Give your best large batch Mac and Cheese recipe!
May 5, 2016 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Trying to find a recipe for Mac and Cheese that will serve 15-20 and ideally be able to made completely the day before, and heated in the oven prior to serving.

I've found this and this which have been good jumping off points, but I feel like I'm looking for something in particular. In general here are some ideas I'm thinking about incorporating based upon comments from these recipes:

-use some sort of onions/shallots in the roux or sauce
-don't buy shredded cheese, get the block and use it myself
-use different varieties of cheese

I want to to make something that has a really particular or nice flavor, but don't want to spend an absurd amount of time using a bunch of ingredients that will be tough on a large scale. Any particular recipes or hacks that would help my situation, please pass along. Thanks in advance!
posted by andruwjones26 to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
some editing issues- meant to say shred the block of cheese myself, not USE by myself)
posted by andruwjones26 at 11:06 AM on May 5, 2016

My all-time favorite mac-and-cheese recipe is from Homeroom (a mac-and-cheese restaurant in Oakland, CA. Their basic formula is:

Make a roux from:
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/3 teaspoons kosher salt

Turn off heat and stir in:
2-1/2 cups of your cheese of choice (or a mix)
any mix-ins you like
3/4 to 1 pound cooked pasta

I find this easily serves 4 hungry people or probably 6 less hungry people (or if there are numerous sides). In this case, I would probably triple or quadruple the recipe and divide among two casserole dishes. Just before re-heating, sprinkle with a panko-butter mixture.

My personal favorite variation, if you're cooking for meat-eaters, is to use Monterey Jack for your cheese, and add in cooked chorizo and a diced chipotle in adobo. I've also done a really good one using half-Cheddar, half-cream cheese and adding in frozen spinach (squeezed dry) and canned artichoke hearts (drained and chopped). Both of those should be doable with large amounts of ingredients.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:10 AM on May 5, 2016 [10 favorites]

Skip the roux, especially at scale. Either evaporated milk and eggs, per Food Lab, or with the help of a little chemistry, per Modernist Cuisine. The sodium citrate version reheats especially well (i.e., effortlessly).
posted by supercres at 11:11 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I ALWAYS use swiss cheese as one of the cheeses, no matter what variety of M&M I make.

Is this for veggies? If not, bacon always enhances.
posted by archimago at 11:13 AM on May 5, 2016

THIS. Always. This has become my family's favorite macaroni and cheese, and it would be simple to make a monster batch of it. It uses a little goat cheese, Parmesan, Fontina, and Gruyere, but I mean, you could put in whatever you want. Also has bacon and onions.
posted by routergirl at 11:19 AM on May 5, 2016

I use this recipe which skips the roux and uses alfredo sauce instead. It also recommends reserving cooking water from the macaroni and adding it to the sauce. It is delicious.

I think my recipe also includes a garlicky seasoning in the breadcrumbs.

Lots of people love bacon, but on behalf of all pork-avoiders, please keep the bacon on the side.
posted by meemzi at 11:20 AM on May 5, 2016

I always add bacon and chopped jalapeno to mine.
posted by AugustWest at 11:22 AM on May 5, 2016

This old Weight Watchers Mac and Cheese recipe is delicious. It is very easy to make and probably simple to scale up the size. Has slight onion flavour. And it is also extra tasty if you use full fat versions of the cheeses.
posted by fourpotatoes at 11:26 AM on May 5, 2016

I love Martha Stewart's recipe. You could double it for more than enough. I always use horseradish white cheddar instead of the plain, which is crazy amazing in this recipe. You can make this ahead of time and keep in the fridge, then cover with breadcrumbs and cook. This doesn't satisfy your "onions in the sauce" bullet, if you're married to the idea, you could sautee some before adding the milk and cheese.
posted by LKWorking at 11:30 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Taleggio will give your mac a wonderful cheesy funk and it melts amazingly.

