Mac and Cheese – Ultra Creamy, Ultra Delicious

Do you have one of those already made just add water to it mac and cheese boxes in your house? There is no shame in that, so do I! I think nutritious, smart eating is about more than solely the nutritional value. It’s about balancing what’s good for you nutritionally, while retaining your mental sanity. There will be days where you will absolutely not be able or willing to cook. And if you have that frozen pizza or mac and cheese box – go ahead, use it.

I just love breaking the crunchy topping and digging into the delicious creamy noodles!

But for the days where you do have the motivation and a few extra minutes… Make this! It’s so rich and so delicious. I wouldn’t call it healthy, but it is made with real and simple ingredients instead of those preservative-filled boxed varieties.

By far, the most important step in making Mac and Cheese is the béchamel sauce. It’s not mustard or any secret spice that you use that makes the best mac and cheese. You can do whatever you want, use any cheese or spice that you want – it’s starting off your sauce right. Add milk too quick and your mac and cheese has no chance, it will be dry and grainy… For this reason, I put every single little detail in the recipe for success with the béchamel base of the sauce.

Furthermore, depending on which ingredients you use, you can make everything from every day ultra creamy mac and cheese, to knock your socks off lobster Mac and Cheese!

For the lobster mac and cheese, the preparation is exactly the same, except I replace the cheese with White Cheddar and lay the cooked lobster pieces in the middle of the mac and cheese casserole (layering the pieces in the middle, where the heat will reach last, prevent overcooking the lobster meat, so don’t scatter it all over the dish .) Next time I make it I will post a detailed step by step!

This recipe’s origin is from Martha Stewart. And although there are so many variations, I always find myself going back to this one. Feel free to experiment with cheeses and more Gruyere instead of Cheddar or other gourmet cheeses.

DifficultyBeginner

Yields4 Servings
Prep Time15 minsCook Time40 minsTotal Time55 mins

 1 lb macaroni or other pasta (I used medium shells pasta) - please see note
 ½ cup flour
 1 stick butter (8 TBSP)
 5 ½ cups milk
 4 ½ cups sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
 2 cups Gruyere cheese, grated
 ¼ tsp nutmeg
 ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, optional
 ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
 2 tsp kosher salt (half as much if using fine table salt)
 6 slices white bread, toasted, crusts removed, cubed into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces

1

Preheat the oven to 375. Place the racks to the upper third of the oven. Butter 9x13 casserole dish.

2

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook macaroni 2-3 minutes less than package instructions. Transfer to a colander and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Drain macaroni well. Warm milk, but do not let it boil, set aside. Place 3 cups cheddar cheese and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese in a large bowl. Put a fine mesh sieve over the bowl. Once we make our bechamel sauce, we will strain it into the cheese mixture.

3

Melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour over bread and toss. Set aside.

4

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat in a sauce pan. When the butter starts to foam and bubble, add flour, whisking consistently - you are making a roux. Cook it for about 1 minute to cook off the raw taste, stirring constantly; do not let your roux get dark!

This next step is the most important and will make or break your mac and cheese...

Add a little bit of milk in a steady stream. If you add too much too quick, your sauce may separate and not be able to be saved. Your sauce must get very thick; as it gets thick - your job is to work out all of the lumps and dissolve all of the flour pockets into thick but very smooth sauce. At that point, at a bit more milk, whisking constantly. After all of the lumps are gone, continue adding the rest of milk in a steady stream while whisking; after you have added all the milk, your sauce will thin out.

Allow the sauce to simmer, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and becomes thick. You now made béchamel sauce!

5

Remove from heat and strain into the bowl with cheese. Add nutmeg, cayenne (if using,) salt and pepper to taste and stir. Add your macaroni and ensure the mixture is well combined. Pour it into the prepared dish. Top with remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese. Top with breadcrumbs. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the top is browned. If not browned and crisp enough, broil for a couple of minutes watching closely not to burn with the oven door open. Enjoy!

Ingredients

 1 lb macaroni or other pasta (I used medium shells pasta) - please see note
 ½ cup flour
 1 stick butter (8 TBSP)
 5 ½ cups milk
 4 ½ cups sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
 2 cups Gruyere cheese, grated
 ¼ tsp nutmeg
 ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, optional
 ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
 2 tsp kosher salt (half as much if using fine table salt)
 6 slices white bread, toasted, crusts removed, cubed into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces

Directions

1

Preheat the oven to 375. Place the racks to the upper third of the oven. Butter 9x13 casserole dish.

2

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook macaroni 2-3 minutes less than package instructions. Transfer to a colander and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Drain macaroni well. Warm milk, but do not let it boil, set aside. Place 3 cups cheddar cheese and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese in a large bowl. Put a fine mesh sieve over the bowl. Once we make our bechamel sauce, we will strain it into the cheese mixture.

3

Melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour over bread and toss. Set aside.

4

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat in a sauce pan. When the butter starts to foam and bubble, add flour, whisking consistently - you are making a roux. Cook it for about 1 minute to cook off the raw taste, stirring constantly; do not let your roux get dark!

This next step is the most important and will make or break your mac and cheese...

Add a little bit of milk in a steady stream. If you add too much too quick, your sauce may separate and not be able to be saved. Your sauce must get very thick; as it gets thick - your job is to work out all of the lumps and dissolve all of the flour pockets into thick but very smooth sauce. At that point, at a bit more milk, whisking constantly. After all of the lumps are gone, continue adding the rest of milk in a steady stream while whisking; after you have added all the milk, your sauce will thin out.

Allow the sauce to simmer, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and becomes thick. You now made béchamel sauce!

5

Remove from heat and strain into the bowl with cheese. Add nutmeg, cayenne (if using,) salt and pepper to taste and stir. Add your macaroni and ensure the mixture is well combined. Pour it into the prepared dish. Top with remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese. Top with breadcrumbs. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the top is browned. If not browned and crisp enough, broil for a couple of minutes watching closely not to burn with the oven door open. Enjoy!

Baked Mac and Cheese

Make it Gluten-Free: replace flour with good-quality all purpose gluten free flour, replace macaroni with gluten free macaroni, omit breadcrumbs or replace with gluten free breadcrumbs. Ensure all your ingredients are gluten free and not cross-contaminated with gluten.

Happens to be Vegetarian.

Look how creamy it is. On top of that deliciousness, we will add crunchy layer of Panko breadcrumbs

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