Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Instant" Mac and Cheese – Thinking Outside the Box

I’ve wanted to do another “one-pan” pasta video, where we cook everything right in the sauce, like we did in our famous Orecchiette with Sausage and Arugula recipe, but then I happened to see someone eating mac and cheese on TV, and those plans changed.

I decided to adapt the same approach, and see what would happen if I cooked the macaroni right in the milk, before making the cheese sauce, and what happened was something just as creamy, cheesy, and delicious as recipes using more traditional techniques. Besides loving the taste, and texture, the whole procedure only took a few minutes longer than the boxed stuff; not to mention we avoided about a dozen ingredients we probably shouldn’t be eating.

This is a simple procedure, but there are a couple things to keep in mind. Be sure to turn your heat off as soon as the cheese has melted, or almost melted in. If you continue to cook the cheese it will separate and get grainy. Also, please buy high-quality cheddar, and grate it yourself. Pre-grated cheeses are of lower quality, and the shreds are coated in a cellulose power that can give the final product an odd texture.

Thanks to being a little arrogant, and a lot delusional, I assumed I had stumbled on to some new, game-changing recipe here, only to find out that literally thousands of people had discovered this great trick way before me. Which is fine, since deep down I know I could’ve invented it, but simply didn’t need to. Regardless of who gets the credit, or which high-traffic YouTube chef eventually claims to have invented it, the technique works quite well, as so I really do hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 2 portions:
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon fine salt), plus more to taste
pinch of cayenne
pinch of dried mustard, optional (I didn’t add, but many people do)
very small pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup small elbow macaroni
2 packed cups freshly grated cheddar cheese (about 6 to 8 ounce by weight)

For the panko topping:
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter
- Cook crumbs in the butter over medium heat until golden brown.
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38 comments:

William Floyd said...

Another genious recipe by Chef Juan errrr John. I love a creamy mac n cheese. My only question is...why haven't we seen a really great recipe for liver and onions yet?

bob walton said...

I'm all over that. Hey, I went to college and never thought of that. But that was before microwaves

Unknown said...

I tried it and it broke. Did I heat the cheese too long?

Gina Florio Sous said...

Hi Chef John! As a mac and cheese lover who is also lazy and impatient, I’m super excited to try this. Should I be worried about boiling the milk? I have it in my non-professional-cook mind that milk should never be heated past the boiling point, but I’m not sure why that is.

Diego Guzman said...

Hello Chef John, I noticed that it says “Two Portions” so if I want to make this for a family of 4 or 5 (Sometimes we have someone visiting) can I double the ingredients?

Unknown said...

This recipe looks great. I personally would find it very helpful if the instructions were in the text alongside the ingredients, especially because I would like to print this out.

Unknown said...

OMG this looks amazing!

I know what I'm making tomorrow night. I can even teach the kids how to do this one :)

Parmenides said...

I'm interested to know if the process works with all sharp cheddar, because its much harder to get the correct emulsification of harder cheeses in a starch bath.

Jimmyv123 said...

I thought I knew everything about Mac&Cheese! Thanks

jdrwpg said...

Great recipe and idea! I never have milk in the house so I've done this method using either plain water or chicken stock. Believe it or not, it works great. Different taste and texture but, when you're craving mac and cheese it'll do!

jgrwpg

Unknown said...

I always roasted Tasty for cooking their pasta in milk. Now I might have to eat crow since I have consistently gotten good tips from you, where sometimes they are a bit hit or miss.

Yaawei said...

This is some black magic.

martinla said...

Did you ever try making cheese sauce with Sodium Citrate. Works like magic! https://youtu.be/gOLgLi5ZJOY

abrieee3souer said...

looks amazing!!!

abrieee3souer said...

looks amazing!!!!!

Unknown said...

The cheese in mine separated at the end. Thoughts?

Unknown said...

Where do you get your warm bowls, Chef John?

Jason Smith said...

That's my CJ!! A LEGEND...in his own MIND. HA!!!!

Ed Powers said...

Made this recipe. You've got the grainy melted cheddar problem all day. It's just not pleasant... I wonder if you substituted a little processed cheese product whether the hydrocoloids would smooth everything out.

Ed Powers said...

Made this recipe. You've got the grainy melted cheddar problem all day. It's just not pleasant... I wonder if you substituted a little processed cheese product whether the hydrocoloids would smooth everything out.

