Ina’s Mac and Cheese

In college, everytime I went home, I wanted two things that my mom made.  Everything else?  Bah.  Doesn’t matter.  My mother makes wonderful homemade rolls, which is my paternal grandmother’s recipe.  I can remember eating the raw bread dough that my grandmother would let me pinch off.  Sweet but with that little tang that the yeast gives it.  Don’t knock it until you try it.   My other favorite?  Her macaroni and cheese.  It has a hint of onion browned in butter and uses, yes, Velveeta faux cheese that is as processed as processed gets.  I LOVE IT.  This is from the girl that doesn’t even eat cheese on her subs because the calories aren’t worth it.  But bring on the Velveeta in my mom’s mac and cheese.

In my quest to try some new recipes, I wanted to make macaroni and cheese, but break from the $2 box of faux cheese.  I poured over Food Network star’s recipes. I ended up choosing Ina Garten’s because typically I love her recipes.  She makes things seem doable but at the same time makes simple stuff look fancy.  I like it. 

I chose to follow her recipe as is, except for the noodle type and the tomatoes.  I wanted perfection.  In my life, perfection is not tomatoes.  I didn’t want to curdle the milk or anything of the sort, so I stuck exactly to the recipe.  Ina’s recipe called for Gruyere cheese, which I had to search online to find out what type of cheese it was.  Luckily even WalMart carries it, so I would imgaine any regular grocery store would.  The cheese is expensive, it cost me $8 in just this cheese for the recipe (which was huge).   I grated cheese and I grated more cheese.  I may have sampled for quality assurance along the way.  Don’t worry.  The cheese was good. 


The recipe was simple to follow as most of Ina’s are. My changes are in blue/ 

Mac and CheeseBarefoot Contessa

Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi (see Note)
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg (I decreased the amount due to personal preference)
3/4 pound fresh tomatoes (4 small) (Omitted all together)
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

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.

Meanwhile, 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.  It should coat your spoon. 

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. I divided into two dishes at this point, one for eating and one for freezing. 

Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. (BLECH) 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.

Note: To make ahead, put the macaroni and cheese in the baking dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to bake. Put the tomatoes and bread crumbs on top and bake for about 40 to 50 minutes.


We ate this mac and cheese with Maryland style crab cakes and grilled sweet corn.  The overall texture and crumb topping was so tasty on this.  A perfect amount of creamy to noodle.  Due to the taste of the Gruyere in the shredded form, I was a little nervous that the gruyere may overwhelm the cheddar and I was right.  Neither my husband or I loved the taste of the gruyere in this recipe. In the future, I would use the same amount of white sharp cheddar instead of the Gruyere.  The only bad thing is that we have a large pan of this in the freezer since it made such a huge quantity.  So now I have $10 worth of macaroni and cheese in my freezer that I don’t particularly like. 

I did use some of the remaining gruyere in an omlet this week and prefered the taste of the cheese there.