I camembert it! Help me mac it cheddar.
January 10, 2007 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Mac and Cheese, please. I'm looking for a macaroni and cheese recipe that's above all, creamy.

My homemade mac and cheese, while tasty, usually comes out sort of paste-like or not-cheesy-enough. What is your fool-proof cheesifying recipe for creamy goodness?

Baked Mac and Cheese recipes are ok, as long as the sauce stays creamy and delicious.
posted by FreezBoy to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
Cook's Illustrated's Creamy Baked Four-Cheese Pasta is excellent, and very, very creamy. You will have to get a free 14-day trial membership to the site to get the recipe, alas, or buy their Cover & Bake cookbook, which is where I found the recipe.
posted by cerebus19 at 5:56 AM on January 10, 2007

It might help if we knew what recipe you use know. Mornay style? Fondue style? Custard style? Knowing what's wrong is a good place to start.
posted by Devidicus at 6:05 AM on January 10, 2007

This thread might give you some ideas.

In my own experience, baked tends to be creamier providing that what goes into the oven is intentionally more liquidy than what you hope to take out once it's done. This will prevent it drying out.
posted by teem at 6:13 AM on January 10, 2007

I cheat a bit with my recipe, but it's easy and yummy.

I take a jar of Bertellini Alfredo sauce and add about a cup of milk. Then I stir in about two cups each of shredded Mozz and shredded cheddar. I nuke that until the cheese is melted, then add cooked Mezza Rigatoni. Bake for about 35 minutes.

The cookbook Macaroni & Cheese has some great ideas for all sorts of fancy and simple recipes, but I couldn't get past some trouble with the bechamel sauce. That's why my husband's the chef, not me.
posted by saffry at 6:33 AM on January 10, 2007

I highly recommend the Mac and Cheese recipe from The Patti LaBelle Cookbook. It is the richest, creamiest (and butteriest) mac and cheese I've ever had, and I consider myself a mac and cheese connoisseur. Stay tuned and I'll post the recipe when I get home.

Lots of other good down home cooking in there as well.
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:52 AM on January 10, 2007

Response by poster: Devidicus - I've tried 10-12 different recipes so far - with roux, without roux; baked, not baked; one cheese, two cheese, more cheese. All were ok (it's mac and cheese, even at its worst it's pretty good), but nothing approaching the best mac and cheese ever. I'm hoping someone here will have some recipes or secret tips (like using alfredo sauce as a base!) to share.

Everything looks good so far, keep em coming and thanks!
posted by FreezBoy at 7:16 AM on January 10, 2007

Here's the recipe I use:

1.5 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 lb. macaroni
1 lb. grated cheese (cheddar, colby, jack, etc.)
salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

First, preheat the oven to 450 and lightly butter a 3 quart baking dish. I use an enameled oval cast iron baking dish with a lid, but use whatever you want. I've found that the deeper the dish, the better the mac and cheese.

Cook the pasta for 5 minutes in rapidly boiling water and set it aside to drain.

Preheat the milk to slightly warmer than room temperature. You're going to need this in 5 minutes.

Make a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan and then whisking in the flour a little at a time. Make sure that when you stir in some flour it's dissolved before you stir in the next bit. Let the roux cook for 2 - 4 minutes.

Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the warmed milk a little at a time, whisking the whole time. You're making a thick bechamel here, btw. Once the milk is completely stirred in return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil, stirring the whole time. You don't want the sauce to burn, here. You can stir in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg at this point. Make sure you don't use two much nutmeg, by the way.

Once it's boiling turn the heat down really really low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes.

Put the pasta in the baking dish, pour the sauce over top of it, and gently fold in the cheese. The mac and cheese should be the same consistency the whole way through, at this point.

