Aug
5
2013

How to Make the Perfect Mac and Cheese

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Appetizers and Sides

How To Make The Perfect Mac and Cheese by Picky Palate

What makes the perfect mac and cheese in your opinion?  Good ol’ Kraft right out of the box? Homemade thick and cheesy on the stovetop? Baked with a crispy topping and lots of ingredients inside?  I think it’s a bit different for everyone, but let me tell you about my perfect mac and cheese.

I like a thick and creamy perfectly flavorful cheese sauce like my picture above shows.  If that sounds good to you, then you will LOVE this recipe too :)

Note, this is part 1 of 2 recipes; part 2 will be coming later this week.  This post shares the base recipe of part 2.  Some of you will enjoy the base recipe as it is the perfect pure mac and cheese with no added ingredients such as onions or chicken for example.

How To Make The Perfect Mac and Cheese-1

Let’s start by cooking your pasta.  Make sure you do NOT overcook your pasta.  You want a nice bite to your pasta so there is texture to the dish.  I always cook it 1 minute less than the box says so there’s a little bite.  The pasta will also cook more in the cheese sauce.

How To Make The Perfect Mac and Cheese-8

Once your pasta is cooked al dente, drain.

How To Make The Perfect Mac and Cheese-9

Let the pasta sit aside for a few minutes while you prepare the roux.

Melting Butter

To make a simple and flavorful roux, start by melting a stick of butter in a medium saucepan.

How To Make The Perfect Mac and Cheese-5

Whisk in the flour.

salt and pepper

Whisk in the salt and pepper.  A very important step is to continue stirring for a good 3-4 minutes until roux turns a bit darker in color.  It becomes richer and even more fabulous.

Milk

Slowly stir in the milk until mixture is thick and creamy.  This step will take a couple minutes over medium heat.

How To Make The Perfect Mac and Cheese-13

Bring on the cheese!

How To Make The Perfect Mac and Cheese-14

I prefer a finely shredded mild cheddar.  It melts quickly and has a perfect “cheddar” flavor.

How To Make The Perfect Mac and Cheese-15

Yes!

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Time to transfer your cooked pasta back to a large dutch oven or pot.

How To Make The Perfect Mac and Cheese-17

Pour that fabulous cheese sauce over your noodles.

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Almost there!

How To Make The Perfect Mac and Cheese by Picky Palate

Doesn’t get much better than this.  Stay tuned to see what I added to this mac and cheese, coming later this week!

How to Make the Perfect Mac and Cheese

How To Make The Perfect Mac and Cheese by Picky Palate Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound dry small pasta, I used elbow
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups milk, I used skim
  • 2 cups finely shredded mild cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. I recommend cooking the pasta a minute less than the directions.  Drain and set aside for a few minutes.
  2. To prepare roux, melt butter into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted whisk in flour, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes until color of roux gets slightly darker. Slowly whisk in milk, stirring continuously until thickened, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in cheese until melted.
  3. Transfer cooked pasta to large dutch oven or pot over low heat. Pour cheese sauce over top, stirring to combine. This is a thick and creamy sauce. To thin the sauce, add a few tablespoons of milk at a time until at desired consistency.

Makes 6 Servings

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83 Responses | Comments RSS

  1. 1

    This really does look like the PERFECT Mac and Cheese. So ridiculously cheesy..I love it!

  2. 2

    This is almost identical to our fave mac and cheese recipe except this recipe uses a lot more butter than mine which makes this one quite superior to mine, haha! Love it!

  3. 3

    Stovetop is my favorite! This looks like it would be right up my alley!

  4. 4

    Yep, you’re right- it’s perfect! I think people would be amazed how easy it is to make a homemade mac and cheese like this with virtually little more effort put forth than making the box version.

  5. 5
  6. 6

    This definitely looks like the perfect mac and cheese! Yum!

  7. 7

    This is comfort-food perfection, Jenny!! :)

  8. 8

    You have me craving mac & cheese now!! Love the tutorial.

  9. 9
    Maria says:

    This will be a hit at our house!

    • 9.1
      Julio says:

      I am making the grocery list for this recipe and your creamy goat cheese and spinach pasta.

      We are going to OD on pasta this weekend!

  10. 10

    I love all mac and cheese, box, stove top, oven baked, give me it all! This looks like a winner, yum!

  11. 11

    My kids are mac and cheese addicts. Well, me too of course! Love this!

  12. 12

    Thick and Creamy is my favorite kind. Mmm wow that looks wonderful!

  13. 13
    naomi says:

    My family will love this–o perfect in all that creamy goodness!

  14. 14
    Tieghan says:

    Oh yeah! This is awesome and so the way my family likes it!!

  15. 15

    OH MY. This looks fabulous!! And easy! Mmmm! (:

  16. 16

    oh myyy..that CHEESE!! You can never have enough…I just want to eat the cheese sauce by a spoon! This seriously looks like my perfect mac & cheese!

  17. 17
    marla says:

    OMG….this is sooooo perfect!! Serve us up a whole bunch!

  18. 18
    Larissa says:

    This is almost the same way that I make it. I only use 3 tblsp butter and 3 tblsp flour with 2 cups of milk, though. Sometimes I use an 8 oz brick of cheddar, sometimes I add more…depends on my mood. Also, when I have it, a pinch or two of ground mustard kicks up the flavor without tasting mustardy. I may have to try this with your proportions just to see. I may make this tonight!
    Can’t wait to see what you add next time!

