Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Last week you may remember that I made the teenager’s all-time favorite meal, macaroni and cheese. However, I made the baked-with-breadcrumbs kind.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Which to some people is perfectly wonderful, but for The teenager to be in true mac and cheese heaven she needs the creamy stovetop kind. Not wants. NEEDS. So being the all-around great mama that I am, I put macaroni and cheese on the menu for the second week in a row, and went right to my most reliable recipe for it, which is adapted from Cooks Illustrated. Which is a great chance to tell you about the fabulousness that is Cooks Illustrated.

There are many, many, many great free cooking websites out there, and I use lots of them, but there is only one that I pay for and that is Cooks Illustrated. It’s not a lot of money but it IS a paid website, and you might ask, why is this necessary with all the great free ones out there? Simply put, you simply cannot go wrong with one of their recipes. Their approach is that they take a recipe — say mac and cheese – and they test the various millions of ways to make it until they come up with what they think is the ultimate perfect way to make it. And they tell you what they did and why their final method is the way that works. For a Type A personality like me, it’s just fascinating, and utterly reliable. They also do this with food products –they test them and tell you which one is the best. (They recently said that Nestle Carnation Ice Cream Sandwiches are the best ones out there, just so you know). And also kitchen tools, from garlic presses to food processors to oven thermometers.

So whenever I need a TOTALLY reliable recipe for something, they are the ones I run to. Their creamy mac and cheese is everything advertised — smooth, creamy, cheesy and total home comfort food. They include a step (which I left out, natch) for finishing it with breadcrumbs, but that is an optional step and so this is a total stovetop experience. So for all you creamy mac and cheese fans, this one is for YOU. And especially for my girl.


Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • Salt
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 5 cups milk
  • 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack
  • 8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar (I recommend Cabot)
  1. Cook macaroni until tender in boiling salted water. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour and whisk to combine, about one minute. Whisking constantly, add milk.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, whisking occasionally.
  4. Take off heat and stir in cheeses and one teaspoon salt until cheese is fully melted. Add pasta and stir over medium low heat until heated through, 3-5 minutes.
  5. Ladle into warm dishes and watch the faces light up in happiness.


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  1. says

    This is exactly how I make my mac ‘n cheese and I love it this way! Cooks Illustrated is the BEST. So much good information without all the filler advertising and everything (I get the magazine). I cherish my backcopies and refer to them often! Happy cooking!

    • Jenn says

      I’m a new-ish cook and I tried to make this meal. It wasn’t creamy at all! It looked really good at first and then suddenly I mixed everything together and it was thick, chunky, and almost gritty. What did I do wrong? :(

      • Kate says

        Oh dear! My best guess is that you might not have gotten the flour and the butter part totally combined before you added the milk. When you whisk them together they should be pretty smooth…if not, add a little more butter. Then pour the milk in slowly in a steady stream, whisking whisking whisking as you go. Once it starts to bubble, turn the heat down and stir it until it thickens up a bit – it should look really creamy. Now you can put the cheese in – do it a handful at a time. If you can find the kind that is shredded really fine, that works really well. I promise this is a fantastic mac and cheese…I hope you try it again! :)

        • Jenn says

          I know it -tasted- fantastic. I’ll need to try again to get the proper consistency. I’m going to try again this weekend and make this just as perfect as it looks above! Maybe I should buy a whisk while I’m at it…a fork just doesn’t cut it. Thanks for the advice!

        • Davon says

          When you add the milk you may encounter lumps. To smooth it out take a HAND BLENDER and blend smooth, then add the cheese shredded little by little stirring as you go.

  2. ry says

    made this for dinner tonight and it was a hit with the boys! they are the mac and cheese experts in this home. thanks again for a winner!

      • Davon says

        Yes I’m a seasoned chef and I know many little tricks Ive learned along the way…By the way I’m baking mine with some shredded cheddar and olive oil for a crispy top…

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