheddar sauce. It ruined me for the boxed stuff.

                          December last, I started playing around with modernist cooking and whipped up a batch of modernist mac & cheese (cheese & blessed, blessed sodium citrate). The modernist version has ruined me on the classical versions.

                          Be warned: http://modernistcuisine.com/recipes/s....

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: biggreenmatt

                            I love both "Kraft dinner" and traditional mornay sauce mac and cheese, but I think of them as different foods. However, I just bought some sodium citrate and I can't wait to try modernist cuisine's version. I feel mac and cheese in my future for this weekend...

                            1. re: biggreenmatt

                              Thanks Matt, I really want to try this. Does it turn out like frozen varieties?

                              Trying several recipes sounds like fun. Thanks to the OP for a great idea. I found a recipe that layers pasta with sharp cheddar, s & p and tomato juice then bake. Surprisingly good.

                              1. re: Jimisi

                                Frozen varieties? You mean like you'd get out of a freezer section at the grocery?

                                Nope.

                                In a nutshell the difference is this:

                                With traditional mac & cheese, you're making a classical sauce, based on a roux, with cheese. Classical sauces are lovely, intelligent and savoury, without any hint of snobbery. A good sauce is a beautiful thing.

                                With modernist mac & cheese, you're not making a sauce at all- you're using a kitchen chemical to make molten cheese, pretty much the same consistency as Velveeta (and I love me my Velveeta)! Imagine a molten smoked gouda, or gooey brie, or Stilton or 10 yr Cheddar or aged Parm or anything, luxuriously draped over pasta, without being diluted with a roux?

                                Yup. Me too.

                                Find thee thy sodium citrate and a micro scale!

                                1. re: biggreenmatt

                                  Thanks and printed and planned. Yay for low tech kitchen chemicals. I love experiments.

                              2. re: biggreenmatt

                                Yup, for me the sodium citrate is now the way to go too! I love a creamy mac and cheese, and the sodium citrate gives me more of that cheese flavor I'm craving. I'm still trying to decide how much pasta I really like.

                                It's creamy enough the first time I eat it, but the second time, the pasta has absorbed some of the cheese. So now I actually make more cheese sauce, and hold it on the side. When I reheat my mac and cheese, I add the held cheese sauce, and voila! Just as creamy as the first time. Yum!

                                1. re: biggreenmatt

                                  That link is dead ... would anyone be able to summarize the method?

                                2. We like every kind I've made, from the School Cafeteria variety in the Sterns' "Square Meals" (not sauced, but made exactly like the straight-noodle Kraft stuff only with butter and real cheese) to the creamiest too-much-cheese-sauce kind. The consistent favorite uses a bit over two cups of sauce to 12 oz. of dry macaroni, cooked and drained, plus the addition of ripe Roma tomatoes, de-pulped and then either sliced on top or chunked and stirred in. The cheese is most often a combo of extra-sharp cheddar and either a pecorino or Iberico, and our favorite topping is a mixture of buttered crumbs and Parmesan. I do like to use evaporated milk, partly because it comes in 12-oz cans, and that plus 1.5 Tbs each of butter and flour gives me exactly the right amount of bechamel. The cheese seems to melt into it more smoothly than when it's made with 2%, or that could just be my imagination …

                                  1. We had the Ina v. Martha contest a month ago, using the same cheeses, a good Gruyere and Vermont Cheddar. Martha won. [I did not make the topping for either dish.]

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

                                      The Martha recipe is my favorite (never tried the Ina, though). I use the gruyere (she gives gruyere or pecorino romano option). Martha's is definitely my go to recipe.

                                      http://www.marthastewart.com/957243/m...

                                      1. re: debbiel

                                        Made this one year for a family gathering. SIL demurred, saying she did not care for mac and cheese. Someone (not me) insisted she try some. She then polished off a good quarter of the pan (and this makes a BIG pan). Turns out she had never tasted mac and cheese that hadn't come out of the blue box.

                                        I grew up on stovetop mac and cheese: boiled and drained elbows with American cheese and a splash of milk stirred in. No crumbs.

                                        I like them both; they are two different animals.

                                        1. re: Pwmfan

                                          I agree; completely different.

                                          I can no longer stomach the boxed stuff due to the incredibly high sodium content (I like to eat it as the entree).

