Ina Garten’s Mac & Cheese

By Christina Collins

mac & cheese

Above all things…. I choose mac and cheese.

Mac and Cheese is one of life’s greatest culinary pleasures.  It’s my weakness. If it’s on a menu- I have to get it. Every time. I know I’m not alone- it’s one of the most frequently googled recipes on the internet! But you can stop the search – this is the best Mac & Cheese recipe you’ll ever need!

I became obsessed with mastering the perfect Mac & Cheese back in 2005 . In one weekend I made 5 different batches…and none of them were keepers. And so the quest continued. It took over a year to find the right recipe to work with, and then I did. Life was now complete. Ok…that’s a major exaggeration but, I did start to breath a little easier.

What I discovered is that its all about the roux. Once you learn to get your roux just right, you’re well on your way to gooey cheese heaven. To do this, I find slow and steady wins this race. You want to be sure to stir in the milk gently until it coats the back of a spoon nicely. Then off the heat you add the cheese and you have yourself a luscious, glorious cheese sauce.

Ina Garten is the heroine in this story. It’s is her base recipe that I return to time and time again. I use her base and then like to add thinks like lobster & parsley, BBQ pork & chives or, broccoli & chicken.

Once you master that, you can create an endless amount of variations from it. You can compleatly change the flavor of the dish just by changing up the cheeses. However, what you don’t want to change is the texture. So be mindful to use good melting cheeses to prevent your mac from becoming greasy instead of gooey. Some of the best melting cheeses include asiago, cheddar, colby, fontina, gouda (not aged), gruyère, havarti, monterey jack, and muenster. Stay away from cheeses such as manchego, aged hard cheeses, roquefort, and feta that will expel oil and will ruin the texture of your dish.

Feaster’s Tip:

The best part of this mac & cheese is that it can be made in advance and even portioned into individual servings if you wish to. Although, I have to admit I prefer to bake it and eat it right away! But if needed, prepare the recipe entirely and refrigerate until ready to heat. Take it out of the fridge for about 30 minutes before you are ready to put it in the oven and bake accordingly.

This mac and cheese does not reheat well after the first bake time. The fats will break and it will be oily, so only bake as much as you need at a time.

mac & cheese

Mac & Cheese

Cuisine American


  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi
  • 1 quart milk
  • 8 tablespoons 1 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces Gruyere grated (4 cups)
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar grated (2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 pound fresh tomatoes 4 small
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs 5 slices, crusts removed


  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • Heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth.
  • Meanwhile, while you are making the roux, drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
  • Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
  • Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

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