Once concern i have looking at your first link is that it suggests cooking your noodles according to the package direction before dousing them in hot cheese sauce and baking for 45 minutes. this method is guaranteed to give you overcooked, mushy macaroni. In my (not so limited) experience making high volume baked macaroni and cheese i would suggest you:
-undercook your noodles by several minutes per the cooking instructions (i would generally do this anyway as i prefer my noodles al dente and the direction times are almost always too long even for immediate/non baked applications)
-rinse and cool your noodles completely after they are done cooking - this will prevent carry over heat from cooking them further than you would want. it is often helpful to toss in a few teaspoons of vegetable oil on the mostly cooled noodles to keep them from sticking together in a giant block.
-cool your cheese sauce as much as possible (to barely warm) before combining it with the noodles (you do not need to do this step if you will be putting the mac n cheese straight in an oven, but if you want to pan it up the day before, taking cold noodles and dousing them in hot cheese sauce will, again, result in overcooked pasta).

Alternatively, i have made this no boil recipe which looked weird but came out well and should scale easily.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 11:38 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Martha's recipe; it's so good that it's what Smitten Kitchen uses, too. If I'm short on bread or just feeling lazy then I use panko crumbs and it's nearly as good. My only addition is that I always add a teaspoon of mustard powder to the roux, I think it adds a nice subtle flavor.

And yes, follow Exceptional_Hubris's directions re: cooling. I make macaroni ahead of time on several occasions a year, and I always do those things to avoid overcooking.
posted by gatorae at 11:42 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I too have used Martha Stewart's mac and cheese recipe, in fact I scaled it up to feed 100 people. It scales very well. Doubling it would suite your needs very well. I use a panko topping instead of the stale bread croutons, and have subbed a mix of white cheddar and colby for the more expensive gruyere. It's really the best mac and cheese.
posted by slogger at 11:55 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

this is the recipe i always use, but i never cool down the macaroni (and i pull it 2-3 minutes before the "done" point) and i use panko instead of bread crumbs. it doubles/scales really easily, i've left the cayenne out when kids are involved, and you can reheat it easily.
posted by koroshiya at 11:56 AM on May 5, 2016

Nthing Martha Stewart's mac and cheese. Every time I serve it at parties people get fucking rabid over it.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:44 PM on May 5, 2016

It's way, way faster to:

- cook pasta day before. This is one of the few times you want to rinse it after, under cold water.
- reduce 35% cream by half the day before. (you can sautee minced shallots, add cream, reduce)

day of, heat the cream, add shredded cheese, add pasta, done.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:49 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone! They all look delicious but I think I'm gonna try the Martha Stewart one. It's interesting how back and forth other recipes/comments seem about rinsing vs not-rinsing the pasta- I guess everyone has the method they like the best. At the least cooking macaroni day before and assembling ingredients should make it a lot easier
posted by andruwjones26 at 12:55 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I see you already have a plan, but if I were making mac and cheese for a crowd, I'd use a method similar to this Caramelized Onion, Peach, and Prosciutto Mac and Cheese recipe. You basically grate the cheese, mix it with Greek yogurt, then stir in your hot pasta and anything else you might be stirring in (I've done the peaches and prosciutto; I've also done an apple/Brussels sprouts/bacon/cheddar one that was good.) You could add anything you wanted, or nothing at all. And you can use pretty much any cheese that will melt decently. It's super easy and super customizable.
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:42 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

You only want to rinse pasta under a few circumstances:

- when serving cold as in the abomination that is pasta salad
- when chilling before reheating to serve (or just toss with oil while still hot--the only reason is to prevent sticking_
- when baking in a roux-based sauce

You don't rinse pasta usually because it gets rid of the free starches on the surface that help sauces to bind. In the first case, you just end up with a wodge of pasta. In the second case, same deal (although, again, tossing in oil is superior). In the third, the sauce gets way too gluey.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:05 PM on May 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Just want to put this out there - The Vegetarian Epicure's baked macaroni and cheese has been winning me raves for close to 40 years now.
posted by maggiemaggie at 3:26 PM on May 5, 2016

I'm adding another Martha-approved option in case you decide to go for baked mac and cheese. I've been using this recipe for a couple of years and it's become a family favorite. I always bake it the day before, and reheat it in the oven before serving. It doesn't call for onions or shallots, but they'd go great with it.
posted by Katie8709 at 6:42 PM on May 5, 2016

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