                                          But I just came across a Martha Stewart Everyday Food stove-top mac and cheese recipe that looks like it could replace the box! Has anyone tried this?

                                      2. re: SarahInMinneapolis

                                        I just tried a variation on Martha's recipe. Had to fill in some Colby when I ran out of Cheddar, and threw in a chopped jalepeno (first pepper of the season I couldn't resist picking). So far this is my favorite baked M&C version--even DW, not a mac&cheese enthusiast, thought it was good.

                                        Made a half-recipe, but still enough to serve 6+ people.

                                      3. I am a real traditionalist..no eggs or tomatoes. Always sharp cheddar in a white sauce. Lately I have tried some hard gruyere, too, and liked the little tanginess it added.

                                        1. Love my mom's grown up baked Mac n cheese. Bechamel/Mornay/whatever is technically correct (with dry mustard, paprika, dash of nutmeg) with sharp and mild cheddar, muenster, Colby, and....... VELVEETA. Layered halfway with bacon, onion, tomatoes. Repeat on top with shredded cheese.

                                          There is just something about velveeta that makes the mac'n'cheese for me. I don't know if it's the creaminess or fond food memory (or both).

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: LP808

                                            Thank you everyone for your input, i appreciate it!

                                            1. re: LP808

                                              I use a small amount of Velveeta in my traditional, mornay sauce mac and cheese as well. It helps keep the sauce extra smooth due to its chemical additives. :)

                                              1. re: biondanonima

                                                I wanted to make a gluten free mac and cheese for a pot luck so I along with the GF pasta I used mostly velveeta in the cheese sauce because I couldn't make a roux with flour to thicken it.
                                                It was devoured.

                                                1. re: Berheenia

                                                  That's how my mother made M&C, Berheenia, w/Velveeta.

                                            2. Another purist here but I have changed up the macaroni. I now use a larger size called casserole elbows. Made by the famous Prince Spaghetti company.

                                              1. Yes, there are other styles of mac and cheese, but my two sons will argue that this is the best mac and cheese recipe on the planet. I consider this a classic homemade recipe, but I won't rebuff any mac and cheese.

                                                Creamy Macaroni & Cheese
                                                Southern Living

                                                1/2 c butter
                                                1/2 c all-purpose flour
                                                1/2 tsp. salt
                                                1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
                                                1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
                                                1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
                                                2 c half-and-half
                                                2 c milk
                                                4 c shredded sharp Cabot Cheddar, divided
                                                2 c shredded extra-sharp Cabot Cheddar
                                                1 (16-ounce) package macaroni, cooked

                                                Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in flour until smooth; cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in salt and next 3 ingredients. Gradually whisk in half-and-half and milk, cook whisking constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until thickened. Stir in 2 c sharp Cheddar. Stir in extra-sharp Cheddar until smooth. Remove from heat. Combine pasta and cheese mixture, and pour into a lightly greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining sharp Cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 to 20 minutes (bake 15 minutes longer for a crusty top).

                                                1. I use a ny times recipe that someone once posted.

                                                  Noodles go in a baking dish, uncooked, with milk, cottage cheese, cheddar, dry mustard, Dijon, red pepper flakes.

                                                  1. I make mine alla Martha: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwnDs6...

                                                    For pasta, I use cavatappi (squiggly tube shape) rather than macaroni. And I use Parmigiano-Reggiano in addition to cheddar and gruyere.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                      I prefer cavatappi also. A bar & grill type place near my office serves a really great mac n cheese with cavatappi, and on the rare occasion that I make it at home these days, I use cavatappi.

                                                    2. When this subject comes up, my answer is always the same. "Patti LaBelle's Over the Rainbow Mac & Cheese". For family and friends, never hear a discouraging word. I do prefer to substitute Butter Kase for the Muenster, however. YMMV

                                                      http://www.food.com/recipe/patti-labe...

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: grampart

                                                        I didn't have luck with this one but I think that's perhaps that it was baked on the bottom of the oven since the rest of the oven was full and it became very dry. I am from a family of baked mac and cheese-ers and my grandmother's famed recipe looks similar to this one so it should have been "over the rainbow." I am determined to give it another try and this time to not turn it into a brick. Thus, it didn't work out for me but I've heard such rave reviews that I'd recommend it.

