Classic Mac and Cheese

The ultimate comfort food, this classic mac and cheese recipe is creamy, cheesy, and delicious. It’s the perfect holiday side, party dish, or main course on a chilly, gloomy day.

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Mac and cheese is actually one of the easiest and quickest recipes to make. However, it’s tough to write out a one-size-fits-all recipe for mac and cheese: everyone has different preferences when it comes to cheese, and it depends what you can get at your local supermarket.

For this recipe, I use a classic combination of Swiss Gruyère and sharp/old white cheddar cheese. Feel free to use whatever you can get ahold of… but, if you follow this recipe, your homemade mac and cheese will turn out perfect every time!

The Scoop on Cheeses

I think 6 cups of cheese is the perfect amount for this recipe, broken down into whatever combination of mild and sharp cheeses you like!

Different types of cheese — and even the same type across different brands — have different flavor profiles and salt levels. I really recommend tasting your favorite cheeses before making this recipe (difficult, I know) to gauge flavor and saltiness.

I use 1 teaspoon of salt in this recipe, which I think is a safe starting point. Then, when all your cheeses are added, you can give it a taste and add more if needed.

Nutmeg?! Yep, Nutmeg!

I know it may seem odd to add nutmeg to a cheese sauce. But, it brings out the nuttiness of the cheeses and gives the sauce that extra hint of deliciousness.

Nutmeg is traditionally added to a “Béchamel sauce” (or white sauce), which consists of butter, flour, and milk.

Fun fact: when you add Gruyère and cheddar cheese to a Béchamel sauce, it’s then called a “Mornay sauce”.

First, preheat your oven to 375°F.

In a saucepan, heat the milk until it is scalding (i.e. just before boiling). Keep the milk simmering on low heat.

In a large pot, melt 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) of butter. Whisk in your flour and cook over low heat for about 2 minutes, until it forms a thick paste. This is called a “roux”.

While whisking, add the hot milk to the pot and cook your sauce for about 5 more minutes, until it is thick and creamy. This is called a “béchamel sauce” or “white sauce”.

Then, off heat, add in the 6 cups of shredded cheese, followed by the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir, and keep it all warm on low heat. This is now called a “Mornay sauce”.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring your water to a boil. Add in a generous amount of salt; the water should almost taste like sea water!

When your cheese sauce is just about done, add in your favorite pasta. (We like to use cavatappi/tortiglione, but classic macaroni also works perfectly!) Cook the pasta until it is almost al dente, then drain it. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven, absorbing all of that cheesy sauce.

Mix your cheese sauce into the drained pasta, and stir. Then, pour the final result into a large baking dish.

Then, melt the remaining ¼ stick (2 Tablespoons) of butter, and mix it into the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on top of pasta and cheese mixture.

Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the top of the pasta is browned. Serve hot, or allow to cool completely and refrigerate.

Classic Mac and Cheese

The ultimate comfort food, this classic mac and cheese recipe is creamy, cheesy, and delicious. It’s the perfect holiday side, party dish, or main course on a chilly, gloomy day.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Servings 6 people
Category Savory

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound (454g) short-cut pasta (I recommend cavatappi, tortiglione, or macaroni)
  • 4 cup milk
  • 1 ¼ stick (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 3 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (for topping)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • In a saucepan, heat milk until it is scalding (i.e. just before boiling). Keep on low heat.
    4 cup milk
  • In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add in olive oil. When ready, add in pasta. Cook until pasta is almost al dente. (The pasta will continue to cook in the oven.)
    1 pound (454g) short-cut pasta
    1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Meanwhile, in a second large pot, melt 1 stick (8 Tbsp) of butter. Whisk in flour and cook over low heat until it forms a thick paste (about 2 minutes).
    ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • While whisking, add the hot milk to the pot and cook until sauce is thick and creamy (about 5 minutes).
  • Off heat, add in cheeses, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir, and keep warm on low heat.
    3 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
    3 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
    1 tsp kosher salt
    ½ tsp ground black pepper
    ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • Add in the cooked pasta, and stir. Pour mixture into a large baking dish.
  • Melt the remaining ¼ stick (2 Tbsp) of butter, and mix it into the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on top of pasta and cheese mixture.
    1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • Bake until sauce is bubbly and the top of the pasta is browned (about 30 to 35 minutes).
  • Serve hot, or allow to cool completely and refrigerate.

Notes

  1. I recommend tasting your favorite cheeses before making this recipe to gauge flavor and saltiness. Then, when all your cheeses and spices are added, you can give it a taste and add more salt if needed.

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