  19. 19
    Pru says:

    This is so awesome. I’ve been on a quest to make the perfect macaroni and cheese. I’m going to try this!! thank you!!

  20. 20

    my tummy is growling for a big bowl of this right now!!!

  21. 21

    GIRL!!! Oh my gosh! Is it wrong to want mac and cheese at 9:41am?!?

  22. 22

    Shut the front door. This is too fabulous!!!

  23. 23

    This looks incredible! I can’t wait to see part 2 :)

  24. 24

    This is definitely what i call perfection!!

  25. 25
    carrian says:

    I’m pretty much dying over here. WOWZA

  26. 26
    Maggie says:

    I’ll save you a pot to wash! Pour the macaroni right into the pan you used for the sauce. Just make sure it’s large enough to start. We make ours in much the same way but use half Monterey Jack and half Muenster. Love it!

  27. 27

    I want to eat about 6 servings of this right now!! Seriously, mac n cheese is my favorite..in all shapes and forms :)

  28. 28
    Carol says:

    I have been making this exact recipe for many years (married 47 years now). I learned to make it in high school cooking class and it is always a hit. I personally find mac & cheese a comfort food for those times when stressed or during cold winter days.

  29. 29
    Stacie says:

    You have the best recipes! I am sure this is going to be delicious!!! What do you recommend at the fair this year?

  30. 30
  31. 31

    OMG, those layers of cheese cascading over the hot macaroni. Swoon! Mac and cheese is my favorite and yours truly does look perfect!

  32. 32

    So perfect!!! I’ve been waiting for this recipe after I saw your photo of it on Instagram!

  33. 33
    Orla says:

    In Ireland NO ONE eats mac and cheese :O I used the Pioneer Woman’s recipe a few months back and ever since it’s what my boyfriend always asks me to make for dinner! :) It’s so delicious and I can’t wait to try out this recipe as you use less cheese and no egg! :) My tummy’s rumbling looking at the great photos! :) x

  34. 34

    I love mac and cheese! This looks relish!

  35. 35

    Oh wow, I think this picture made me fall in love. Looks delicious!

  36. 36

    You have a pretty ridiculous gooeyness factor going on up there, my dear. I like the way you think. Sometimes pure mac and cheese is the absolute best.

  37. 37
    Larissa says:

    OK, so I made mac and cheese last night your way. OMG! It was the best ever, hands down. My son said so, too. I guess the extra butter put it over the top. :) Thanks, Jenny!!

  38. 38
    Dalila G. says:

    Mac & Cheese is always a big hit in our house. One more mac & cheese recipe is always accepted with joy! This is one recipe that does have the hubby very happy, thanks for sharing and really liking your step-by-step……neat!!
    Looking forward to part two.

  39. 39

    I just made this for lunch! I have portion control issues with mac & cheese (and everything else that isn’t veggies) so I only made half of the sauce because I didn’t really want to eat half a stick of butter in one sitting (and I knew I’d eat at least half the pot…) So I did half the sauce and 9 ounces of pasta and it was still perfectly creamy and saucy! And I love how simple it was. Thanks so much for the recipe. :) LOVE it!

  40. 40

    I’m afraid that if I make this, I might eat the whole pot. It looks dangerous.

  41. 41

    Um, delicious!!! I could dive right on in!!!

  42. 42
    Theresa Smahlik says:

    This is awesome! I am so happy you posted this. For the last month I’ve been searching for the perfect easiest Mac and cheese recipe for my daughters 4th birthday party. It’s an under the sea theme and I wanted to use pasta shells. I’m for sure using this recipe! Now I need to figure out how much to make.
    Thanks for all the great recipes!!

  43. 43
  44. 44

    This mac and cheese looks fantastic! I’ve been looking for a good recipe for a while now and I think this is it! Will be trying for sure! :)

  45. 45
    Chels R. says:

    I’ll take a huge bowl of this!

  46. 46
    Michelle K says:

    OMG!!!!!!!!!!! *drools lol This looks SO yummy!! going to make this <3

  47. 47
    Brandib says:

    You had me until I saw you buy pre-shredded cheese. You’re supposed to grate your own! Aside from that, it looks lovely. Yum

  48. 48

    […] The Perfect Mac and Cheese    I have been dreaming about this mac and cheese since Jenny posted […]

  49. 49

    […] you checked out my “How to Make the Perfect Mac and Cheese” yet?!  Cannot get enough of this recipe.  Creamy and […]

  50. 50
    Kimberly says:

    I’ve already seen this comment by someone else, but you definitely don’t need an entire stick of butter and half a cup of flour to thicken two cups of liquid enough to make a sauce for mac and cheese (or gravy or anything else thickened by a roux” :-) So if you want to reduce the fat because of calories or because you just don’t have it, it would be fine. I also would never personally use pre-shredded cheese. They put cellulose on the shreds to stop it from sticking together and I hate that. I think it makes things taste weird, but I don’t want to eat wood even if it tasted fine. I love putting spinach and artichokes in my mac and cheese. Or hamburger mac and cheese with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and lettuce on top. Yum! Oh yeah, saw someone else mention ground mustard too…I do that too. Definitely makes a difference. Love the blog!

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Jenny Flake

Welcome to Picky Palate! I'm Jenny and I love food if you haven't noticed :) I love sweets, treats and everything in between. The recipes you'll see are my creations. The Picky Palate Cookbook is now available. Enjoy!



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