                                                      2. I don't think I've ever met anyone outside my family that makes Mac & Cheese as we do. One step has a long history of grossing people out, but that's for later here.

                                                        The oddity? We make no kind of bechamel or cheese sauce, instead applying successive layers of cooked, rinsed pasta, grated extra-sharp cheddar with salt and pepper, then more pasta, then more cheese, and so on. Like lasagna. Then we pour heated (not scalded) milk over the top until the fluid goes about half way up the vessel. Bake at 350 or so till browned on top and bubbly.

                                                        The result is something very different from the "rich" and "creamy" style of mac and cheese. There is a great texture difference between the relatively drier top and the creamier bottom. Also, the flavor is simple and not in-your-face. Which is why, with this kind of Mac & Cheese, we in our family put ketchup on it at the table. I know that's something done by a small subset of M&C fans. I tend not to put ketchup on the rich creamy styles that most people produce. Too much going on.

                                                        I've tried countless approaches to Mac & Cheese, because I do like to experiment. Sauces, nutmeg, mustard powders, cream cheese, sour cream, you name it. I always come back to my child comfort-food form.

                                                        Also, I think many paste shapes work well here beyond elbows: cappalletti, cavatappi (like Jay F in this thread), gemele, all forms of penne and ziti, and fusilli all work well in this dish.

                                                        p.s., I have a separate thread years ago about who puts ketchup on Mac & Cheese, so best to redirect rage there, maybe?

                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/703968

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: Bada Bing

                                                          This is similar to the recipe i use, but I don't cook the noodles.

                                                          How does your recipe work with leftover pasta?

                                                          1. re: cheesecake17

                                                            Haven't tried it with leftover pasta. But presumably, with a bit of added milk, it would work the same assembled a day or two later.

                                                            I haven't tried using uncooked noodles from the get go. I really should, but I think the vessel would have to be tightly sealed for the upper level pasta to cook, no? Whewre is it getting it's moisture.

                                                            Interestingly, I've experimented with not rinsing and at least mostly cooling the cooked pasta in a colander, and when I do that, the texture is gummy. I think that starches adhere to the cooked pasta and change the effect if you don't rinse it of.

                                                            1. re: Bada Bing

                                                              We always have cooked pasta in the fridge (toddler in the house). Thinking it might be good for a quick lunch or dinner when all she wants is noodles. I'll try and let you know.

                                                              Here's how I make Mac n cheese with uncooked past-
                                                              1 lb pasta (raw)
                                                              1 16 oz container cottage cheese
                                                              2-3 c milk
                                                              1 lb grated cheddar

                                                              In a large bowl, mix cottage cheese, milk, Dijon mustard, red pepper, salt and pepper. Add in the cheese and pasta, mix well.
                                                              Pour into greased baking dish.
                                                              Bake tightly covered for 30 minutes, stir, cover again and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with panko and bake till bubbly and most of the milk is absorbed.

                                                              So yeah, it has to be tightly covered, but foil does the trick.
                                                              Iirc, the orig recipe involved several bowls and a blender. No one has ever guessed that there's cottage cheese in the mix. And I use 1% milk, lowfat cheddar, and fat free cottage cheese

                                                              1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                I'll give this a try. Do you use elbows, small or large? Does pasta size/shape matter much?

                                                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                  I usually use shells or bowties. Sometimes gemelli. Bowties stick out of the pan and get crispy.

                                                                  Elbows work, just don't care for them

                                                          1. Made it last night as follows: about a pint of Bechamel made with half and half and seasoned with a good splash of Sriracha. Folded in about 10 ounces of cheddar. Stirred it with the Mac and topped with more cheddar plus some gruyere. Sprinkled with Panko. Baked until bubbly. Broiled until brown. Simple but yummy.

                                                            1. My favorite Mac and cheese recipe from Fannie Farmer cookbook. Perfect never fail creamy delight.

                                                              1. My baked mac and cheese is more about technique than ingredients. Mine doesn't have an oil slick on top and when you take a scoop, it still has strings attached to the mother dish.

                                                                First, I use something like penne or rigatoni. Elbows don't hold up well after 45 min or an hour in the oven. Cook them a couple of minutes shy of al dente, drain and fold into a medium bechamel made with whole milk (this is not the time to go all Pritikin). I use a pound of pasta and a quart of milk and add a good half-dozen shakes of Tabasco. This doesn't add spice, it amps up the cheese flavor.

