easiest baked mac-and-cheese

[Note: This got some fresh photos and a few recipe tweaks in 2019.]

You know, this really started out far more innocently than it now may seem. And yes, I know you are snickering, because how on earth can one innocently go about a process than concludes with spooning into a deep casserole dish crusted with cheese and pasta in a two to one ratio? Well, you’re me, that’s how; and you needed to use up some milk.

what you'll needwhisk or blend

The quart of whole milk had been purchased last Saturday with the intention of using it in aforementioned spinach quiche, which, oops, didn’t require any. It’s sat unopened in the fridge since, leaving me the quandary of finding a recipe that used a large quantity of it, as my inner Yiddishe Mama would not allow me to let it go bad, and god knows I am not earnest enough to actually make my morning lattes at home.

a lot of white cheddaradd the elbows

My first thought was chocolate pudding. It’s not really my favorite thing, but would that score me points with my eternal-inner-child husband or what? As I searched fruitlessly for a good basic recipe that was neither a pot de crème nor a puddle of ganache, I remembered that I also had a chunk of Cabot extra sharp cheddar to use up and now do you see how these things come to pass? Mac and cheese is one of these sinful beauts that I encourage everyone to make, at least once, from scratch. There’s no comparison, not even a nominal one, to the box mixes, and if I told that the essence of most recipes is to boil milk, stir in cheese, pour it over par-baked pasta and bake it until it’s crusted, would you then believe me?

first 30 minutes in ovenhalfway baked

Sadly, finding a good recipe was not this simple, and seriously, when did mac-and-cheese get so gussied up? Bacon? Onions? Mushrooms? Blue cheeses? Heavy creams? Bechamel sauces with low proportions of mild cheeses? Curry? Blech! Look, there’s a place for fancy, and childhood classics aren’t it. A quick search on the New York Times website brought me to this archived article, from the NYT’s Julia Moskin. She finds herself searching, like me, for an un-fussy, classic recipe and finds even more atrocities from white sauces, Worcestershire, smoked gouda and creamed onions instead. “None of the recipes came close to my fantasy of what the dish should be: nothing more than tender elbows of pasta suspended in pure molten cheddar, with a chewy, golden-brown crust of cheese on top,” she says, to which I say amen.

She bestows on us several nuggets of gooey wisdom. One, a seemingly outrageous 2:1 ration of cheese to pasta is indeed possible, and a good thing. Two, despite suggestions of glorious, rich cheeses, she found nothing better in end results than cheddar or (!) American cheese. Three: this is no time for whole wheat pasta or artisanal orecchiette, elbow pasta works best. Finally, she suggests that you resist the temptation to form a crust with unrelated ingredients such as bread crumbs, corn flakes or tortilla chips, with enough cheese, a crisp naturally forms on top. I leave you with her parting wisdom:

“The moral of the story: When in doubt, add more cheese.”

easiest baked mac-and-cheese

Note: There are three macaroni-and-cheese recipes on this site and this is not an accident. Each has its own purpose. The Quick, Essential Stovetop Mac-and-Cheese is exactly as it sounds, a way better than boxed weeknight savior, and it takes, at most, 3 minutes longer to make (the 3 minutes you grate the cheese.) The mic drop of the macaroni-and-cheese category, the one you make when only the very, very best will do, is Martha’s Mac-and-Cheese. It’s centerpiece material. This is the hands-off one, not as luxurious as Martha’s, not as quick as the stovetop. I use it most often as a side dish dish or as part of a spread when having people over (ribs and other summer fare, or for Thanksgiving) when there are too many other things to make to make a fussier one.

