Restaurant-style Macaroni and Cheese

I’ve always wondered how professional chefs make their mac and cheese. Do they follow the traditional oven-baked recipe—you know the kind made with a cream of chicken soup base and topped with cracker crumblings? Do they just grab a box of Kraft from the cupboard? No, they must have a secret recipe for something rich and creamy; gourmet in the true sense. But how do they do it?

I resolved to find out. My inspiration was a local restaurant that makes a delicious white version containing four cheeses. After you place your order, you can sneak a peek into the kitchen as the chef throws sauce and cheeses into a pan, simmers it for several minutes, and then tosses in the macaroni. I knew these steps were integral to my success.

For the next several months, I made dish after dish. I tried versions with heavy cream and half-and-half, but the best results came from a flour and butter roux base, which gives the dish its thickness. I also discovered that soft cheese was very important for creaminess because it melts well. Here is my version of a restaurant-style macaroni and cheese. It may not be gourmet, but it beats the box kind any day.

Cooking time: about 15 minutes
Serving size: one bowl

½ cup macaroni
1 ½ tbsp butter
1 tbsp potato flour*
½ cup milk
1 cup shredded Colby/Jack cheese**
pinch of mustard powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
  1. Prepare macaroni according to the package’s directions.
  2. Create a roux by placing butter and flour in a separate sauce pan on medium heat. Stir constantly for 2-3 minutes until the melted mixture becomes very bubbly with a slightly browned color.
  3. Remove pan from heat to allow it to cool for a minute so it doesn’t burn the milk. Pour in the milk and return to the burner on medium heat. Stir the mixture with a whisk until it reaches a thicker consistency.
  4. Stir in small portions of the cheese, allowing each portion to melt before adding more. Repeat until all the cheese is combined into the mixture.
  5. Add seasonings to your taste.
  6. Stir in cooked and drained macaroni. Transfer to bowl and serve.

* You can substitute potato flour with wheat flour, if desired. I find the potato flour gives the sauce a slightly more natural taste.

** You can substitute Colby/Jack with another cheese, although I have had best results with softer cheeses because they melt well. Beware of Cheddar! Although it has a nice flavor, it ends up making the sauce clumped, oily and chalky in texture.

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| May 23rd, 2010 | Posted in Italian |

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