                                                                I then grate up a 50-50 mixture (give or take) of Cheddar (medium or sharp) and Monterey Jack. I try for 3/4 - 1 lb total. Then I layer half the pasta, cover it with half the cheese, then the rest of the pasta and the rest of the cheese. I have found that this method prevents oil separation.

                                                                I dust paprika over the top (for color), drizzle another cup of milk over the whole thing, then either cover in foil and pop in the fridge, or bake. It's pretty forgiving--I've done it 350 and 375, and between 45 min and over an hour. The top will get brown and chewy and the sauce will bubble up around the edges.

                                                                1. Using velveeta (or any processed American "cheese food") or evaporated milk as part of the recipe will prevent the hard cheeses from breaking or being grainy. This week I was short on both, so I was going to make a bechamel. Then I realized I had Trader Joe's version of Pirate's Booty so I nuked a heaping cup of the puffs in some milk, then stirred it up. It became smooth, and worked well to thicken the cheese sauce.

                                                                  1. John Thorne's recipe from Simple Cooking is quite good and not fussy.

                                                                    1. The best I've ever made was from the Goumet Magazine cookbook. As I recall it had multiple cheeses, a bit of mustard, and panko bread crumbs. I recently ran across a recipe for chipotle mac & cheese with bacon, which sounds to me like it could be the world's most perfect food, but I haven't made it yet.

                                                                      1. not the recipe you're seeking and don't try this at home...
                                                                        my moms husband asked for mac&cheese one night when they were newly married. so mom did her usual mac&cheese (rather bland and a bit dry but still an ok version). he got home from work and she was aglee with her meal presentation. he popped a clot. he screamed "what is this $h!t?" she was deflated. his comment after imploding was "I asked for macaroni and cheese, that's all > macaroni and cheese and you give me a casserole of???"
                                                                        so he made it with strict instructions for her to pay attention.
                                                                        he boiled the elbows.
                                                                        drained but did not rinse the pasta.
                                                                        put back in the hot pot-added shredded cheddar cheese stirred and added lid. couple minutes later, lid off, stir and voi la, macaroni and cheese. wow I thought ~
                                                                        he took her head off for that? he literally only wanted macaroni and cheese-how bizarre.

                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                        1. re: iL Divo

                                                                          I hope she divorced the a$$hole.

                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                              she did not.
                                                                              she stayed by him even after repeated bullying from him and a temper the size of Houston. I once called him Satan to his face. I'm sorry if that offends anyone not my intention. but I'd had it with him and this was my mother after all.

                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                  thanks Sandy.....most of us only ever get 1 ((((mom))))

                                                                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                    I'm sorry too, wasn't laughing at you. Blessings to you and yr mom.

                                                                                    1. re: Jimisi

                                                                                      ..........oh we are blessed Jimisi.
                                                                                      very very blessed, thanks to you also.........

                                                                          1. Make gourmet-Velveeta mac & cheese: http://www.chow.com/videos/show/youre... melt the homemade solid result into not-yet-cooked-salted noodles.

                                                                            Video on how to make cheese sauce then macaroni and cheese. http://www.chow.com/videos/show/youre... Here is the CHOW recipe written out that goes with the video: http://www.chow.com/recipes/30436-hom...

                                                                            Other recent CHOW threads on Mac and Cheese:
                                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/878917
                                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/881996

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: smaki

                                                                              Another CHOW video of easy baked macaroni and cheese with tips: http://www.chow.com/videos/show/the-e... with recipe on CHOW here: http://www.chow.com/recipes/30682-eas...

                                                                            2. Traditional:
                                                                              http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/cream... though I use extra Cheddar instead of the Velveeta, and seasoned breadcrumbs instead of the melba toast crumbs. This version lends itself well to add-ins like veggies or meat.

                                                                              Baked:
                                                                              http://www.marthastewart.com/331828/e... without the bacon (it doesn't add much

                                                                              )

                                                                              Grandma's version:
                                                                              Cook 2 C (dry) elbow macaroni and drain. Mix with 2 C shredded cheddar cheese, 2 T butter, and 1 can cream of tomato soup. Bake 325F for 1 hour.