Easiest Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Updated in 2019: I’ve made a few changes to this recipe over the years. 1. I don’t use cottage cheese anymore (I don’t care for the slight graininess) but basically anything else — most often sour cream. You could also use ricotta (1:1) or for extra luxury creme fraiche or mascarpone — for these two, I use 1/2 cup plus an additional 1/2 cup of milk as a swap for 1 cup cottage cheese. These smoother types of dairy can be hand-stirred, no blender needed. 2. I’ve found you can get away with 3/4 of the cheese for a little less cheddar intensity, should you wish. Finally, as shown in the updated photos, I love baking this in a quiche pan of mine, but it fits best with 75% of the below recipe (i.e. 3/4 cup sour cream, 1.5 cups milk, 2/3 to 3/4 pound (see previous note) cheddar, and 6 ounces of pasta). The baking time is the same.

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup full-fat cottage cheese, sour cream, or see Note up top for other suggestions
  • 2 cups low-fat or whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (I skipped this)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I usually use one from Cabot), see Note
  • 1/2 pound uncooked elbow pasta

Heat oven to 375°F and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use one tablespoon butter to grease a 9-inch round or square baking pan.

If using cottage cheese, in a blender, purée cottage cheese, and add milk slowly, until smooth. Blend in mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together. Pour into large bowl.

If using sour cream or another other cottage cheese swap listed above, you can simply whisk it with the milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.

Both methods: Reserve 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping and add the rest, along with the uncooked pasta, to milk mixture, stirring to combine. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

Uncover pan, stir gently (I honestly forget this half the time), sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

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361 comments on easiest baked mac-and-cheese

  1. Sarah

    My boyfriend and I were just talking last night about making some homemade mac & cheese (because what good is the cold outside without comfort food?). I was looking for a yummy recipe that wouldn’t take me all day long to make. This looks pretty easy and delicious! Thanks for reading my mind and posting it!

  2. bridget

    WOWOWOW!!!!!! i’ve been on a no-cooking protest since breaking up with my live-in BF a month ago (a relationship that had brought my inner domestic goddess to the forefront), but i think this is going to break my holdout! #1 cause it looks AWESOME and #2 cause he would have LOVED it and i’ll remember that as i eat every.last.bite.

    THANKS for sharing this one!!!

  3. Sounds good. I just made mac and cheese on Monday, but it was the ever delicious recipe from America’s Test Kitchen which I love – also simple and definitely worth checking out.

  4. Yep, it’s a good one. Ben and I made it in January (if you click on my name, you can read about it), and were immobile after ingesting all that cheese. IM-MO-BILE. Good, though.

  5. deb

    Hilary – I know! I admit to being tempted by the prospect of panko on top, but it doesn’t need it. I was also tempted to use a crème brulee torch to really crackle it up, but then remembered that I don’t have one because my mean (hee) husband thinks I might be too clumsy to play with fire. I have no idea where he gets that idea.

    Sarah – So easy! I hope you like it, too.

    Bridget – What is it with men and a mac and cheese obsession? I loved this dish, but it wasn’t a religious experience for me. I’ll just shut up now, before people start pointing out yet again how nutso I am.

    Dahlia – Ooh, do share. I’ve been meaning to get their cookbook for eons, and have no idea why I haven’t done so yet.

    Luisa – Nice! I have no idea how I missed that; I thought I’d read your whole archives when I found your site a while back. It’s so filling, but I loved that. One big scoop, a giant romaine salad and an excess of red wine (actually, that part not recommended) and I was done for the night.

  6. Farmer Beth

    Got to love it. My Aunt, is notoriously famous for bringing baked macncheese to each and every family gathering ever held! Her recipe is as follows: Boil16 oz bag of large elbows. Drain. Dump into glass 9×13 dish. Take stick of butter, cut into chunks and dot on top of pasta, salt, pepper add 2-3 cups shredded cheddar, pour milk over the top until it comes about halfway up the sides of the pan – pop into oven at 350. In 15-20 minutes (or when you think about it) stir to combine. Then let bake until the top achieves the preferred amount of cripyness. Nothing fancy. Just good! And yes, any inner child screams to be fed this!

    1. Diana Jones

      I have this in the oven now, and I hope it lives up to the hype! My concern is not boiling the pasta before putting in the oven. But we’ll see! I’m wondering if you can please share cup measurements for the cheese and pasta, instead of the pound measurement? Thanks!

