Ma’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese

2016-06-07 14.19.00RECIPE #182, DAY #218


ORIGINAL RECIPE: I got the recipe from my mother-in-law and recorded it in my first home-cookbook, It’s All Good*

TIMING: 1 1/2 hours

DIFFICULTY: Easy, but you have to be careful not to scald your milk

TOOLS: A heavy-bottomed saucepan, a whisk, a casserole dish for baking, etc.

COOK TYPE: Stovetop and oven

HEALTH: Mac ‘n’ cheese is not winning any awards for health. But most Americans are unwilling to forgo macaroni and cheese, and my son is definitely not going to go without it. It is–and has always been–his favorite food. Of course, he’s just as happy with his favorite boxed brand, but we meet in the middle with the homemade.

2016-01-30 17.34.15EXPERIENCE: One chilly winter more than a few years ago, my husband and I made our way up the East coast from NC to my in-law’s in Syracuse, NY. We arrived in time for dinner, just as the world was darkening. We pulled in and I immediately got a migraine. Disappointed, my husband led me by the hand (I lose vision) up to the guest room and tucked me into the bed, but not before I could smell homemade dinner wafting through the old family home. Under the eaves, I woke up snuggled in under the many blankets in the dark, and my husband walked in with a small, still-hot crock of Ma’s mac ‘n’ cheese and I pushed my fork in to break the golden surface.

Never has anything tasted so good.

NOTES: There are other great recipes for mac ‘n’ cheese, since there can be quite a bit of variation. This is a very standard recipe, however, and one that I have come back to time and again.

I do not often use the breadcrumbs on the top. I also sometimes add 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon paste into the bechamel. Nutmeg is also traditional.


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Cook 8 ounces macaroni according to package directions, in salted water.
  3. In a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter over medium heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons minced onion and stir until almost browning. Whisk in 4 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder, and a pinch of black (or white) pepper. Whisk for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk in 2 cups milk. Keep whisking until sauce thickens and just comes to a simmer. Whisk in 3-4 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese until sauce is smooth.
  5. Combine macaroni and sauce in a casserole dish. Optionally, cover with 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs mixed with 4 tablespoons melted butter.
  6. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown.

Serve with greens and a lean protein, like roast pork. We planned our meal around it, and had sliced, seared ham and fresh, sauteed broccoli. Or just serve it to a post-drome migraine patient tucked into bed in the great white North.

*Recipe changed from the original.


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