macaroni and cheese


I have a very particular idea of what macaroni and cheese should be. It must be baked, it must have crunchies on top, and it should never, never be orange. I recently ordered the mac and cheese at chat’n’chew (That’s a disgusting name for a restaurant. I think it implies chewing with your mouth open.), which is quite well known for its mac and cheese. It was velveta orange and it made me feel like puke all day. Terribly disappointing.

This is more or less the way my mom has always made it, from the recipe on the box of Mueller’s Elbow Macaroni. They probably don’t make Mueller’s Elbow Macaroni anymore. And the other brands of macaroni don’t come with the recipe, which I learned to my horror the first time I tried to make it myself. The mustard is my mom’s secret weapon, the garlic is mine.


  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard seed
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • about 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • a few slices of stale bread
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a little salt

Toast bread and set aside to cool. Cook macaroni until a little under done. The macaroni should be on the crunchy side of al dente. It will cook more in the oven and you don’t want it to be mushy.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Stir and cook until you have a nice golden brown paste. Slowly whisk in the milk. Keep whisking until you get rid of the lumps. Stir in the mustard and black pepper and cook a few minutes over low heat until slightly thickened. Stir in the cheese and cook a few minutes longer. Add salt to taste.

Break up the bread slices and grind in a food processor or blender. It’s ok if the bread crumbs are not of uniform size. Peel the garlic cloves and use the side of the blade of a heavy knife to crush them. You want them softened up but still more or less intact. Put the olive oil and garlic cloves in small pan and cook a few minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned. Stir in the bread crumbs and a pinch or two of salt. Stir to coat. Now fish out the garlic cloves. You can eat them if you want. They’re delicious.

Pour the macaroni into a 8 or 9 inch baking dish, or a small casserole. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir until the macaroni is well coated. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs.

Bake at 400 degrees until nice and brown and bubbly. Try to control yourself and let it set up a little bit before you start scooping.


9 thoughts on “macaroni and cheese

  1. trudy

    I have been making this recipe for years using seasoned bread crumbs for topping.The garlic breadcrumbs seems interesting worth giving a try.

  2. meg

    MaryT. makes a similar version, but she doesn’t precook the noodles, she bakes it a long time, yummy and chewey.

  3. teddy

    yeah, the butter in the pan with the flour is the way my grandmother makes it! i think that’s the trick.

    she insists on using “that crackle cheese” – meaning Crackel Barrel brand cheese. i find that these kinds of “plastic” super market cheeses do bake better. what cheese do you suggest?

  4. kate Post author

    yeah, the plastic cheese does melt more smoothly. But good cheese tastes so much better, and really it works fine. I’ve never had a problem with it separating or anything. I used a hunk of good white cheddar from the cheese counter; I don’t remember what it was called.

  5. DAVE

    yeah, plastic cheese is great……you don’t even have to unwrap it!!!!


    We used GRAFTON premium 2-Year CHEDDAR.
    (VT’s best)
    No separation.


  6. jdj25


    recipe sounds great with the garlic,what a good touch. Did you ever try adding chopped tomato into your mac and cheese? You can use fresh or canned diced. I think fresh is better. Try it you might be surprised.


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