Martha's Mac & Cheese

mac-cheeseFew foods are as comforting as macaroni and cheese, and we recently set out on a mission to master this cozy dish at home (a project for an ambitious chef, we know). To begin, we knew we wanted something classic and basic. We've made Barefoot Contessa's truffle mac and cheese before and, as delicious as it was, the recipe was a little fancier than we wanted. Plus, we're pretty sure all the ingredients set us back about $60 which, in HCG's book, is too much money for food you make yourself. After about 10 intense minutes of online research a few weeks ago, we decided that we would put all our eggs in Martha Stewart's basket and give her Perfect Macaroni and Cheese recipe a whirl. Our crazy risk-taking strategy WORKED, and this recipe is incredible. We made it for family dinners the past two Sundays, and it was devoured by all on both occasions. The recipe makes a huge portion which, unbelievably, blessed us with leftovers that barely made it through Tuesday. We'll warn you now: Martha's mac and cheese may send you overboard. Even when our bellies are full from several servings, our mouths can't pass up its cheesy, creamy allure.

We make the recipe exactly as written, with no substitutions, and it has baked to golden perfection each time. While this dish takes a little bit of work for those of us unaccustomed to making any effort in the kitchen, the end result is completely worth the effort. The crunchy bread crumb topping and cheese combination of sharp white cheddar + gruyere equates to winter perfection! If you even remotely like mac and cheese, HCG guarantees you will love this version (we hope the underlining further emphasizes our passion for this recipe).

Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese Serves 12

  • 6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
  • 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 ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. 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 1/2 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. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 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.

We dare you to say you didn't like it.