This Ina Garten mac and cheese recipe is not your average dish!
It’s loaded with flavor and packs a serious punch of cheesy goodness.
The blend of Gruyere and Cheddar cheeses creates the perfect smooth and tangy sauce, and the breadcrumbs add a satisfying crunch.
Each bite is pure bliss, and the addition of fresh sliced tomatoes gives it a fresh, zesty kick.
Trust me, once you try this mac and cheese, you’ll never go back to the boxed stuff again!
Ina Garten Mac and Cheese
If you don’t know, Ina Garten is a culinary legend and the host of the popular cooking show, Barefoot Contessa.
She’s known for her mouthwatering recipes, and her mac and cheese recipe is no exception.
This isn’t your typical boxed mac and cheese. Ina’s recipe elevates the classic comfort food to a whole new level.
It’s made with a blend of Gruyere and extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, a hint of nutmeg, and a crispy breadcrumb topping.
One thing that makes Ina’s mac and cheese recipe stand out is the addition of fresh sliced tomatoes on top.
The tomatoes add a burst of freshness that balances out the richness of the cheese.
Plus, they make the dish look even more colorful and appetizing.
Whether you’re cooking for a crowd or just want to treat yourself to a cheesy bowl of pasta, Ina’s recipe is a winner.
It’s perfect for any occasion that calls for delicious, homemade comfort food.
Cooking essentials: Vegetable oil for cooking pasta and greasing the baking dish, and Kosher salt to help bring out the flavors in the dish.
Pasta: You can use either elbow macaroni or cavatappi. These classic pasta shapes are perfect for holding onto all that delicious cheese sauce.
Bechamel: Milk, half a stick of butter, and flour are combined to create the base of the creamy bechamel sauce. This makes up the bulk of the mac and cheese.
Cheeses: Gruyere is a nutty, creamy cheese that melts beautifully and adds a rich flavor to the dish.
And extra-sharp Cheddar is a sharp and tangy cheese that gives the dish a delicious bite.
Seasonings: Black pepper adds a little bit of heat and depth of flavor to the dish. And nutmeg is a warm, earthy spice that complements the richness of the cheese.
Toppings: Fresh, ripe tomatoes are sliced and arranged on top of the mac and cheese before it’s baked. And fresh white bread crumbs are combined with the remaining butter to create a crispy, crunchy mac and cheese topping.
The Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese
Let’s talk about how to take your mac and cheese game to the next level!
One of the easiest ways to do this is by changing up the cheeses you use.
But before you go wild with cheese choices, there’s one important thing to keep in mind: not all cheeses melt well.
You want your mac and cheese to be smooth and gooey, not oily and gross. So it’s important to choose the right cheeses.
Luckily, there are plenty of great melting cheeses out there to choose from.
Simply pick from Asiago, Cheddar, Colby, Fontina, Gouda (not aged), Gruyère, Havarti, Monterey Jack, and Muenster.
If you stick with one of the good melters, you’ll be sure to end up with a delicious and satisfying dish.
How to Make Ina Garten Mac and Cheese
- Preheat the oven. Get your oven going by preheating it to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cook the pasta. Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta according to package directions.
Once it’s done, drain it well so that it’s ready to be mixed with the cheese sauce.
- Make the bechamel. In a small saucepan, heat up your milk but don’t let it boil. Meanwhile, melt some butter in a large pot over low heat and add flour.
Keep whisking it for about 2 minutes until it’s all mixed together nicely.
- Add the cheese and seasonings. While still whisking, pour the hot milk into the pot slowly. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly until the sauce becomes smooth and thickened.
Take it off the heat and add in your grated Gruyere and Cheddar cheese, as well as some salt, black pepper, and nutmeg.
Give it a good stir so that everything is well mixed.
- Add the pasta to the sauce. Add the cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce and stir well.
Once the pasta is fully coated with the cheese sauce, pour the mixture into a 3-quart baking dish.
- Top with tomatoes. Get some fresh tomatoes and slice them up. Arrange them on top of the macaroni and cheese to add a pop of color and some extra flavor.
- Add the breadcrumbs. Melt the remaining butter and combine it with some fresh white bread crumbs. Sprinkle this mixture on top of the tomatoes for an extra crunchy topping.
- Bake and enjoy! Pop your baking dish into the oven and let it bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
When the cheese sauce is bubbly and the macaroni and bread crumbs are browned on top, it’s time to take it out and enjoy!
Tips for the Best Mac and Cheese
If you’re looking to take your mac and cheese up a notch, try out these tips:
- Use high-quality ingredients, including good-quality cheese and milk.
- Be sure to cook the pasta al dente so that it doesn’t become mushy or overcooked in the oven.
- When making the bechamel sauce, be sure to stir constantly to avoid lumps.
- Choose only cheeses that melt well to avoid the dish becoming oily and not the desired consistency of smooth and gooey.
- Use room temperature liquids as colder liquids take longer to thicken. Let your milk and half and half sit out while the water for the pasta is boiling.
- Shred your own cheese instead of using pre-shredded cheese in bags. The cheese in bags contains a starchy substance that can keep it from melting as well as it should.
Toppings and Variations
- Stovetop: Not a fan of baked mac and cheese? No problem! Simply cook your pasta until it’s al dente and add all the cheese to the sauce for a quick stovetop version.
- Different Toppings: Try mixing things up with different toppings. Panko breadcrumbs mixed with melted butter or crushed Ritz crackers are both great.
- Broil after baking: Once the mac and cheese is cooked, broil it for 2-3 minutes to get that coveted crispy crust.
- Extra cheese topping: For an even cheesier experience, sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan cheese on top of the mac and cheese before baking.
- Bacon bits: Chop the cooked bacon into small bits and stir it into the mac and cheese before pouring it into the baking dish.
How to Store
If you have any mac and cheese leftovers, be sure to store them in the fridge and cover them up real tight. They can last for up to 3-4 days that way.
When you’re ready to reheat, add a splash of milk or cream and pop it in the microwave.
Be sure to cover it partially with plastic wrap and stir it often as it reheats to get it nice and creamy again.
This recipe is freezer-friendly if you freeze it before baking it in the oven.
Let the mac and cheese cool completely and then transfer it into a dish that’s safe for the freezer.
Once you’re ready to bake the dish, simply thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and follow the regular recipe instructions for baking.
It can stay frozen for up to 3 months, which means you can have a homemade mac and cheese dinner any time you want!
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