  7. Nikki

    I’d been thinking about mac and cheese for some time, and now it is totally inevitable. I currently have a little excess whole milk left over from the visit of a friend with a small child. I’d considered tapioca pudding – because that’s my excess milk default – but now I’m all about the mac and cheese. This will be perfect dinner on Sunday night with simple salad, crusty bread and some good wine. Bless you!

    Also, the brownies were pretty fantastic, and guests are always impressed when brownies are truly made from scratch. I overbaked them by about 2 minutes, I think, but next time they’ll be perfect.

  8. Yvo

    Mm that looks delish. I like Alton Brown’s recipe (in theory, never having had the time to make it)- my boyfriend isn’t a fan of baked mac&cheese unfort. but Alton also has a “stove top mac & cheese” recipe I’m keen on trying.

    1. Cassady

      Would this be doable with gluten free chickpea pasta? I have a friend with Celiac disease who truly can’t have gluten and would love to try it for him.

      1. Christina

        I’m GF. Use GF Jovial brand elbows. It’s just brown rice. It’s delicious and even people who are not GF will enjoy it. I don’t get paid for saying this… just a lot of trial and error for delicious GF pasta that holds up. I’m going to try this recipe soon and I anticipate it being out of this world incredible.

  9. OOH lovely!!!

    If you ever decide to visit Nashville, my husband and I will be happy to take you to a lovely restaurant here that serves the best Mac & Cheese ever.

    1. Jeffrey

      Just tried this and it ended up good, but with a definite “kugel” texture to it, which makes sense given the sour cream. A bit greasy. With a 2:1 cheese to pasta ratio, it definitely made everyone happy, sure. But I might spend an extra 10 minutes next time on a recipe that includes a roux to hold everything together.

  10. Macaroni and cheese is about my favorite food in the entire world. However, I tried this recipe a while ago, and it came out looking nothing like how yours turned out, and tasted horrible, so we threw it away. Now I’ll have to figure out exactly where I went wrong, because that looks amazing and I want to try it again.

  11. ann

    while sick a few weeks ago i managed to come up with an even easier recipe, b/c when ones sick, theres no need to make life complicated, no?
    but yeah, mac&cheese is just about the most awesome food ever created by woman (b/c a man could never have invented something this good)

  12. RA

    I love this entry because I had never even heard of boxed mac and cheese, thanks to my make-it-from-scratch mom, until my high school friends corrupted me. I practically lived off of the stuff in college, which did my waistline no good. But, have you heard of S’MAC ( I read about it on MSNBC, and it appears to have gussied up the mac and cheese combo with profitable results. I haven’t decided whether this falls in my must-visit category or my against-my-principles one…

  13. KikiLee

    This is bizarre – I actually had the NY Times recipes saved in my recipe inbox, and was emailing my best friend all yesterday morning, before you posted this, about how I planned to make it last night. What timing!

    Anyway, I decided to try the other recipe from the article (the one for Crusty Mac and Cheese) bc the crust is my favorite part. While it was delicious (I’m not sure how a dish with pasta, milk, butter and A POUND AND A HALF of cheese wouldn’t be) I have to say that the crust is perhaps to much of a good thing. You end up with a thick top crust and a think bottom crust, which are lovely, but I ended up missing the gooey, creamy middle. Next time, I think I’ll try this one.

  14. RA

    P.S. My husband just emailed me from work: “We must make that mac and cheese from Smitten Kitchen.” End of email. Can’t you hear the desperation?

  15. deb

    Farmer Beth – Your Aunt’s recipe is exactly what I was looking for! Yet, now I’ll stick with this, only because I didn’t even have to pre-boil the pasta, and in a home without a machine dishwasher (as opposed to the man dishwasher, my husband), every dish saved counts.
    Nikki – I’m glad you liked the brownies, and hope you’ll love this mac and cheese as much. It tastes so good with salad and wine. Ooh, btw, next time I might try to bake these in individual ramekins. I love the idea of pre-portioning it.

