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Perfect macaroni and cheese

Fall is in the air! I love this time of year. Skydiving season is winding down, which means more time with Dan. The cool crispness in the air makes me want to be inside with my family, snuggling on the couch and watching Despicable Me or Tangled for the 900th time. The only bad thing about fall is that we know what's coming. Winter. The time when we are forced to be inside. There's a big difference between wanting to be inside and being forced to be inside. For now I'm glad that I still want to be inside. 

With the windows cracked just a bit, I love the mixed smell of a crisp October day and something delicious baking in the oven. Or bubbling on the stove. Or all of the above. I was looking for the supreme comfort meal when I came across this recipe on the NY Times website. It was everything I hoped it would be. Comfort, cheese, a teeny bit of kick, crunchiness, gooey-ness. But beware! Don't eat a large helping unless you have time to sleep.

Perfect Mac and Cheese

No lie, this mac and cheese is perfect. (source:

Contributed by Megan Porta from

Published Oct 16, 2011

Serves: 12

Total time: 1 hr, 15 min

Perfect Mac and Cheese


  • 6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 5 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 3-quart casserole dish with cooking spray; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and pour it into bowl with the bread; toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan, heat milk over medium heat. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  2. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar and 1 ½ cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.
  4. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer’s directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. Transfer the macaroni to a colander and rinse under cold water; drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
  5. Pour mixture into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 ½ cups cheddar and ½ cup Gruyere or ¼ cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.



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Reader Comments (6)

Perfect Mac and Cheese is a strong comment to make... I think you have the potential with this recipe though! I may have to give this a shot sometime and let you know how I'd rate it!

10.17.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

Oh man. Hot stuff. That mac 'n cheese looks AMAZING! And you're totally making me miss fall...with the smells and the crispy weather :) Better enjoy it before that impenetrable pile of snow rears its ugly head again.

By the way, when I was at Icoa ordering TWO salads I said to CK...'Megan would love this.'

10.20.2011 | Unregistered CommenterParsley Sage

That looks like some incredible mac & cheese! I'm a sucker for that gooey goodness :) I'll have to try it and see if it's as perfect as you say! (it sure looks it)

10.22.2011 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

Try adding chopped cooked bacon and a finely chopped onion then you have a perfect macaroni cheese British style.

11.26.2011 | Unregistered Commentermeg freeth

Yummy!!! Loved this recipe so much that I shared on my little interwebs spot. Of course I linked back to you to give proper thank you so much for posting!

01.3.2012 | Unregistered CommenterEncore

This truly is the perfect macaroni and cheese. I don't know how else it could have been better. (I actually threw in a little extra smoked gouda and Swiss raclette cheese.) Was such a hit. Will definitely be adding this to my repertoire.

03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKendra

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