Test Kitchen's Favorite Mac and Cheese
Our ultimate mac and cheese relies on three different kinds of cheese -- American, cheddar, and Parmesan. For easier grating, put the block of cheese in the freezer for five minutes first.
- Total Time:
- Yield: Serves 6 to 8
Photography: Armando Rafael
Source: Martha Stewart Living, March 2017
- 1 pound short pasta, such as elbow macaroni, cavatappi, or rigatoni
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons mustard powder
- 3 cups warm whole milk, warmed
- 1 cup (4 ounces) finely chopped American cheese
- 2 cups (8 ounces) grated sharp cheddar
- 1 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan
Boil pasta in a medium pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 2 minutes less than per package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water.
Return empty pot to medium heat and add butter. When butter melts and foams, add flour and whisk until darkened slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Add mustard powder and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and add cheese in 3 batches, starting with American. Follow with cheddar and Parmesan. Whisk to fully combine after adding each cheese. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add pasta, stir to coat, and serve.
As mac and cheese cools, the sauce tightens and loses some of its creaminess. But if you don't serve it right away, no worries -- just place the pot over a low flame, and stir in reserved pasta water, a few tablespoons at a time, to loosen the sauce without diluting the rich flavor.