Mac and Cheese 101

What could be better during the holidays than a homemade treat to warm your belly, and fill your mouth with such ooey gooey goodness that you can’t think of anything else but being inside with fuzzy bunny slippers, a warm fire and snow falling on the ground outside. I’m talking comfort food, macaroni and cheese to be exact.

One of the things I make during the holidays, and only during the holidays, is Macaroni and Cheese 101, as per Martha Stewart. This recipe is one of the most requested recipes that Martha Stewart has, and I clipped it out a number of years ago when I was in my Martha Stewart phase – I’ve moved on, but keep the recipe.

When I was a kid I loved mac and cheese – from a box. Later as a single woman cooking what I wanted, I always had a box of Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese in my cupboard and thought I was high stylin’ it with the deluxe version. Then I discovered Martha’s version and all the boxes were out the window!

The first time I made it, I made the entire recipe – meaning a lot! I shared with Anna, but it was a little too rich for her. Then when HH walked into the Diner and later brought his family, I found a mac and cheese compatriot – someone I could make mac and cheese “for” each year at the holidays. Gary and I love this mac and cheese, and although I say I make it for Gary, he is just my excuse. But I’m glad to have Gary around to “mac” it down each year.

I decided a few years ago to only make it at Christmas, because something this good should be dreamed about all year, leaving our taste buds watering as we start to smell it heating in the oven. Gary and I check, look, pace and simply can’t wait until the mac and cheese comes out to the oven bubbling hot. It is all we can do to let it cool down enough to take the first bite without burning our tongues!

This mac and cheese has white cheddar cheddar cheese, pasta shells and toasted sourdough bread crumbs (that’s my variation) on top. I have learned to make only half the recipe if there is a small group (six or less), but you can freeze it and enjoy it again during the winter if you really want to.

And what do I serve it with at the Diner? An enjoyable beverage. Does it need anything else? (“No,” Gary says.) Ham works, bbq ribs are good, turkey sandwiches are delicious, but really it is so rich and filling and warm and cozy it can stand along.

If you’d like to try, here’s the recipe, just beware if you make the entire recipe you will spend about $15 just on the cheese, so be sure that you’re ready! And enjoy.

Macaroni and Cheese 101, Marth Stewart style
8 tablespoons (l stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
5 1/2, cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt, plus more for water
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Preheat oven to 375˚. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour melted butter into the bowl with the bread; toss. Set the bread crumbs aside.
2. Warm milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Melt remaining butter in a high-sided
skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
3. While whisking, add hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue
cooking, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and thickens, 8 to 12 minutes.
4. Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, peppers, 3 cups cheddar cheese,
and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere (or I cup Pecorino Romano); set the cheese sauce aside.
5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until
the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
6. Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining cheddar and Gruyere (or
Pecorino) and bread crumbs over top. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.


  1. A good mac and cheese is a thing of beauty, comfort food defined. Have a Merry Christmas!

  2. Merry Christmas to you, too. Enjoy some comfort food this holiday season.