This white cheddar mac and cheese recipe is a classic version of everyone’s favorite comfort food. And Although the recipe is quite simple, the taste is absolute perfection! It’s rich, creamy and is oozing with cheesy goodness – it’s just what you and your family is looking for!
Classic White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
Over the years, I’ve shared some super crazy cheesy concoctions. From over the top mac and cheese recipes, to towering grilled cheese sandwiches.
I’ve literally done it all. I even wrote a cookbook about it! hah!
I don’t think I’ve ever shared a classic mac and cheese recipe, EVER!
Weird right? I don’t even know how that happened!
But alas, I’m changing my ways. I wanted to share this simple and classic recipe that’s perfect for the holidays.
Even the most picky of eaters will chow down on this stuff!
Trust me! It’s the one recipe that everyone can agree on and for that, you’ll win family get togethers.
How to make Classic Macaroni and Cheese
Making this White Cheddar Mac and Cheese is super simple!
To begin, first get some super salty water boiling.
You want the pasta water to taste like the ocean. This will season the pasta perfectly!
Cook the pasta al dente then strain it set aside until it’s ready for use. Save some pasta water just in case!
Meanwhile, start your sauce.
Simply sauté 3 tbsp of salted butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan (such as a cast iron braiser) over medium heat.
Once it’s melted, add 5 cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of salt.
Let the garlic cook down for about 2 minutes until it’s fragrant and softened but not browned.
Next, add 2 tbsp of flour and whisk it together with the garlic butter.
Stir the flour around for 2-3 minutes to cook out the flour taste. Once the roux is formed, slowly whisk in the milk.
Next, stir in the heavy cream and a few pinches of salt then turn the heat to medium-low. Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes or until it’s thickened and slightly reduced.
Now stir in one cup of cheddar until melted. Then stir in the next until it’s smooth and creamy.
Note: there might be some chunks in there but it’s most likely the garlic so don’t fret!
Add 1.5 tbsp of hot sauce. I recommend using Frank’s Hot Sauce because it’s got the perfect balance of spice-to-vinegary-ness.
Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
Now stir in your noodles and the remaining half cup of sharp white cheddar.
That little bit of cheese at the end will help create that perfect cheesy pull when you’re serving it!
5 Tips for Making Perfect Classic Mac and Cheese
1. Shred your own cheese!
Why you may ask? Well, shredded cheese is coated in potato start and other preservatives that help keep it from clumping together in the bag. This leads to cheese sauce that isn’t perfectly creamy and luxurious! Do it yourself and watch how much smoother your sauce is!
2. Keep your heat consistent on the cheese sauce!
If the temperature changes too dramatically, your cheese sauce will break and you’ll get a gritty texture. And nobody likes that!
3. Choose your pasta wisely!
Not all pasta is created equally! Try to utilize a pasta that is able to hold more cheese. For instance, I’m using Delallo Shellbows because the inside of the shell is basically like a little pasta pocket that traps as much cheese as possible. Some of my other favorites are shells, cavatappi, rotini/fusilli and of course the most classic – elbows.
4. Upgrade the cheese flavor without more cheese!
By adding a tsp of yellow mustard, dried mustard powder, Worcestershire or hot sauce, you’re able to enhance the umami-ness of the cheese. This is an easy way to make your cheese sauce taste more cheese-like without adding more cheese!
5. Save some of the pasta water!
If you make you make your mac and cheese ahead of time and notice that it’s getting clumpy before you’re about to eat it, simply stir in some boiling hot pasta water or heated heavy cream or milk. This will make your pasta sauce instantly more creamy and it will also warm it up slightly!
Want to make it a Baked Mac and Cheese?
Turning this into a baked mac and cheese recipe is easy peasy!
Simply preheat your oven to 400F degrees.
Pour the mac and cheese into an oven proof baking dish then choose which one you’d like:
FOR A CHEESY CRUST: Add 1.5 cups of shredded cheese on top and bake for about 20 minutes or until the cheesy on top is melted, blistering and bubbly!
FOR A CRUNCHY CRUST: Melt 2 tbsp of butter and mix it with 2 cups of seasoned bread crumbs. Sprinkle it on top of the mac and cheese and bake until golden brown!
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RECIPE: White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
Classic White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb pasta such as delallo's shellbows
- 3 tbsp salted butter
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup milk
- 2.5 cups sharp white cheddar divided
- 1.5 tsp franks hot sauce
- salt and pepper
- Boil water, add a few hefty pinches of salt and cook pasta al dente. Strain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and pinch of salt and cook for 2 minutes or until softened but not browned.
- Whisk in flour and let the roux cook for a few minutes or until the flour taste has disappeared.
- Whisk in milk, then heavy cream and a few pinches of salt then turn the heat to medium-low.
- Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes so that it is thickened and slightly reduced.
- Now whisk in 2 cups of cheese, little by little, until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Be sure to reserve the other half cup of cheddar.
- Add the hot sauce and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix in the pasta and then stir in the remaining half cup of cheese then serve immediately!
- Simply preheat your oven to 400F degrees.
- Pour the mac and cheese into an oven proof baking dish then choose which one you’d like: