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Classic Macaroni & Cheese


Serves 6-8

For many of us, this is the epitome of comfort food. Classic macaroni and cheese relies on a full-flavored Cheddar. You don’t have to buy expensive aged Cheddar, but do make sure the cheese is sharp. The dish will taste best if you assemble it ahead of baking time so the pasta can soak up the sauce, but sprinkle the crumb topping on just before baking. This recipe calls for a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, but it’s also nice to use individual ramekins.

If you’d like to take the classic and jazz it up some, use the Macaroni & Cheese Recipe Maker to create your own ultimate macaroni & cheese recipe with all your favorite ingredients.

For the casserole:
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni
  • 12 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 6 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 medium onion, thinly
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 9 black peppercorns
  • 4-1/2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 6 cups (1 lb.) finely shredded sharp Cheddar
For the topping:
  • 1-1/4 cups coarse breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted

Heat the oven to 375°F and butter a 9x13-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the elbows; cook until just tender following the package’s directions and drain well.

Melt the butter in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, onion, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns; cook over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 min., stirring constantly. (This is a roux.) 

Slowly whisk the milk into the roux until thoroughly combined. Raise the heat to medium high; whisk constantly until the mixture boils. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Lower the heat and continue simmering for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Strain the sauce into a large bowl, removing the onion, herbs, and peppercorns. Add 2 tsp. salt, the pepper, nutmeg, and shredded cheese, stirring until the cheese is just melted.

Toss the pasta with the cheese sauce and pour the mixture into the baking dish. Toss the breadcrumbs with the melted butter and spread them over the casserole. Bake until sizzling and lightly browned on top (cover with foil if the top browns too quickly), about 40 minutes.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on eight servings, Calories (kcal): 740, Fat (kcal): 45, Fat Calories (g): 400, Saturated Fat (g): 31, Protein (g): 27, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 12, Carbohydrates (mg): 58, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 2, Sodium (g): 1040, Cholesterol (g): 135, Fiber (g): 3,

Photo: Scott Phillips

This is great, but not as written. A prior reviewer noted that the first addition of butter should be 6 Tbs, not 12; to make a roux, use equal amounts of butter and flour. Also, I skipped the step of straining the sauce; didn't want the time/mess of straining a thickened white sauce. That said, the version I made with less butter and unstrained white sauce was really, really good!

I followed the recipe and it was delicious. My children and extended family loved it. I made it a few days before Easter, froze it, then brought it with us on a four-hour drive to serve on Easter at my sister's house. It was a huge success. I'm about to make it again today. It's a keeper.

There is nothing wrong with this recipe as written. I have made this mac 'n cheese many, many times and it has always been a favorite. Use the 12 Tbs of butter for the roux as instructed. This is delicious!

There is a significant problem with this recipe. The butter needs to be divided! I put all 12 TB of butter in the roux. I think it's supposed to be 6TB butter for the roux and 6 TB butter for the breadcrumbs. Other than that, it is delicious. But I have to give it a low rating until that is changed.

Amazing mac and cheese! I used 1/2 Cracker Barrel sharp cheddar, 1/4 Cracker Barrel vermont white and 1/4 gruyere. The onion roux really gives the mac and cheese good depth and breaks up the cheesy flavor perfectly. The recipe doesn't specify, but I used whole milk and I feel that it would have been too thing with anything else. Probably some of the best mac and cheese I've ever had!

I added 1 slice of diced high quality italian ham and used .6 lbs sharp white cheddar and .4 lbs gruyere cheese. Delicious comfort food.

This is my family's new favorite mac and cheese recipe. It is often requested on those chilly winter weekends! I follow the recipe precisely as published. A great dish!

This is REALLY good. The onion and thyme come subtly through to enhance the cheese. I used 2% milk and it is still good.

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