Ree's Mac and Cheese Recipe Is Famous for a Reason (2024)

Come, my child… come. I shall take you by the hand and take you where you need to go.

I shall show you the comfort food that is solely responsible for my bones and tissues multiplying and growing at a young age.

It's macaroni and cheese made with the best butter. And it's the only pasta (or food) I consumed until I was about fourteen years old.

Come… come, my child.

I shall show you the way.

How do you make the best mac and cheese?

There are a few ingredients that make this the best macaroni and cheese ever. Adding an egg to mac and cheese makes the sauce smooth, velvety, and heavenly rich. The dried mustard powder(or asubstitute for mustard powder if you're really stuck) provides the perfect tangy bite that balances all that richness, and then there's the cheese. Oh, the cheese! Pre-shredded, bagged cheeses don't melt as well as cheese grated straight from the block, so be sure to do that yourself. The resulting creaminess is worth the extra step!

How do you keep macaroni and cheese creamy?

The star of this recipe is the cheesiest, dreamiest cream sauce that sinks into every nook and cranny of the macaroni. There's whole milk, a pound of cheese, and an egg to thank for that. But the secret to baked mac and cheese is this crispy top, which hides a creamy, soft bottom. That extra layer of cheese helps hold in the moisture when it bakes in the oven. Just be sure not to bake it too long so the macaroni doesn't dry out! Bake just until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

What’s the best cheese to use in mac and cheese?

I almost always mix different types of cheese: colby, monterey jack, fontina, mild cheddar, pepper jack… even a little gruyère if I allow myself to be in denial about how expensive it is to buy. (There's always a goodgruyère cheese substitute at the grocery store, too.) Keep it simple with just sharp cheddar or sprinkle in a variety depending on what you like best.

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Yields:
6 serving(s)
Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
30 mins

Ingredients

  • 4 c.

    dried macaroni

  • 1

    whole egg

  • 1/2

    stick salted butter

  • 1/4 c.

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 1/2 c.

    whole milk

  • 2 tsp.

    (heaping) dry mustard, more if desired

  • 1 lb.

    cheese (such as cheddar, jack, and/or fontina), grated

  • 1/2 tsp.

    kosher salt, more to taste

  • 1/2 tsp.

    seasoned salt, more to taste

  • 1/2 tsp.

    ground black pepper

  • Cayenne pepper, paprika and/or thyme (optional)

Directions

    1. Step1Cook the macaroni until very firm. The macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain.
    2. Step2Beat the egg in a small bowl.
    3. Step3Melt the butter in a large pot and sprinkle in the flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes, whisking constantly. Don't let it burn. Pour in the milk, add the mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for 5 minutes until very thick. Reduce the heat to low.
    4. Step4Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into the beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the egg. Whisk together till smooth.
    5. Step5Pour the egg mixture into the sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth. Add in the cheese and stir to melt. Add the salt, seasoned salt and pepper. Taste the sauce, adding more salt and seasoned salt as needed. (Do not under-salt!) Pour in the drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine. Serve immediately; otherwise, pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake at 350˚ for 20 to 25 minutes, then serve.

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Elbow macaroni. You can buy it in bulk, and you can buy it cheap.

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You'll need butter. Regular, salted butter.

And just note that I pretty much never use unsalted butter except for a few select baking recipes.

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All-purpose flour.

Whole milk. Pretend there's a photo of whole milk sitting on a counter you can't see.

Dry mustard. I love this ingredient in macaroni and cheese. It provides a tangy sharpness without injecting a definable flavor.

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One egg. Trust me.

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And cheese. One glorious, beautiful pound of freshly grated cheese. I'm using all sharp cheddar today, but I almost always mix different types of cheese: colby, monterey jack, fontina, mild cheddar, pepper jack… even a little gruyère if I allow myself to be in denial about how expensive it is.

But today, it's all cheddar, all the time.

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Cook four cups dried macaroni until it's very "al dente." Keep in mind that we'll be baking the macaroni after we mix it together, so it needs to be quite firm when you bring it out of the water. I usually test a macaroni noodle about five minutes into the cooking process—if it's too firm to serve and eat immediately, it’s time to take it off the stove and drain it.

Nutshell: Undercook the macaroni! You'll be glad.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the egg in a small bowl. Set aside.

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Add a good teaspoon or so of salt to the water.

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Now, in a large saucepan or dutch oven, melt 1/4 cup (1/2 stick OR 4 tablespoons) butter.

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Sprinkle in an equal amount (4 tablespoons) flour.

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Whisk the mixture together over medium-low heat (careful not to burn!) until totally combined…

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Then continue cooking for around five minutes, whisking constantly.

This is called a roux, which is the basis of a cream sauce or gravy.

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Pour in 2 1/2 cups whole milk. You could use 1% or 2%… but why?

Seriously, the fat content in the whole milk, in my opinion, makes for a creamier, more delicious mac and cheese. But I'm not here to make anyone's choices for them so feel free to use a lower fat milk product.

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Immediately dump in 2 heaping teaspoons of dry mustard.

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You could certainly add another teaspoon with impunity… but see how 2 tastes first. If you like it, dump in some more.

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Now, whisk the mixture together and cook for about five minutes. It will get extremely thick, almost like a cream gravy.

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At that point, reduce the heat to low. Use a 1/4 cup measure to retrieve a small amount of the sauce.

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Pour the small amount of sauce into the beaten egg slowly…

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Begin whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs.

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Keep whisking until mixture is cooled. This is called “tempering.” Rather than dump the beaten egg into the very hot mixture in the pan—which would result in the eggs scrambling—you introduce some of the hot mixture into the egg.

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THEN you dump the tempered egg into the pan.

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Whisk it together…

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Until totally combined.

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Now dump in all but about 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. Look at this wonderful cheesiness.

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And stir together until it's all melted. Go ahead and turn off the heat.

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Now it's time for seasoning! Add about 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (I used Lawry's.) If you're sensitive to salt, start really low and work your way up… and remember that the cheese imparts quite a bit of salt to the mix.

BUT—and this is important—be careful not to UNDERSALT the mac and cheese. It really needs ample salt to put the flavor over the top.

*I also use paprika, cayenne pepper, even ground thyme every now and then. Play with different ground spices and see what you like best.

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And finally, add plenty of black pepper, of the Black Dust variety. Honestly, I love freshly ground pepper… but not in homemade mac and cheese. For me, it has to be the powdery stuff.

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Now THAT’s what I’m talkin’ about.

And guess what? You can just steam some fresh broccoli and spoon some of this over the top. Kids from all over the land will show up at your doorstep.

Did you know a single serving of broccoli is positively loaded with Vitamin C?

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Now just dump in the drained, not-fully-cooked macaroni!

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And stir the mixture together.

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I use a little less than the full amount of cooked macaroni, because I love it extra creamy and coated. Just add it according to how you like it.

Now, you can either dish it up as it is right now, which makes for an ultra-creamy love fest…

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OR you can pour the macaroni into a buttered baking dish. This is a 2-quart dish, but a 9 x 13 pan would work just fine.

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Next, top the dish with the rest of the grated cheese.

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Now bake it for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and golden.

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Kinda like this.

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The secret to good, baked mac and cheese is this crispy top, which hides a creamy, soft bottom.

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Hello, lover.

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We've had a beautiful life together, haven't we? Thank you for allowing me to grow and develop.

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Thank you for making my life complete.

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And thank you for being you: unpretentious, unrefined, and real.

Enjoy!

Ree's Mac and Cheese Recipe Is Famous for a Reason (2024)

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