    Michelle – I have an almost unhealthy obsession with her. I know she’s on the Food Network and therefore hated by many, but the woman can cook and her recipes transcend the originals that inspired them. See also: cupcakes, key lime tartlets, bbq sauce, lemon pound cake, chocolate orange cake,

    Yvo – I saw that one in my Googles, the Alton baked one, but then read a review that said it was bland. Of course, one review really means nothing, but it kept my search going.
    Jocelyn – I’ll bring it over for a dinner party, with pleasure. We totally need to have one, too. Your thoughts?
    Muffy – I totally want to go to Nashville! Can we go for BBQ too?

    Brilynn – Aww. For me, it would have to have chopped up hotdogs in it – that’s how I liked it when I was little. Yech. Also, it would have to be Kraft from the powder. Not that my mother didn’t know how to make the real thing, but I liked the box stuff… when I did know any better.

    Jessie – What happened? Something went wrong? I found this so easy. Let me know if you try again.

    Ann – Even easier? Do tell! I thought you’d love the lack of extra dishes required for this, being a tiny-kitchen-person too.

    RA – That place is interesting; I’ve never heard of it! That said, not that I don’t think they could do a good job (that brie one aside, it just sounds weird) but, I’m always skeptical about having other people make things I can so easily do myself, with no need for the cost-cutting measures inevitably taken when making things in quantity. I have to see if any of my friends who live nearby have been there.

    Also, your husband cracks me up.

    KikiLee – I’m so glad someone tried the crusty one! I was curious, but as I mentioned, went with this first because it seemed easiest. I’m sorry you didn’t love it but feel almost certain you will like this. Let us know how it comes out for you if you make it.

    M – I was actually just relieved that my reputation didn’t precede me, for once! I’m terrified people are going to start calling me “that Ina Garten blogger.”

  16. I think I remember that article!

    I love mac-n-cheese. My grandmother always made it with the large elbows, and I carry on her tradition at the holidays for my family that misses her.

    I, however, like the small elbows. And I have a great recipe with a breadcrumb topping. And now that the temps are below 50, I’m going to make it soon!

  17. Hey Deb – I just wanted to tell you that I saw this post this morning, cancelled my plans to go out tonight (my semi-excuse: the dog I’m dogsitting seemed really lonely, and I didn’t want to leave him alone ALL NIGHT), and I’m currently anxiously waiting the recommended 15 minutes post-baking pre-serving.

    So, thanks!

  18. ive tried this recipe!! =) thought it was good, but i thought it was missing a nice crispy topping, so i added buttered breadcrumbs to the tops.. mmm…soo much better!!


    Park Cafe has the awesomest mac & cheese I’ve ever tasted. It’s a side dish, and comes to you sizzling and freshly cooked and is oh. so. good.

    Then top off your dinner with their creme brulee. It’s served between layers of phyllo dough with almond slivers. SO good.

  20. Lori

    Just tried this recipe last night and it is awesome! I tried just puree the cottage cheese first in the blender and was unsuccessful. It may be my low-end blender, but is just pushed the cottage cheese to the sides without puree-ing. Used Grey Poupon as well b/c I didn’t have any mustard seed. I’m trying Ina Garten’s recipe next, but it seems more labor intensive.

  21. LMB815

    We tried the recipe last night too – perfect halloween dinner. We as in “I worked all day so I made my mother cook it”. Despite my urging she did NOT do a cheddar/american cheese combo…I suppose I really didn’t care considering the amount that I ended up eating. Quite tasty though…thanks for trying it first.

  22. I see that several people besides myself had the brilliant idea to make this as a delicious, warm, feel-good meal on Halloween night. And it sure lived up to the hype! Great recipe.

  23. Johanna

    I love, love love your site and am currently scouring the archives. That’s how I came up on this post. I have to tell you thought – I tried this recipe and both my and my boyfriend really didn’t care for this recipe. I thought the cheese mix curdled a bit and the oils separated. I wonder what I’m doing wrong…dunno. I’m gonna stick to my tried n true white sauce/cheddar combo.
    Anyway, love your writing and your site, keep up the great posts.

