If we decided to look up mac and cheese in the dictionary, we suspect that the definition would probably read, “best, cheesy, comfort food ever,” or something like that. This classic American dish is one that we all love, and it never really goes out of style, because it’s so addictive! Some recipes though, are better than others, so we thought it would be fun to put a version created by Martha Stewart to the test. There’s no doubt that Martha is a pro, so let’s talk about why we think Martha’s is pretty much perfect.
Now, most versions of this dish are cheesy, but this is a whole other level, so prepare yourself. That’s what mac and cheese is about, right? Martha uses two very distinct kinds of cheese that make the flavors stand out above and beyond the classic, yellow cheddar we often see. Sharp, white cheddar and a French cheese called “gruyere” melt together and make a silky bechamel sauce, which can be found in any great mac and cheese recipe.
Elbow pasta, a.k.a. macaroni, is a traditional shape that we were happy she opted to keep in her recipe. After all, something old and something new often work well together. Something that we hadn’t tried before that we thought worked well here was cubed bread rather than breadcrumbs. They not only soaked up the cheesy sauce, but the tops browned beautifully, creating a buttery, crispy crunch and the perfect contrast to all that gooey goodness. Martha knew what she was talking about when she put this version of mac and cheese together. It passed our test with flying colors, and we have no doubt that once you try it, you’ll love it too!
30 min to prepare; 1 hour to cook; serves 10
1 pound elbow macaroni
6 slices white bread, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
5 1/2 cups whole milk, warmed
4 1/2 cups sharp white cheddar cheese, grated, divided
2 cups gruyere cheese, grated, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook macaroni for 1-2 minutes less than instructed on packaging. There should still be a bit of bite to the pasta. Rinse with cold water, then drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375º F and lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with butter or non-stick spray. Toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons melted butter in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a large saucepan over medium heat melt remaining butter (6 tablespoons) until bubbly, then stir in flour. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
While whisking, pour in warmed milk until fully incorporated. Continue whisking until mixture thickens and bubbles up.
Remove from heat and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne, then stir in 3 cups cheddar cheese and 1 1/2 cups gruyere.
Stir drained pasta into cheese sauce, then transfer to greased baking dish. Top with remaining cheddar and gruyere cheese, then sprinkle buttered breadcrumbs on top.
Place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
Remove from oven and serve hot!