Perfectly Creamy Mac ‘n Cheese

For many, mac ‘n cheese means warmth and comfort.  Many of us grew up on mac ‘n cheese and can recall random stories that involve this family friendly pasta dish.

20130207-190442

Back in junior high, I would come home famished, and cook myself some stovetop shells and cheese of the Velveeta variety.  That was my after-school snack.  Then, I’d venture on to eat a normal dinner later.  Those were the days.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 3

Now that I’m all grown up, I’ve worked through what feels like a mountain of homemade mac ‘n cheese recipes, hoping to capture that rich and creamy texture using fresh ingredients.  No ingredients I can’t pronounce, please.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese

Needless to say, I’ve had my share of hits and misses.  One solid recipe almost made it to post-worthy status, but it was a teensy grainy, so it didn’t make the cut.  Another popular recipe was great right out of the oven, but the leftovers were kind of clumpy.

You know I’m here to share “the one.”  The one mac ‘n cheese made with whole ingredients that is worthy enough to have its own post.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 4

This mac ‘n cheese is perfectly creamy, rich, superbly cheesy, and big on flavor.  It’s fabulous right out of the oven, and it manages to reheat surprisingly well.  Sharp white cheddar makes all the difference, with its super creamy texture.  Pecorino Romano puts this dish over the top.  It’s deliciously pungent, and lends toothsome flavor to the cheese sauce.  Grate your own fresh cheeses, as it makes a difference in the texture too.

With more winter days lying ahead, it’s the perfect time to make the perfect mac ‘n cheese.  Round your people up for a warming, comforting, satisfying meal.  Enjoy!

————————————————————————————

RECIPE (12 servings)

INGREDIENTS
6 TB regular butter
5 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 1/2 (18 oz) cups freshly grated sharp white cheddar
1 1/4 cups (5 oz) freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1 lb elbow macaroni pasta

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 375F with rack in middle position.  Grease a large casserole dish and set aside.

Fill large pot with salted water.  Bring to boil, add macaroni and cook 2 minutes fewer than the package states for al dente.  You want the pasta just under al dente (outside of pasta cooked and inside is a bit underdone.)  Transfer cooked macaroni to colander, rinse well, and set aside to drain.

In saucepan, heat milk until hot and set aside.  In large pot, melt 6 TB butter over medium heat.  When butter starts bubbling, add flour and cook 1-2 minutes, constantly stirring.

Add hot milk into flour-butter mixture, whisking constantly.  Continue cooking and whisking on medium heat until mixture bubbles and becomes thick, about 10 min.

Turn heat off.  Stir in garlic and onion powder, nutmeg, black pepper, dry mustard, and cayenne pepper.  Add 3 cups of the white cheddar and 1 cup of the Pecorino Romano.  Mix thoroughly until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.

Add cooked macaroni into cheese sauce and stir to combine well.  Pour mixture into greased casserole dish, distributing evenly.  Sprinkle top with remaining 1 1/2 cups white cheddar and 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano.  (To add breadcrumbs, see note below.)  Bake until top is golden brown, about 30 min.  If needed, broil a minute or two until desired browning.  Let casserole cool about 5 minutes and serve.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Note:  I didn’t use breadcrumbs for this recipe by preference.  If you want to include chunky bread crumbs:  Cube 6 slices of good quality (crust removed) bread into 1/4 in. pieces.  Place pieces in bowl and mix with 2 TB melted butter and toss well. Scatter breadcrumbs over top of casserole right before baking. 

Comments

  1. Not getting any warmer here in MN, so mac-and-cheese seems a find dinner choice:-) Yours looks yum. Btw, made your teriyaki meatloaf last week. Very very good!

  2. This looks great! Ive made mine with a smidge of cream cheese to get a nice creamy consistency. I also like to add ham and broccoli to mine, just to have a contrast of textures and colors. Besides, that way I can get my 6 year old to say “More broccoli please”. :) Ive never tried Romano, so I will give that a shot. Thanks!

  3. Classic Mac! Looks scrumptious! :)

  4. Mmmmm! I love homemade Mac n’ Cheese! Comfort food at it’s finest!! :)

  5. This looks so creamy and warming. I’ll take this over soup any day :)

  6. Mac and Cheese is one of my all time favorites, I always have a problem with the cheese separating and getting a grainy texture but yours looks amazing.

  7. I have often forced people to come over to my house so I can feed them Mac and Cheese, In Australia mac and cheese is a gross box stuff that no one really likes so people are dubious….after they eat my mac and cheese they change their mind (or they are scared of what I would do to them if they say they still don’t like it so pretend to change their mind?).

    I can recommend swapping out the mustard for horse radish cream – it is delicious.

  8. My goodness…This looks amazing. Creamy is the correct word to describe this. YUM!
    -JulieC

  9. Mmmm, this sounds amazing! I’m a mac and cheese fiend, and your version sounds absolutely heavenly. Those cheesy strings in the pics definitely show it’s a good one :) Pinned!

  10. thank you x a million for this recipe!

  11. Hi there!
    I love this recipe!!! The name says it all, perfectly creamy mac and cheese. Mac and cheese is one of my favorites and before this recipe, I used the same recipe for 6 years (with a little experimentation in between, but never found one that was better—until yours!). Your recipe is the only mac and cheese recipe I found that heats up well, even a week after it’s been made. Thank you so much! This is my new go-to mac and cheese recipe!

    best wishes,
    Kristen

    • You’re awesome, Kristen! Thanks for trying the recipe and writing back to let us know how you liked it :) SO glad you enjoyed it. It does reheat well, which helps in my household because I make super-size batches of everything! My boys could eat it everyday if I let them :)

  12. How do you make the roux not grainy? The cheese mixture keeps coming out grainy for me, no chunks or flecks of flour, just overall grainy. As in the cheese sauce isnt super smooth and creamy. Is there a trick?

    • Hi, Cassie! I make sure to stir the roux really well, until the flour is no longer grainy. When you add the milk, make sure you’re whisking constantly for the entire 10 minutes, to ensure a smooth flour mixture. That step is really important, before adding any cheeses. You want to get the milk/flour mixture totally smooth before adding cheeses. And, I always make sure to use the extra sharp white cheddar! If you don’t have it, go out and get it…it truly makes a world of difference. Not pre-shredded cheese, because those have added ingredients. Get a good blocks of cheese and shred them yourself :) Hope that helps!

Leave a Reply