      1. Sarah

        I had the same problem! It was better the second time I made it – I posted a comment with what I changed today, so it will be at the bottom of this page.

  24. jen

    Just thought you might like to know I tried this last night and was really impressed at how well it came out for the simplicity of the recipe. Thanks for the “plain folks” version! I don’t have a food processor, only an ancient blender, so shudder at blender/processor recipes — but the only casualty was a chunk of finger in the box grater. I know, ew.

  25. Erin

    First, some history: macaroni and cheese has always–for as long as I can remember–been my favorite food. I have many other loves, but mac and cheese always comes out on top. When I was growing up, we had an older lady that went to our church, Miss Norma, that was all country and made a fantastic homemade macaroni and cheese. She knew I loved it so much that she made me a mini pan of it for a gift when I graduated from high school. The other night, I decided to finally make this recipe, although I had an eye on it since I first read it. Oh. My. Gosh. I will never make another macaroni and cheese. This is the first homemade version I have ever made, and I love it even more than Miss Norma’s! It is soooo rich and cheesy, and I agree that a little cheese on top makes a perfectly crunchy finish! We actually did use whole wheat elbows, and it still worked great. I set the timer to wait the 15 minutes after pulling it out of the oven, but we only made it 7 1/2 before diving in. My fiance doesn’t even like macaroni and cheese, and he has been devouring the leftovers with me! Thank you for the recipe!

  26. Yes, indeedy, that is one fine macaroni & cheese. It’s over-the-top cheesy, but sometimes that’s just what you need. And that no-boiling-the-pasta thing is wonderful.

  27. Alice

    This recipe was very tasty, but definitely too cheesy for my taste. Yes I said it! I would have like a little more creamy and a little less cheesy. So next time I will decrease the cheese to 3/4 lb and increase the cayenne a bit. It was very good with hot sauce on the side.
    Thank you for another good recipe!

  28. Ali

    This was really great! If I had thought about it, I probably could have guessed that it was going to firm up a lot, but it looked so soupy… it wound up a bit overcooked. But the flavor was great, and it was so easy.
    A note to anyone else making it in a toaster oven though: Don’t put the top layer of cheese on until the last 10 minutes of cooking or so. I had to stir the crust in, or else it would have burned (another of those things that if I’d thought more, I probably could have avoided). It was still really, really tasty.

  29. I made this tonight…it had a really, really good flavor to it. I think I cooked it too long because it was kind of dry. That can definitely be alleviated next time I make it.

  30. I’m not a huge mac-and-cheese fan, but I’m thinking of whipping this up for my hub. If I do, he will no doubt track you down so he can give you a hug because you got his wife to make him a big ol’ cheesy dish!

  31. cindy

    I made this for a family potluck type dinner, and LOVED it! My husband could taste the cottage cheese though, and wasn’t crazy about it. Was it in there just to make it creamier, and if so, do you think cream cheese would do the same thing?

  32. Kate

    I did a loosely mimicked (due to the constraints of what was in my fridge) version of this that turned out pretty well. I think Cindy’s cottage cheese problem might be solved by using ricotta instead – it’s smoother and worked well for me. Also, this recipe (or at least my cobbled-together version) reheats much better than most m&c recipes I’ve tried. I’m off to make the by-the-book version now.

  33. jk

    thanks for this recipe, deb. i doubled the recipe plus added garlic and jalapenos during the cottage cheese blending phase of the recipe, and it turned out great. there was none left at the end of my superbowl party and i’ve led people to your blog.

  34. Lisa

    I don’t know what it is about men and homemade mac ‘n cheese but whenever I make this for my husband he showers me with praise for days! I’ve been using a terribly involved recipe – originally from the Nov ’06 recipe of Real Simple – but I can’t wait to try this one. Thanks Deb!

