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Sharing our Perfect Macaroni and Cheese recipe here on A Family Feast is long overdue! It is really such a simple recipe, and we just kept pushing it aside in favor of sharing many other recipes instead.
But macaroni and cheese is a classic and an especially beloved recipe in our family – our nine-year-old is crazy for it! And my husband Jack’s recipe is also extremely good, so we figured it’s about time we shared it.
There is nothing worse than dry over-cooked pasta! So Jack’s version uses about six cups of sauce to one pound of dry noodles to make the perfect macaroni and cheese. We think that ratio is the perfect amount of liquid to partially-cooked pasta and it bakes up perfectly creamy with tender noodles. (Going into the oven, it will look very loose and soupy but the pasta will absorb much of that liquid while it finishes cooking in the oven, and it comes out twenty minutes later moist with a nice crunchy top.)
One more thing – Jack has tried lots of different cheese combinations over the years, and we found that a good-quality brand name sharp cheddar, and a quality American cheese (not cheese food), and (believe it or not) creamy brie are the perfect combination of cheese to make the most delicious, macaroni and cheese.
Jack also adds a wonderful mix of savory flavors and seasonings to our perfect macaroni and cheese that complements the flavors of the cheese and also helps to balance out the richness. Enjoy!
- 3 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese shredded (use a good brand and not a cheaper supermarket brand – the extra cost pays off in much better flavor)
- 1/4 pound white American cheese (not cheese food but real cheese)
- 1/4 pound brie, with outer skin removed and discarded
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
- 1 pound elbow macaroni noodles (we used Cellentani pasta which looks like a longer twisty elbow noodle)
- 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 tablespoon melted butter
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and keep at a simmer until you are ready to cook the pasta.
- In a medium sauce pan, bring milk and cream up to scalding but do not boil.
- While milk and cream are heating, in a large pot over medium, melt butter and add flour. Stir and cook for three minutes.
- Slowly add hot milk mixture to butter and flour mixture while whisking vigorously. If you can’t pour and whisk then pour the milk in one third at a time whisking fast after each addition. The first one will be thick and by the end it will be loose. If lumps form, whisk and cook until they are gone.
- At this point, bring the water to a boil and add pasta. Cook pasta to three minutes under done. Whatever the package says, cook three minutes less. Pasta will be slightly hard and chewy but will finish in the oven.
- Add all three cheeses to the white sauce and stir with a wooden spoon until dissolved into the sauce.
- In a small cup or bowl, mix Worcestershire sauce with salt, pepper, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and enough water (few drops) to make a slurry. (this is to avoid lumps from clumpy seasonings). Whisk this into the sauce.
- Remove the sauce from the heat.
- Drain the pasta and add the hot pasta to the sauce and stir.
- In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients and mix well.
- Butter or spray a 9x9x3-inch or equivalent casserole dish and pour in the pasta mixture.
- Sprinkle top with the crumb topping mixture and bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
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