Unknown said...

So I attempted this recipe for a work potluck today, but 4x the recipe. Unfortunately, the first attempt failed and I'm not too impressed with my second attempt.

For the first attempt my mistake was not reducing the heat before adding the cheese, I missed this in the video and the whole thing separated. On the second attempt, I was very careful to keep the temperature low during the cheese addition, even reduced it below simmer for the last couple minutes of noodle cooking, but there was still too much latent heat and I encountered some mild separation in the cheese.

I'm not happy with the final result at the moment, but its close enough and still tastes damn good. Maybe cooking this in a larger batch contributed to my issues, but I think you should letting the noodles rest for a couple minutes off heat before adding the cheese. As long has you're using soft cheeses, everything should melt regardless.

Diane Fausser said...

okay did this last night and added ham that we smoked and it was so easy. my bird even liked it.thaks

Unknown said...

Can this recipe be doubled just by doubling the ingredients? or would cooking times etc have to be adjusted also?

Unknown said...

My cheese got all clumpy :( any reason why?

Weird Aunt said...

Can't wait to try it! Say, do you have a Patreon? I looked for you, and there is a page under your name, but I'm not sure it's real!

Doug said...

Dear Chef John, this is an unrelated comment, but I have not been able to find a ratatouille recipe on food wishes. May I please request this as a food wish? Thanks so much for your recipes and technique videos, which have enriched my culinary life beyond measure.
Sincerely, doug

Unknown said...

This was delicious! I used 5 oz. sharp cheddar and 1 oz. monterey jack cheese. It came together very fast, and my kids loved it.

Kelly Astleford said...

Very excited to try this tonight for dinner for the hubby and I! Would it change any of the cooking times if you were to double or triple the recipe?

Gregory Stockman said...

I tried making this today, definitely missed the part about removing from the heat when you add the cheese because the sauce ended up a bit grainy. I probably should have added a little more liquid as well because it's just slightly too thick. Regardless, edible and tasty. I will definitely work to perfect this one.

beckyzuke said...

how much milk for a whole pound of pasta?

beckyzuke said...

how much milk and cheese for a full pound of pasta?

Unknown said...

so I tried this recipe twice, and the cheese curdled both times. The first time I know why it curdled... i added the butter after I added the cheese...but the second time I was super careful and I added the butter before the milk simmered, so I'm not entirely sure what I did wrong. What are possible reasons why the cheese curdled and is there any way to fix that?

akaase said...

This was disappointing. In cooking the one cup of elbow macaroni in two cups of milk, almost all the milk had evaporated (or was absorbed by the macaroni) before it was cooked enough to be tender. Instead I had chewier-than-al-dente macaroni with a thick heavy cream sauce... I nearly tossed it out then, but I thought I could salvage it by adding some cheese and letting it stand. Adding just a mere 4 ounces of cheese to this (half the recipe amount) made a very sticky, gloppy mess. No bueno. In the compost it went.

No, I'll stick with tried-and-true cooked-in-water pasta with Béchamel cheese sauce.

Collins said...

Should I expect any issues if I were to use 2% milk?

lemonardor said...

Tried this recipe but the milk curdled as I was cooking the macaroni - before adding any cheese. Also took way longer to cook the pasta than it says on the box. I used Barilla brand macaroni I cooked it on medium low heat and used fresh whole milk. Any ideas on how to prevent this from happening?

lemonardor said...

Whne I cooked the pasta in milk the milk curdled before I added any cheese. I used fresh whole milk ad Barilla macaroni. I cooked on medium low heat but had to cook the pasta a much longer time than suggested on the box to reach al dente consistency. Any ideas on how to prevent this?

gvpires said...

Hi! Thanks for the recipe!

I wish you could use weight measurements instead of volume for solids, so i could make sure i have the right amount. For example, if my macaroni is larger, i'll end up using way less pasta to fill one cup and this dish would be runny, whereas if you posted that in grams I cold use any type of pasta and have the same end result.

Jojo said...

Winner, winner, mac & cheese dinner! My son is a mac & cheese lover and when I told him I was once again trying a stove-top version of mac & cheese he had reservations (no, not at a restaurant...he's 16 and wouldn't know the first thing about making "reservations.") He declared this mac & cheese his favorite. And I think I can teach him to prepare this all by himself. Thanks, Chef John. Another great dish!