                                                                              Over-the-top: Croque Monsieur mac n cheese!
                                                                              http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/cr... but with baked or Virginia ham instead of boiled (less moisture)

                                                                              1. I love mac and cheese. Like even Kraft dinner or velveeta shells and cheese. I've made Martha's and it was good, but not my fav. I would love to try the Patti Labelle recipe but to be quite honest, it scares me a little.

                                                                                My all-time favorite recipe comes from the Inn at Little Washington cookbook - aged gouda and parmesan in reduced heavy cream. A little garlic, shallot and julienned ham.

                                                                                And then they go all crazy over the top and serve it in baskets made out of parmesan tuilles...

                                                                                1. I make macaroni and cheese as a means of using up odds and ends of cheese leftover in my refrigerator.

                                                                                  I make a roux, add milk and stir until thickened. Once the sauce has thickened I take it off the heat and add all of my firmer cheeses like Cheddar, bleu, Swiss, parm...If I am using a softer cheese like fresh mozzarella or brie I do not add it at this point.

                                                                                  At this point I boily my tube pasta, elbows, penne, ziti, rigatoni...whatever, until it is very al dente. I toss the boiled pasta and the sauce together then throw in cubes of softer cheese if I am using it. Toss it all together, pour it into a baking dish, top it with some breadcrumbs, and bake at about 400 until it is hot and bubbly.

                                                                                  1. SIL made martha S's recipe for her daughter's b-day... one of her favorite foods. It was very tasty but NOT cheap to make and took a bit of prep. Think it had 5-6 different cheeses... and a few NOT your garden varieties.

                                                                                    1. The attached pic is my first attempt to finally conquer Mac’n’Cheese. Since I’ve never really been pleased with my results over the years, I decided to be daring and combine some ideas that were nearly opposite from how I’ve cooked it in the past, after reading this thread plus some recipes from around the web.

                                                                                      The main goal was to create a dish that would not only taste good fresh from the oven, but also without the leftovers becoming a hardened glob.

                                                                                      Loveless Cafe recommended to cook the pasta past the al dente stage, so that the finished dish is creamy and saucy, having not had the pasta soak up all of the moisture in the sauce while baking. I did that, but didn't allow the pasta to get mushy. I used mini-penne since that's what I had in the pantry.

                                                                                      Martha Stewart recommended bathing the drained pasta in cold water, for whatever reason, so I did that too, just to see what would happen.

                                                                                      I didn’t have anything on hand close to replicating Paula Deen’s recipe that people rave over, so I used Alton Brown’s as a basis.

                                                                                      Verdict: This was very good mac’n’cheese, but a bit saltier than I’d like. For the cheese, I used half ‘extra mature’ cheddar from Somerset, and half Tillamook regular cheddar.

                                                                                      I’m not really sure what’s accomplished by topping the casserole first with a layer of cheese and then breadcrumbs—with the thick layer of buttered panko on top, there’s no ‘cheese crust’ to speak of underneath, so next time I’ll just use all of the cheese in the sauce.

                                                                                      I was intrigued by Martha’s use of nutmeg, but wasn’t sure how it’d taste, so I went with Alton’s seasonings. I figured I could sprinkle some nutmeg on a portion after cooking to test that out. Nutmeg with cheese must be an acquired taste, as it didn’t particularly do much for me.

                                                                                      Neither did Alton’s idea of using a bay leaf in the milk mixture. The taste of bay wasn’t offensive, just not usual—what came out of the oven isn’t anything that I’d expect guests to rave over and clamor for the recipe.

                                                                                      This is going to be one of those works-in-progress, I can tell. We’ll see how the leftovers heat up after it’s been in the fridge for a day or two. If it's still a bit saucy, I may finally be on to something. If not, back to the drawing board!

                                                                                       
                                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: RelishPDX

                                                                                        I always use nutmeg - but the trick is to use a TINY bit, so that it provides background flavor but cannot be discerned. Same story with dry mustard and cayenne for mac 'n' cheese. These pinches prevent the dish from being one-note bland, but aren't obvious.

                                                                                        As for Alton's...bay is just wrong.

                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                          One of the things I've always been curious about is why mac'n'cheese is such a widely-accepted comfort food.

                                                                                          I think potatoes au gratin is a far more interesting and versatile dish. Same basic sauce, no faffing around with breadcrumbs, a true cheese crust, and leftovers that (usually) stay creamy.

                                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                                            sandy, you are brill and complelely correct in this comment above.....
                                                                                            agree about OB as well. simply don't like it and it has been a squatter in my pantry for way too long, needs to be dispensed with............

                                                                                            1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                              Actually, in my cooking I find that there's one dish (and only one dish) where Old Bay works beautifully: in the seasoned flour that I dredge fresh fish in before frying them.

                                                                                              1. re: BobB

                                                                                                ok bobb, with fish fillets in the freezer and OB in the pantry, maybe tomorrow is the night, we'll see, I'm not agreeing yet *^)
                                                                                                one thing I will add is how confused I become with even on tv the cooks dump flour in a container for the use of dredging without a hint of spice.......I tell my kids if you can't smell the flour mixture you also won't taste anything on the crisp exterior you're trying to get, other than flour.

                                                                                                1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                  I season every part of my dredging process, flour, eggs, crumbs...all of it.

                                                                                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                    I don't fry fish at home, but with chicken tenders, I toss them in plain flour and season the meat directly, then toss in the flour. As the process goes on, the flour becomes seasoned. I find this works well ...

                                                                                              2. re: RelishPDX

                                                                                                wow, thank you for your report.
                                                                                                so this is a bake mac and cheese? how creamy was it?
                                                                                                i have been working on a bake mac and cheese that is creamy, creamy,.....why do i want baked? because i am lazy and don't want to baby sit the mac and cheese.
                                                                                                do you have any suggestions from your experimentation?

                                                                                              3. I reheated a portion of last night's mac'n'cheese for lunch today, and it was much different than expected.

                                                                                                It was still saucy and creamy, not as much as last night, of course, but still saucy and creamy to a degree. Don't know whether to credit boiling the pasta longer or the rinsing it in the cold water bath, or both. I'd bet it's mostly boiling the pasta longer, but we'll see. Next time I'll skip the cold water bath to see if it's any different.

                                                                                                I found a bit of cheese crust! That was a surprise.

                                                                                                Way to much in the breadcrumb dept. A cup of buttered panko is just overkill for an 8" round casserole. I ended up scooping half of the breadcrumbs off what I'd reheated.

                                                                                                But the most surprising element of all was that it was markedly less salty tasting today.

                                                                                                Despite all of that, in the end, I was still wishing I'd been eating potatoes au gratin. Perhaps part of this learning process is finding out whether I'm actually a mac'n'cheese fan after all.

                                                                                                1. I like Martha's the best but for a quick fix, I like Melissa Clark's stove top version. (This is not the one with carrots from her book but a classic one from her blog).

                                                                                                  http://www.melissaclark.net/blog/2011...

                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: pistachio peas

                                                                                                    Are those really the correct proportions? A whole cup of pasta before cooking, with only a scant 1/2 C of cheese plus 2 tbsp heavy cream.

                                                                                                    It says it serves one adult or two small children.

                                                                                                    1. re: RelishPDX

                                                                                                      Maybe they'd be equal amounts by weight? This is the Everyday Food stovetop mac & cheese, and it calls for 3/4 lb each pasta and cheese. Planning to make it this weekend ...

                                                                                                      http://www.marthastewart.com/314746/s...

                                                                                                      1. re: foiegras

                                                                                                        Hmm, don't think so. A cup of uncooked pasta is 4 oz., and the scant 1/2 C of cheese is listed in the recipe as weighing 1 oz.

                                                                                                        1. re: RelishPDX

                                                                                                          Yeah, it's a little light on the cheese I guess. I usually do a bit less pasta if I am just making it for myself. It's more the simplicity of the method and the ingredients. You can play around with the proportions.

                                                                                                          That Everyday Food recipe looks great though. Probably better than the MC one.

                                                                                                          1. re: pistachio peas

                                                                                                            I'll have to give homemade stovetop mac'n'cheese a whirl.

                                                                                                            My interest in mac'n'cheese was renewed due to getting a free box of Horizon organic mac'n'cheese as a club benefit from Safeway this week.

                                                                                                            1. re: pistachio peas

                                                                                                              Well, I just made the Everyday ... it felt like a lot of work, probably because I'm not at all used to making 'real' mac & cheese. The cheese sauce has great flavor, but to me it's the flavor of Welsh rarebit, except with pasta instead of toast. I suppose the recipe is probably quite similar. I was kind of impressed with how well the sauce came together with no special equipment--just a whisk.

                                                                                                    2. Some here might like my mother's recipe. I don't care for it myself, but here goes:

                                                                                                      Boil some pasta and drain it (she always used spaghetti).

                                                                                                      Put the pasta back in the pan on the burner and pour in some milk.

                                                                                                      Cut up a package of Kraft Deluxe American (NOT individually wrapped) Cheese and stir everything until the cheese melts. Add salt and pepper to taste.

                                                                                                      Sorry I don't have quantities - you can figure it out.

                                                                                                      11 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                        I've always had this image about Kraft Deluxe American that it must have some sort of cult following. It's very expensive as processed cheese goes, the slices aren't wrapped, and I rarely see a supermarket copy-cat version of it.

                                                                                                        There's some Chow thread somewhere which extols its virtues.

                                                                                                        1. re: RelishPDX

                                                                                                          It is different from Velveeta and the individually wrapped slices. It's closer to being real cheese - legally, and actually.

                                                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                            But KDA, or Deli Deluxe as it's known as now, is still pasteurized process cheese.

                                                                                                            I'm far from snooty about sliced cheese—when I'm sick, grilled American cheese sandwiches with soup is what I crave most—but if I'm going to buy sliced cheese for sandwiches, I'll buy real cheese, like a pack of sliced Tillamook.

                                                                                                            Perhaps that's because when I buy sliced cheese when I'm not sick, it's either provolone or swiss.

                                                                                                            That said, using up leftover sliced cheese in mac'n'cheese (or potatoes au gratin!) is a great idea I'd never thought about before.

                                                                                                            1. re: RelishPDX

                                                                                                              Deli Deluxe is made with cheese and added ingredients, including the sodium citrate of modernist fame, while Velveeta and friends are made with milk and water and other stuff.

                                                                                                              It's "process cheese" vs. "cheese food".

                                                                                                              So the Deli Deluxe stuff is closer to cheese than Velveeta. I don't really care for either - too gloppy and salty.

                                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                We're getting off-subject here, but Deli Deluxe's ingredients are: American Cheese (Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Water, Milkfat, Sodium Citrate, Calcium Phosphate, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Sorbic Acid as a Preservative, Oleoresin Paprika (Color), Annatto (Color), Vitamin D3, with Starch Added for Slice Separation.

                                                                                                                Who knows what percentage of actual cheese it contains. I believe the regs state process cheese has to be at least 51% real cheese.

                                                                                                                But let's get back to talking about mac'n'cheese.

                                                                                                                  1. re: pistachio peas

                                                                                                                    That's a really interesting use for mac'n'cheese—as a garnish. And only a total of 6 tbsp. of cheese for 2 cups of uncooked pasta.

                                                                                                                  2. re: RelishPDX

                                                                                                                    Actually, I don't think type of cheese is off-topic at all?

                                                                                                                    Yes, I know what's in the DD; your ingredient list is the same as the one I know. The point was that Velveeta doesn't begin with cheese and therefore is one step further away from cheese than DD.

                                                                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                      «The point was that Velveeta doesn't begin with cheese and therefore is one step further away from cheese than DD.»

                                                                                                                      Can that really be said? The ingredient list for Velveeta begins with 'milk' and ends with 'cheese culture'. Who is to say which is closer to 'real cheese' if you start out with cheese and combine it with other products, or if you start out with milk, add other products, then use cheese culture to make it into a cheese product. Only Kraft knows for sure. No definitive claims can really be made one way or the other by others, I don't believe.

                                                                                                                      1. re: RelishPDX

                                                                                                                        I read an article about it some years ago, on which I've based a good portion of my opinion. It went into great detail about the legal definitions, formulations, and terminology regarding various cheese products.

                                                                                                                        I'm not here to argue and I'm not even sure why there seems to be an argument.

                                                                                                                        Whatever.

                                                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                          I didn't realize you considered this an argument. Your statement above was that discussing this tangent was appropriate for the thread, so I asked the question I asked—how could one way of making a processed product be more like cheese than another when considering how they're both processed.