  35. April

    I have this in the oven right now. We’re going to have this with a green salad, wine, and Garret McCord’s blondies that are on Simply Recipes right now. My boyfriend is one happy, happy man.

  36. Joey

    Holy crap! I just made this because I’ve had it saved in my bookmarks for forever and four days. So after coming home from work and sitting for an hour and a half, I decided that it would be the perfect time to have some mac and I whipped out this recipe.

    HOLY MOTHER OF GOD. it is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good! I was a definite skeptic about the uncooked mac and the un bechamel based cheese sauce (i’m from a line of boil the pasta, make a white sauce, add cheese, combine, top with breadcrumbs and butter cooks) but good lord it was so freaking good!

    BUT two things I would change: 1) cut the salt. maybe because i used salted butter but it came out very very salty. 2) cut the butter on top, it just made it a touch greasy. however, TOTALLY FORGIVABLE.


  37. Paige

    WOW. My husband ate nearly the whole thing himself! And so easy – this is now one of my favorite easy dinners, and I suspect we’ll be making it a LOT. Thanks.

  38. Sara

    I am making this for Father’s Day. It’s in the over right now and smells amazing! Hopefully it turns out.. I can’t wait to taste it!!!

  39. Sara

    I did end up making this for Father’s Day, and it turned out amazing. People wouldn’t stop complementing me. There were no leftovers, and I DOUBLED the recipe. I will be making this again for the 4th of July. I’m now known as the “Macaroni Lady” as I have been told I will be bringing it to every family get together.

  40. Maurielle

    Mmmm! I just finished my first bowl. I made it with penne and ricotta cheese cause that’s all we had but it was super yummy nonetheless. I am a new follower of your blog and I love all your photos!

  41. Amy

    I’m about to embark on making this, but I’m going to add some veges – blasphemous, I know, but I want to make a complete one-pan meal instead of going with salad. We’ll see how it works out…

  42. Katie

    This is just like my grandmother’s recipe, which I love. I have to *shamefully* admit that I’m a gussier-upper. I LOVE Mac N Cheese with smoked Gouda and just a hint of paprika. (Skip the cottage, for me at least.)
    Mac n Cheese is just the ultimate indulgence. And I don’t understand why some people don’t get it. Poo on them.

  43. ann

    This was wonderful, I added 1/2 lb. of crumbled bacon and some onion, it was the best I’ve had for a very long time…I also replaced the cottage for riccota.

  44. This is the second time I’ve made this mac n’ cheese for my picky stepdaughter and my somewhat-picky husband.

    For my own personal preference, I cut the cheese down from one lb to 9 oz and it was STILL FABULOUS!

    I know this recipe has been here for a long time, but I do hope that you will find this comment and know how much I appreciate your posting this recipe!

    Oh, and BTW, both hubby and stepchild would absolutely FAINT if I told them there was cottage cheese in this recipe! Heh. Heh. That’s just gonna be between you and me and your other readers!

  45. Daun

    Okay, I am making this for my daughter’s birthday party, I thought it would be perfect to warm up with after we all go to the Christmas parade in town…Wish me luck;-)

  46. joyvox

    love love LOVE this recipe! i double it for my family of 6 and we all eat until we are stuffed. i was SO stoked to finally find a great m&c recipe that didn’t require parboiling and the bechamel.

  47. Jordan-Marci

    We have been looking for a good baked macaroni and cheese recipe for awhile… so we were excited to run into yours. We tried it and it turned out great! So delicious and creamy. We did substitute some of the cottage cheese for cream cheese and still worked great. Thanks!

  48. Lauren

    Hi Deb,

    I am really looking forward to trying this recipe tomorrow night with my boyfriend. He is a beer lover and I was wondering if you had any suggestions on a type of beer to pair with it.


  49. deb

    Hi Lauren — I don’t do beer and wine recommendations. It’s just not my area of expertise, but also, I think people should drink what they like, not what they’re told to. You can never go wrong with someone’s favorite beer.

