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Jul 25, 2014 12:22 PM

Mac and Cheese

looking for a recipe that is creamy, cheesy with great flavor. Mine is so bland. The cheese sauce is always to thick...results you can cut it with a knife and lift out. I have tried less flour and more milk, but it always bakes up to thick. Also tried, dried mustard, red pepper. Any suggestions?

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  1. I use Martha Stewart's recipe. I don't recall if we're allowed to post links on CH. But if you google "martha stewart mac and cheese 101," you'll find the one I'm talking about.

    1. My M&C recipe is modified from an old Cooking Light recipe ( I use about 1 1/2 C sharp Cheddar cheese, 2/3 C Fontina or Monterey Jack, and 1/3 C Parmesan or Romano - no Velveeta! I also just use seasoned bread crumbs on top. Oh, and it's fine with skim milk or evaporated skim milk instead of 1%.

      We've added things like diced ham or (well-drained) tomatoes and spinach. And if you are impatient, it's fine right off the stove!

      1 Reply
      1. re: truman

        I have a similar approach, although I use cheddar, Gruyere, and Romano. Panko on top. I make my Bechamel with low fat or even fat free milk. I squirt enough Sriracha into the Bechamel to turn it a rosy pink.

      2. There are a number of tweaks you can make to your current recipe to keep it from getting so thick. First, try baking it for a much shorter time, or not at all - you can just run it under the broiler to get the topping brown. Rinsing off some of the starch from the pasta before you combine it with the sauce will help. Increasing the milk A LOT will help - I try to make sure my cheese sauce is no thicker than heavy cream when I add it to the pasta.

        As for the blandness factor, you need to make sure the cheese you're using has a ton of flavor - aged sharp cheddar and gruyere are two common choices that are nice and cheesy. Adding a small amount of Velveeta or American cheese will help boost the flavor (and keep the sauce from breaking) without being noticeable as "processed cheese." You can also get sodium citrate and use that to emulsify the cheese sauce, which makes the standard bechamel base, which can be bland, completely unnecessary.

        1 Reply
        1. re: biondanonima

          I agree, in addition I overcook my pasta so the pasta has a higher water content if I am baking it. If we are eating it off the stove we prepare it al dente..but in both cases we do rinse our pasta. If the pasta has more water in it will absorb less sauce and stay a bit moister.

          What we also do, if we are baking it, we will place some in 1 1/2 cup ramekins and will add different elements to each for a variety of flavors. So if we are adding some tomato or zucchini we can adjust the cooking time, whereas if we add some chicken or spicy sausage we might cook it a little less. Additionally you can tailor them with spice such as hot sauce, cayenne, etc. to individual taste.

        2. Are you talking a stovetop or baked mac and cheese? Either way--Tabasco. It adds zip and amps up the cheese flavor. You can add an amazing amount (a teaspoon or more) before it starts to add heat. I make a baked version with a 50-50 mixture (give or take) sharp Cheddar and mozza, plus lots of Tabasco. Another trick is that I mix the noodles with the white sauce and *do not* add the cheese. Instead, I put half the noodle-bechamel sauce into the baking dish, add half the cheese, and repeat both layers. Then I pour another cup or so of milk over the whole thing, then bake. The cheese never separates and there are always strings attached to the mother casserole.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Erika L

            Interesting tricks - I'm going to have to try the extra milk over the top!

            1. re: zackly

              Yes, for me, the roux always meant less cheese flavor. Now with no roux, I get the total cheese flavor that I want! Sodium citrate all the way!

              1. re: zackly

                THIS. Sodium citrate has been a life changing ingredient. Roux based mac and cheese ruins the flavor of a good cheese and makes the dish heavy.

                1. re: zackly

                  Am I the only one who didn't have luck with the sodium citrate? I followed the MC recipe to the gram and though it was good, I didn't notice any improvement in texture or flavor over my normal M&C. I don't use a roux normally, tho. I add cheese(s) that I've just grated to some heated half & half and I season to taste.

                  1. re: madtheswine

                    You basically made the same thing then. If you weren't using flour or a b├ęchamel before, the taste will be similar. SC is only an emulsifying agent it does not change the flavor.