Sprinkle on the breadcrumbs and then bake for 20-25 minutes. It's done when the top gets crunchy and starts to brown.
posted by bshort at 7:16 AM on January 10, 2007

...too much nutmeg...
posted by bshort at 7:17 AM on January 10, 2007

I was on a mac and cheese kick last week and tried variations on this recipe with different sized baking dishes and with a thicker bechamel and found that the more compact the dish the better the final product. I like my mac and cheese crunchy on the top and sides and creamy in the middle, but if you prefer it crunchier all the way through try making it in a low, wide dish.

Also, greasing the baking dish is pretty important. The final product tends to stick tenaciously to the sides of the dish and I had to soak it overnight to fully clean it.

You also are going to want to let the mac and cheese cool for 15 minutes before you crack into it.
posted by bshort at 7:23 AM on January 10, 2007

Also, if you want the mac and cheese to be even creamier, increase the milk to 2 cups.
posted by bshort at 7:26 AM on January 10, 2007

I don't have a better recipe, really, but I thought I should appear in this thread. The best four-cheese macaroni-and-cheese I've experienced is made at the Kitchenette on Amsterdam Ave. around 123d St. in Harlem. I don't think the recipe is online, alas. But whatever you do, the magic depends on using the best gorgonzola you can score.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:52 AM on January 10, 2007

Add about a third of a can of Campbell's condensed tomato soup to the cheese sauce.
posted by decathecting at 7:54 AM on January 10, 2007

I add a bay leaf to the sauce while cooking and paprika at the end.
posted by randomination at 8:41 AM on January 10, 2007

My mom adds onions to hers. As far as I'm concerned, if it doesn't have onions in it, it won't taste right.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:50 AM on January 10, 2007

Another vote for Velveeta. Also, add a little chicken stock to your cheese mixture. That's been a family secret of ours for years.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 9:59 AM on January 10, 2007

Holy GOD you need to make the following macaroni and cheese. For me it's too expensive for every day, but you can substitute more cheddar for the gruyere. Also, do not skip the tomatoes, they make the dish seriously amazing. I basically cover the entire pan with tomato slices.

Barefoot Contessa's Mac and Cheese
posted by tatiana wishbone at 10:03 AM on January 10, 2007

The recipe in The Best Recipe is not baked, it's made on the stovetop, and is very creamy, delicious and calorie-dense.
posted by theora55 at 10:56 AM on January 10, 2007

This always feels like cheating to me, but my family thinks it the best mac and cheese and it is very creamy:

1 can of Cream of Chicken or Celery Campbells soup
3/4 c. milk
3 cups cooked elbow macaroni (the casserole sized are good)
2 cups shredded cheese
1 cup french fried onions

Blend the soup, milk, 1 1/2 cups cheese, place in casserole.
Bake at 400 degrees F 25 minutes. Stir and top with onions mixed with the remaining cheese and bake 5 more minutes.
posted by i_like_camels at 11:30 AM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oops! Don't forget to add the macaroni to the soup, milk and cheese!
posted by i_like_camels at 11:31 AM on January 10, 2007

I found PattiLaBelle's recipe online. This mac and cheese is awesome. Here's a quote from her book:
Ask anyone who makes incredible macaroni and cheese for his or her recipe, and I bet that Velveeta will be in there. But my recipe doesn't stop there. To make my special macaroni and cheese, I also use Muenster, mild and sharp Cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheeses, each one adding its own flavor and melting consistency. I fyou don't want to use all five cheeses, you can get away with just the Velveeta and sharp Cheddar---it won't be over the rainbow, but it will be pretty good. And, on special occasions, I sometimes add an extra stick of butter, in which instance, the macaroni goes over the moon! If you use two sticks of butter, substitute milk for the half-and-half.
It sure isn't healthy but it is good. The Cover&Bake recipe, and Barefoot Contessa are also very good. I hope that you will update this thread if you find one that is better. I'd love to try it.
posted by Roger Dodger at 12:06 PM on January 10, 2007

Here's the Cook's Illustrated recipe for Creamy Baked Four Cheese Pasta...no reg requred.
posted by Miko at 12:29 PM on January 10, 2007

If anyone wants to try this with the Kraft Mac & Cheese in the box, just add along with the powdered cheese sauce:

4 slices of real cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons of milk (for lubrication)
4 dollops of sour cream

The numbers for the cheese and sour cream are just what I use. You can adjust it to suit your tastes. Happy cooking! :-)
posted by arishaun at 12:39 PM on January 10, 2007

I'm going to go another way. When I make "mac & cheese" I actually make pasta in fondue sauce. Sort of.

First though - If your mac & cheese is coming out like paste, in means you're using too much flour or cornstarch. Or you're baking it too long. Try more liquid. IMHO.

I just eyeball things. Measuring stuff is for baked goods. My recipe goes like this -

Heat about 1/3 cup of chicken stock and 1/3 cup of white wine in a sauce pan. Add a small dollop of brown mustard. Cube up several ounces of Vermont medium cheddar and some sweet brie or triple creme cheese. 1/2 inch cubes. About 2 cups, maybe less. Grate about an ounce of parm. Toss the cubed cheese in corn starch, just enough to coat them. Melt the cheese slowly in the wine and stock. Add the parm. Fold in the cooked pasta. Toss in some peas and bacon. Serve.

Adding just the right amount of pasta will help you get the consistency you want. So add the pasta to the cheese rather than the cheese to the pasta.
posted by Devidicus at 1:21 PM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would second the above recommendation for the Cook's Illustrated recipe in the original Best Recipe; the recipe in the New Best Recipe is not the same. I'll post it here; I don't think you can even buy the cookbook anymore (new, that is). It's a stovetop recipe, and the keys to making it insanely creamy are:
*evaporated milk
*having part of the cheese (half for me, usually) be smooth-melting American, which I normally avoid like the plague

2 large eggs
1 can evaporated milk, divided
1/4 tsp tabasco
2 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp dry mustard, dissolved in 1 tsp water
1/2 lb elbow macaroni
4 tbs unsalted butter
12 oz cheese (I use half sharp cheddar, half american) grated

*Mix eggs, 1 cup of the milk, tabasco, 1/2 tsp of the salt, pepper, and mustard mixture in small bowl and set aside.
*Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in large, heavy saucepan. Add remaining salt and macaroni; cook until tender. Drain and return to pan over low heat. Add butter and toss to melt.
*Pour egg mixture over noodles along w/3/4 of the cheese; stir until thoroughly combined and cheese begins to melt. Gradually add remaining milk and cheese, stirring constantly, until mixture is hot and creamy (5 minutes or so).

Serve immediately.
posted by purenitrous at 3:15 PM on January 10, 2007 [9 favorites]

Bechamel, shmechamel. If you want good all-American mac and cheese, what you're missing is evaporated milk. Simply heat one can of evaporated milk in a double boiler and add a couple good hunks of American Cheese (get the cheese ends from the deli) and a dash of dry mustard. Keep stirring until all the cheese is melted then pour over pasta in a casserole dish. If you want to get fancy, mix in some diced ham. Top with breadcrumbs and bake till golden brown. Stays thick and creamy for days - in fact, it's even better as leftovers then on the day you make it!
posted by platinum at 4:14 PM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all your ideas and suggestions folks, after reading through the recipes and links I decided to make a version I found linked to on egullet. (and the recipe that purenitrous actually just posted). I found it with some background here. It was pretty yummy. I have leftovers if anyone wants some.

The Patti Labelle version is next!
posted by FreezBoy at 7:12 PM on January 10, 2007

Wow. I was really just about to post this! Horray for all the tips.
posted by serazin at 1:18 PM on January 11, 2007

Of course, I wouldn't have thought to include a witty pun in my question - so I'm glad you got to it first.
posted by serazin at 1:19 PM on January 11, 2007

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