Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8x10 casserole dish. Bring a large pot of seasoned water to a boil. (I season my water generously with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. It should taste a bit salty) Cook pasta until a little under al dente ( about 7.

Ever wondered why your mac and cheese failed to perform? Too soft, too thick, too eggy…and you’re tired of trying recipe after endless recipe in search of the right one. Good news for you: I’m a master of the successful mac and cheese and today you’ll learn my 18 proven secrets to the richest, creamiest mac and cheese you’ll ever put in your mouth.

Macaroni and cheese isn’t a hard dish to make, but there are so many versions, cheeses and variations, how in the WORLD do you know which one is right? To get you started, check out my most popular versions:

The creamy classic:

A little kick:

Stovetop:

Something hearty and different:

Now that you have the basics to choose from, here are the 18 secrets for the richest, creamiest mac and cheese that I put in to play each and every time I make it for anyone. They never fail me, and I know they’ll work for you, too:

  1. Cook your butter and flour together for about one minute to remove any raw flour flavor before adding the milk or cream to your recipe.
  2. Undercook your pasta—cook one minute less than the package directions to avoid a mushy mac and cheese.
  3. Swap rich cream for all or half of the milk in the recipe.
  4. Cook your pasta in salted water.
  5. Season every layer of your sauce: the roux, after the milk is added and after the cheese is melted in. Just a little sprinkle of salt is plenty–it will add up. You can even take the total amount of salt recommended in the recipe and just add a bit to each step. That works just fine.
  6. Choose noodle shapes that will hold on to the sauce—this includes shells, corkscrews, rotini or anything with ridges.
  7. Add the cheese to the milk and flour mix with the heat off so the mixture doesn’t separate.
  8. Don’t add all your noodles at once; see how much sauce you have and add more noodles as needed OR Make more sauce than you think you’ll need for a super creamy final product.
  9. Avoid over baking. Bake only for the time recommended, or when the center is bubbling and you see some golden edges. Cooking it too long will give you a mushy final product.
  10. Consider a dash of dry mustard powder.
  11. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for some heat .
  12. Spice it up with jalapenos, a little salsa and pepper jack cheese.
  13. Swap out your cheeses. Cheddar is best but add a melter like fontina, Monterey jack or some parmesan.
  14. Bake your mac and cheese in a more shallow, wider dish if you want more of that crunchy top.

And speaking of toppings, you might try:

15. Breadcrumbs with garlic and parmesan

16. Crispy panko style crumbs with herbs

17.Add a little melted a butter into your bread crumbs before topping your mac

Now pick your cheeses:

(this is #18 for all of you keeping track)

For the best results, choose at least one flavor cheese and one melting cheese.

Make
Flavor cheeses Melting Cheeses

Sharp cheddar Fontina

Asiago Gruyere

Pepper Jack Mascarpone

Provolone Mozzarella

Bleu cheese Meunster

Gorgonzola Velveeta

Anything smoked Monterey Jack

Romano Swiss

Colby Jack American

So there it is: every tip and trick I keep under my belt to make one of the most loved family favorites. How will you make your mac and cheese unique? Drop a comment here and and let me know what changes you’ve made and how your family likes theirs.

How To Make Creamy Cheese Sauce For Mac N Cheese

Making smooth, creamy cheese sauce is easy once you get the hang of it. Master this simple skill so you can top pasta, vegetables, and more with delicious homemade cheese sauce that tastes so much better than anything that comes in a jar.

Cheese sauce on broccoli Photo by Meredith

The Big Melt Down

When cooking with cheese, keep these tips in mind:

  • The less you heat cheese, the better. When making soup, sauce, or fondue, add the cheese last; then heat it only as long as it takes to melt. If it gets too hot it will get tough. Often, you can remove the pan from the burner; the residual heat will melt the cheese.
  • Shred, crumble, or finely dice the cheese before heating to ensure quick, smooth melting. The colder the cheese is, the easier it will be to cut.
  • Allow the shredded cheese to come to room temperature before adding it to a hot mixture.
  • Starch (such as all-purpose flour, cornstarch, or potato flour) will keep the cheese from curdling. If using all-purpose flour, add it to the mixture before the cheese; it needs to be cooked for a few minutes to remove the starchy taste.
  • Adding an acidic ingredient such as wine or lemon juice will help prevent the cheese from becoming stringy. This is why most fondues have a base of white wine. Simply sprinkle some lemon juice over the shredded cheese before heating it.
  • Reduced-fat cheeses have different melting characteristics than regular cheeses. They will take longer to melt and will be tougher. Be sure to shred reduced-fat cheese very finely, and allow it to melt over very low heat while stirring constantly.
Cheddar

Real Nacho Cheese Sauce Photo by bd.weld

Gettin' Saucy

How To Make Cheese Sauce For Mac N Cheese Appetizers

Classic cheese sauce begins with a béchamel sauce, a simple sauce made of butter, flour, milk, and a few seasonings.

To begin, make a roux:

  • Measure out equal amounts of butter and flour.
  • Dice the butter into small cubes and melt it in a saucepan over low heat.
  • Once the butter is melted, begin whisking in the flour.
  • When all the flour is incorporated, continue stirring and cooking for a few minutes to activate the starch granules.
  • If you're making a white or light-colored cheese sauce, keep the heat low so the roux doesn't brown.
  • Next comes the milk. If the roux is hot, the milk should be cool, but if the roux is cool, the milk should be hot. When you combine the ingredients at different temperatures, they heat up at a moderate rate--not too fast, and not too slow--creating a velvety-smooth sauce.
  • Whisk the mixture until smooth, then add seasonings if you wish. Traditional seasonings for béchamel are diced onion, a bay leaf, a couple cloves, and a pinch of nutmeg.
  • Allow the sauce to simmer until it gets to the consistency you want, then strain out any seasonings. If you're in a hurry, you can keep the sauce over high heat, but you'll want to keep whisking to prevent it from burning.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and gently blend in the cheese. If the cheese doesn't seem to be melting, return the pan to very low heat, but watch it carefully and remove as soon as the cheese is melted.

You can create an endless variety of cheese sauces by varying the kind of cheese you use, mixing in different herbs, spices, and veggies, and using milk, half and half, or heavy cream to alter the level of richness in the sauce.

How To Make Cheese Sauce For Mac N Cheese Asmr

Cheese sauce on baked potato with broccoli Photo by Meredith

Top-Rated Cheese Sauce Recipes

How to Make Cheese Sauce for Broccoli and Cauliflower

See how to make this simple, creamy cheese sauce. You'll start with a quick roux, then whisk in milk and sharp or white Cheddar cheese.

How To Make Cheese Sauce For Mac N Cheese Casserole

Get the recipe for Cheese Sauce for Broccoli and Cauliflower.

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