                                                                                                        2. The only addition I've ever liked was leftover smoked meat, usually turkey or pork. I really prefer Mac and cheese pure but this makes a good meal and pretty much everyone likes it. Once I brought it to a potluck after thanksgiving. A huge crock pot of stovetop evaporated milk recipe, with chopped smoked turkey I caught someone using their fingers to get the last bits out of the crock!

                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                            Can you point the way to this evaporated milk M&C recipe? thanks.

                                                                                                            1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                              Pretty sure that's allowed if it's really the last bit!!

                                                                                                              I too am interested in the recipe. Now that I think about it, I'm sure a local diner's mac & cheese is made on the stovetop with evaporated milk.

                                                                                                              1. re: foiegras

                                                                                                                I saw several different recipes online. Some had eggs, some not. I'd love to know which one (if any!) that iheartcooking was using.

                                                                                                                1. re: Leepa

                                                                                                                  I use Alton Brown's recipe:
                                                                                                                  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...
                                                                                                                  I loooove evaporated milk. So rich and stable ;)

                                                                                                            2. Mac'n'cheese Day 3:

                                                                                                              Leftovers still creamy, so that's something. A friend believes that Martha's step of rinsing the cooked pasta in cold water could be to wash off any residual starch as it firms up the pasta. Sounds plausible.

                                                                                                              I sprinkled the tiniest bit of nutmeg on top in the middle of reheating, stirred, then finished nuking. The amount was like two small pinches between my fingers.

                                                                                                              While I'm eating this I'm beginning to wonder if the nutmeg simply might not be working as a flavor due to the bay leaf having imparted its flavor to the milk mixture, with the two clashing/being incompatible.

                                                                                                              Scraped off the last of the breadcrumbs and tossed them into the trash. That much improved the leftovers, and you can see a very thin cheese crust has been lurking underneath. Not thick enough for me for having used up 1/4 of all the cheese used in the recipe. Plus it doesn't appear to have picked up any color from the bake. It's just a thin layer of melted cheese sitting there.

                                                                                                              It's certainly been an interesting learning experience so far.

                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: RelishPDX

                                                                                                                The cold-water rinse is to halt the cooking process I believe.

                                                                                                                1. re: foiegras

                                                                                                                  It also removes some of the starch.

                                                                                                                  1. re: foiegras

                                                                                                                    Yes, you're correct. When writing my post I was probably taking for granted that saying "firms up the pasta" was another way of getting across that the cooking process was being halted and not allowing the pasta to continue past the al dente stage as it sat. I should have stated that more clearly.

                                                                                                                2. I made really wonderful macaroni and cheese in the past. I don't anymore.

                                                                                                                  What I need now is a reasonably healthy meal for the chow pups that is quick to prepare. And doesn't contain junk. And tastes like real food.

                                                                                                                  So, here is what I make now: light roux with whole grass fed milk and some cream, infused with bay leaf, garlic, peppercorn. Mix in a lot of shredded aged gruyere, a 1/3 grass fed cheddar for cheapness, and half a cooked and puréed buttermilk squash.

                                                                                                                  Mix sauce with cavatelli and serve. I used to bake but it doesnt make it better

                                                                                                                  For small eaters, freeze remaining sauce in ice cube trays. For larger servings, just freeze in a container. Defrost microwave with extra milk. Stir. Mix with hot cooked pasta. Serve.

                                                                                                                  Quite tasty.

                                                                                                                  I ate a box of Kraft at least every other day as a kid. I am amused that my kids are utterly horrified by Kraft.

                                                                                                                  1. Mac'n'cheese Day 4:

                                                                                                                    Just as I was looking in the fridge for some lunch and thought "Mac'n'cheese again?!?", I recalled that Alton recommended using up leftovers by deep-frying them, so I looked at his recipes again.

                                                                                                                    Well I don't have a deep-fryer handy, but in the comments section someone suggested browning squares of mac'n'cheese in bacon grease instead. That I have plenty of lurking around in the fridge.

                                                                                                                    Let me tell you, this idea I can wholeheartedly endorse! And surprisingly, it absorbed very little of the grease when done on Medium-Medium Low in a non-stick pan.

                                                                                                                    And here earlier today I was considering whether to freeze or toss the remaining leftovers.

                                                                                                                    http://youtu.be/CWXoOEsHguk