  50. Monica

    I’ll have to try this one! We’re big mac n chz hoarders here. I can never make enough to have leftovers! The recipe on is the favorite so far – creamy & delicious, yet so thick & cheesy you can stand a fork in it. I do skip the topping he puts on it, though. (Yuck!) For quickness & ease without the Kraft box, we love Alton Brown’s Stove Top mac, minus any dry mustard or ? I do admit to adding tuna to my mac n chz and topping it with crumbled Ruffles. Yikes! Did I say that out loud?!

  51. Lilivati

    Every family should have a favorite mac’n’cheese recipe that isn’t elaborate. I have one already- involving tasty things like garlic, thyme, and dry mustard in addition to heaps of cheddar cheese- but if I didn’t this recipe would definitely be an excellent place to start!

  52. Aladyinredpolish

    I have no idea why, but mine was not creamy at all, and the top was very hard. If anyone can help me out here, it would be much appreciated. Thanks.

  53. Kathryn

    Oh goody, you still check up on this. I have to say, this was AMAZING. Made it tonight for a fantastic Fat Tuesday dinner and it certainly fit the bill! Although, you’re right about it being filling — I’ll probably be eating it for the next month, haha.

  54. Beth

    I made this a few months ago and it was deeeeeeeeelicious. Straightforward, so cheesy, and VERY filling. I know it’s a little late but, Aladyinredpolish, what size dish did you use? I used a bigger dish than what is recommended and the creamy middle/crunchy top ratio was a bit off.

    I’m making a double batch of this mac and cheese for a beer-brewing party this weekend and I can’t think of a better crowd of people to serve it to. I’ll use proper size dishes to make it perfect. I anticipate being carried around on people’s shoulders as they cheer my name.

  55. Debra

    Great macaroni and cheese. I really appreciate that the neither the macaroni nor the sauce needs to be pre-cooked. Made half a batch using extra sharp cheddar. Very tasty.

  56. Elle

    I can’t wait to try this! My dad used to always make the most amazing baked mac and cheese that he was well known for. My boyfriend insists that he doesn’t like baked mac and cheese but hopefully this recipe well change his mind since I can’t make my fathers for him!

  57. Monica

    I made this tonight – I was so intrigued with a recipe I didn’t have do preboil noodles or stand over the stove making a cheese sauce & called for pureed cottage cheese. My 5 year old pretty much did everything to boot! Great recipe for kids.
    I did love the noodles, as well as my husband who commented “The noodles aren’t mush!” The cheese sauce turned out very gritty though–little grainy lumps of cheese. The cheese crust was the best. I will keep the method but tweak it. I love Alton Brown’s Stove-Top Mac, it’s as easy as the box, but homemade. For that sliceable like-grandma-made, I love’s. Nothing is as unhealthy but good as my mom’s – you feel a coronary coming on but can’t stop. I plan on making the other one of SK’s next, though.

  58. schmanna

    Oh man. I just made this, with the addition of some panko on top of the cheese. It was beyond amazing, and easy easy easy (as advertised!).

    Thanks for this. It’s going into my arsenal, for sure.

  59. Jarod

    To begin with, this looks amazing. Would it be a sin to add some green chile and a feta on top? After a stint in Albuquerque, the fiancee and i have a full blown addiction to the green. Unfortunately it’s nearly impossible to find in Kansas.

    I plan on making this for dinner tonight. We went to Wichita for sushi last night, but the whole way down we were talking about this mac and cheese. By the time we got there I no was no longer in the mood for sushi…. sad…

    Secondly. I didn’t see a “no boys allowed sign” so I do hope I’m welcome. I am the cook in the household and am always looking for great recipes.

  60. Dawn K.

    About this whole cottage cheese ingredient…I LOATHE cottage cheese. I have this whole texture thing with different foods.

    Can I substitute another ingredient (and please don’t say something equally as distateful, like ricotta) or can you pinky swear promise upon consumption that I won’t even remember I added the dreaded ingredient?

