Cook's Illustrated Classic Macaroni and Cheese

Total Time
40 mins
5 mins

I skipped the bread-crumb topping, and this was still to-die- for delicious. Cook's Illustrated says it's critical to cook the pasta until it is tender--just past the al dente stage. For this recipe, overcooking the pasta is better than undercooking because undercooked pasta will release starch into the sauce and make it gritty. Whole, low-fat, and skim milk all work in this recipe (I used evaporated milk and loved it--some was low fat evaporated). You can halve this recipe and broil in an 8-inch square, heatproof baking dish. If desired, serve with celery salt or hot sauce. Recipe courtesy of Entertaining by Cook's Illustrated, February 2011.

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  1. For the bread-crumb topping: Pulse bread and butter in food processor until crumbs are about 1/8 inch, ten to fifteen 1-second pulses. Set aside.
  2. For the pasta and cheese: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler.
  3. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat.
  4. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt. Cook until pasta is tender. Drain pasta and set aside in colander.
  5. In now-empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming.
  6. Add flour, mustard, and cayenne and whisk well to combine.
  7. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute.
  8. Gradually whisk in milk and bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken).
  9. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes.
  10. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 teaspoon salt until cheeses are fully melted.
  11. Add pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.
  12. Transfer mixture to broiler-safe 13x9 inch baking dish and sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs.
  13. Broil until crumbs are deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, rotating pan if necessary for even browning.
  14. Cool about 5 minutes, then serve.
Most Helpful

5 5

Been making this for several years. Always a hit and being asked for the recipe. I use a generous cup of panko bread crumbs mixed with 3 TBS melted butter for topping. Generally don't use cayenne because of kiddos. Never bake it - stays creamier, doesn't dry out and flavor is better I think. Just put under broiler for a few minutes for Panko to brown.

5 5

I also skipped the topping. This is very good. My 4 1/2 year old didn't like the spices. Next time, I think I will bake it longer. Probably 30 min. to 60 min.

3 5

I am a little surprised that this got any good reviews. I subscribe to and use the site often. Most things come out delicious but this was completely tasteless. I had to throw in a bunch of salt and other spices just to add some flavor. The only reason I gave it three stars is that my 2 year old liked it and I pretty much made it for her so I guess there was some success in this recipe.