After years of searching (and making more boxed mac than I care to admit), I finally found the creamiest mac and cheese recipe around. Super cheddary, rich, and made on the stove top in under 30 minutes, this is going to be making many more appearances on our family table.
Confession: I haven’t been on a roller coaster since high school, which was over ten years ago (I know, I couldn’t believe it either). I think that means I’m officially old. To be honest, even back then I wasn’t super into rides. I tried to keep up with my classmates during our senior trip to Cedar Point, but after a few coasters, I was ready to find myself some shade, a slushie, and a seat that didn’t move at 80 miles per hour.
My husband, on the other hand, has always been a thrill seeker. He likes to get to the park early so he has plenty of time to ride all the rides and repeat his favorites. He can hop from one to the next without any issues, and without his stomach or head crying out for mercy.
For the last few years, I’ve told him to find a friend to go to Cedar Point so he can get all of his high flying, zero gravity cravings met while I stay at home and get my adrenaline going with a riveting book.
But this year Cedar Point was offering something a little different. Not the tallest coaster or the fastest acceleration, but something much more my speed: BBQ. Their annual Brew and BBQ is a foodie experience with live bluegrass music, beer, and tons of delicious smoked meat.
Suddenly I really wanted to ditch my novel and go to Cedar Point again. My husband was able to take Friday off at the last minute, so we buckled up and headed towards Sandusky for a little adventure. I’ll admit, I was in it for the food, but I promised my husband I’d let my feet leave the ground at least once.
The day ended up being dreary, rainy, and cold, but we still had a blast, and I even made good on my promise by riding the Merry Go Round…twice!
Okay, okay, I know that doesn’t count, so just for good measure I also rode The Gatekeeper (which looked deceptively small and mild and turned out to be rather large and intense), and the Iron Dragon, which was just my speed (ie: a breezy 40 mph). I felt pretty proud of myself after those two, but also felt no further need to prove I still had it.
We headed to the back of the park to warm up with some great BBQ. Little did we know the feast that awaited us–BBQ of every kind (Nashville, Kansas, Texas, Carolina) and cut (ribs, brisket, pulled pork, nachos, sliders, sausages, and more). I also discovered Not Your Momma’s Iced Tea (amazing!) and indulged in some of the creamiest, dreamiest mac and cheese I’ve had in awhile.
There’s not a classic macaroni and cheese recipe anywhere on the blog, mainly because I’ve never found one worth sharing. I’ve eaten way too many awesome mac and cheese plates to settle for anything less than supremely creamy, rich, and cheddary noodles. But with summer BBQ season fast approaching, I decided it was past time for me to find my go-to recipe for mac.
I did a lot of research on this one, learning about different types of cheese, the construction of the perfect bechamel, and what type of noodle to use. After much debate, I finally decided to try a recipe from the ladies behind Homeroom restaurant, an Oakland, CA eatery devoted entirely to macaroni and cheese.
Their tips? Start with a rich bechamel made with whole milk and plenty of butter. Use hearty macaroni noodles (the kind with ridges for soaking up sauce)! And stick to traditional cheeses–a flavorful aged sharp cheddar and a dry pecorino romano. I set out to take their advice, and guys? I’m convinced.
This will now be my go-to macaroni and cheese recipe. This is what I will take to reunions and bake under breadcrumbs and serve up alongside BBQ ribs. It is creamy and oh-so-rich, with a really pronounced salty cheddar flavor. Of course, there’s plenty of room for customization here. I think I might try American cheese in place of the Pecorino for a mild flavor or add Pepper Jack for heat. You can stir in peas or hot dogs, or add hot sauce or jalapenos. But if you’re looking for an awesome base recipe you can make for any occasion, this creamy macaroni and cheese is your guy.
Update: This recipe has taken off on Pinterest! I’ve included a few reviews below. If you’re looking for more real-life reviews and pictures, check out this pin!
“Very yummy as is! I like to put the dish in the oven with breadcrumbs and more cheese (because cheese) and let it form a crispy top. Also note I used everything gluten free (pasta was barilla gf) and it was delish.”
“I made this for a cookout and everyone loved it. I used 1/2 & 1/2 instead of milk for some extra creaminess and added 1/2 t smoked paprika. Good stuff!”
“This was so delicious! Creamy, flavourful, and really simple. Our favourite mac and cheese recipe yet!”
The Creamiest Mac and Cheese
This classic macaroni and cheese is extra creamy and rich with a great cheddar flavor.
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 8 ounces (2 cups) sturdy macaroni noodles *see note
- 1 1/2 cups sharp aged cheddar cheese *see note
- 1/2 cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the bechamel sauce
For the macaroni
- Cook the macaroni noodles in a large pot of salted water according to package directions, draining them a minute before the "al dente" cooking time.
- Heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove top until very hot but not boiling.
- In a heavy bottomed sauce pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture turns a light brown color, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Slowly start pouring in the milk, whisking constantly. The mixture will look very thick at first and will thin out as you whisk in the remainder of the milk. Return the pot to the heat and cook the mixture, whisking continuously, another 3-5 minutes or until thickened. The sauce should coat the back of the spoon. If you put a little bit on a spoon and run your finger through it, the line from your finger should remain. Stir in the salt, garlic powder, and ground mustard.
- Return the remaining sauce to the stove. Over low heat, add the cheeses, stirring to melt. If you're unable to melt in all the cheese, add a bit more milk, a Tablespoon at a time, until the cheese is melted completely. Stir the sauce into the pasta until your desired level of creaminess is reached. I find I use all of the sauce sometimes and sometimes I have a little leftover. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed or simply serve hot with a sprinkle of parsley.
I recommend using large elbows, cavatappi, wagon wheels, or gemelli pasta for this recipe. For the cheddar cheese, look for a good quality aged cheddar, preferably aged over 9 months. I recommend Tillamook.
For a milder, classic flavor, substitute 1/2 cup of the cheddar for 1/2 cup of yellow American cheese.
For a bit of a kick, try subbing the Pecorino Romano for hatch chile or pepper jack cheese.
You can also try Gruyere in place of the Pecorino Romano.
Recipe adapted from The Mac and Cheese Cookbook
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This post was developed in partnership with Blog Meets Brand and Cedar Fair. As always, all opinions are my own.