Mac and Cheese recipe: the best ever homemade macaroni and cheese
When it comes to the recipe for the perfect mac and cheese, everybody has its own and it’s hard to debate whether one is better than another. For sure, macaroni and cheese are one of those quick family recipes that everyone loves and that can also be customized based on people’s taste. It can be baked or cooked on a casserole, depends on your taste.
People say macaroni and cheese it Italian by origins and for sure it resembles something Italian but being Italian myself, for me, mac ‘n’ cheese has never existed; I usually make something similar, in some way, called Pasta au gratin which includes a lot of cheese but also charcuterie.
According to the myth, the first ones to prepare macaroni and cheese would have been the French, and traces of the recipe can be found in a 14th-century cookbook. They were brought to the United States by President Thomas Jefferson who tasted this pasta in France in 1700: the mac ‘n’ cheese spread in a very short time in all the American kitchens.
That said, Americans always claim macaroni cheese as their own, and it’s not a mystery that Kraft invented the boxed version using macaroni pasta in 1937.
To keep it short, macaroni and cheese is short pasta baked with cheddar cheese melted in a kind of béchamel with the addition of more cheese: once cooked, the macaroni and cheese is meant to be soft and creamy and to have a delicious golden crust on the surface.
The taste is strong because there’s a lot of cheese involved and very buttery, for the same reason.
Let me stress this, again: there are thousands of amazing recipes to make mac ‘n’ cheese and mine is one of the many. And let me be honest: if you’re reading and you’re American, step away from the boxed mac ‘n’ cheese and make your own pasta.
Let me explain how to make macaroni and cheese from scratch, give you advice and variations to create a very special dish.
Ingredients for 6 people
- 1-liter milk (1 3/4 pint)
- 50 grams butter (1/4 cup )
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 450 grams grated white Cheddar cheese (6 cups)
- 350 grams package short pasta, cooked (5 cups) [It’s common to use elbow macaroni]
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F;
- Prepare your “roux” for the bechamel sauce by following the steps below (check the recipe for the perfect white sauce/bechamel);
- Heat the milk and melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute;
- Add the warm milk to the butter and flour mix, and cook until the mixture thickens, whisking constantly with a spoon;
- Once the sauce is ready, add salt, a pinch of black pepper, 1 cup shredded cheese and whisk until smooth;
- Stir in pasta and spoon it into a lightly greased baking dish; top with remaining cheese;
- Bake at 200°C/400°F for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly;
- Transfer the dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes and serve.
Preparation time: 1 hour
How to make a Better Mac ‘n’ Cheese
- Remember: the cheese sauce is the main element of this dish so you always need to use a pungent cheese so that the white sauce won’t absorb all the flavor;
- Undercook your pasta so that when it will be baked won’t be overcooked (check my guide on how to cook pasta like an Italian)
- Always remember to buy durum wheat Italian pasta for your macaroni and cheese;
- Never forget to salt your water when cooking your pasta, otherwise, your macaroni won’t have many flavors;
- How to make sure the cheese cream is really cheesy? By adding a splash of cream to the bechamel sauce, substituting some of the milk with cream;
- For an even more tasty flavor, add different types of cheese to the mix, always remember to use strong ones;
- Add a bit of crunch on top of the baking dish by using breadcrumbs;
- Remember not to stick too much to the clock: the best mac ‘n’ cheese is ready when it’s bubbly and golden, so take into consideration the baking time but do not stick to it and eventually change it to your liking.
Check my video recipe and learn how to make a perfect bechamel sauce
Macaroni and Cheese: a few interesting variations to try at home
Mac and Cheese is one of those dishes everyone love to experiment with so I’ve collected a few inspirational recipes you should try, to make a perfect macaroni and cheese at home:
- Gluten-Free Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese
- Leftover Mac and Cheese
- Creamy Mac and Cheese
- Baked Macaroni Double Cheese