    Winters here in Kansas can get cold, and I’m currently 4 1/2 months pregnant…perfect excuse for finding the perfect M&C recipe to always have on standby!

  61. ellissajane

    Perhaps my cheese was too strong, because I needed to take a bite of salad in between devouring the pasta. My family loved it, but then again, it’s just my mother, brother and me. My mom bought the cheese probably at some outrageous price. So, next time I make it, I would use a more mild flavor.

  62. Jen McLeod

    This was an incredible recipe! I have been craving real mac-and-cheese for months! I am new to your blog. I have been sick on the couch for months I wish I discovered your blog months ago! I have read all of your postings and love your style of cooking! Every recipe I have tried on your site has worked! I can’t say that for many food websites! I have been telling everyone about you, thanks for sharing your kitchen and your life with the world. You are doing a wonderful thing. Thank you!

  63. Ross

    Deb, I have made this recipe dozens of times for myself and friends when I wanted some comfort food. Tonight I am cooking for 40 hungry Jews; 6x’ing this recipe. I KNOW it’ll be a huge hit. Thanks for the great recipes!

  64. Vicki

    I’ve made this with cottage cheese and didn’t like the consistency – even after pureeing it was a bit gritty. I didn’t have cottage cheese this last time so I substituted nonfat Greek yogurt. It’s much better – smooth and creamy, perhaps a bit more tart (although that could have been the extra-sharp cheddar). And it reheats pretty well. I hate cooking pasta then turning around and baking it into submission. This is a keeper.

  65. Nuj

    I made it twice, once with full fat cottage cheese and once with low fat. I was skeptical on the low fat, and it seemed a little watey when I pulled it out of the oven, but it was actually great when I dove into it half an hour later. I think I added too much pasta on version @2, so it was a little dry, but version 2 was perfect. This recipe is a keeper–can’t believe how easy it is!

  66. ben

    Deb, thanks sooo much for this recipe! It was very tasty. I noticed that you skipped the nutmeg, but I actually left it in and was pleasantly surprised with the aroma it provided the dish.

    Love your site; even when you post recipes for foods I don’t necessarily prefer, your photography makes me want to eat it anyway! You’re very talented. My wife and I decided to try one meal a week from your site and so far we’re loving it!

  67. I’ve been coming back to this recipe for a year – afraid of the cottage cheese, but attracted to the ease. I always ended up back at the Martha Stewart recipe. However, last night, after being phoneless all day and having my car broken into, I needed mac n cheese. THis totally fit the bill as an easy, yummy, 3 dish meal on a weeknight – can’t wait to make it again.

  68. Gretchen

    Oh goodness, I’m so glad I found you!! Not long after you first posted this receipe I stumbled across it looking for what to make for dinner, well I ended up just having a caprese salad and completely forgot about mac-and-cheese (I know criminal!). I remembered the receipe, especially the ‘okay to have a 2:1 cheese to pasta ratio’ bit, but I couldn’t stumble across it again! So sad. So this week I just started looking at your cooking blog (I’ve been cooking a lot more lately), and lets not talk about how much time at work I’ve wasted reading your archives… However even if my projects never get finished everything will be okay, I found the mac-and-cheese receipe that does tell me to make a bechamel and tells me that the more cheese the better. So much for ordering chinese for dinner! :)

  69. rf

    Made this last night – ended up kind of oiling yet dry. What did we do wrong? Not enough milk / cottage cheese? We didnt have 1lb of cheese so i used about 2/3lb and topped up with parmesan .. could that be it?

    1. deb

      rf — This is actually not, say, the “goopiest” mac-and-cheese; it shouldn’t really be dry but it’s not as creamy as one with a white sauce as a base. If you want a ridiculously creamy, almost classical, mac-and-cheese, you might also enjoy Martha’s recipe. A little more work but it might be right up your alley!

  70. Chloe

    I made this when I’d already used half my block of cheese for other recipes, and consequently, had half the amount I needed for this. I found that this tasted better reheated with extra cheese and a bit of milk to make it saucy. I’ll make this again when I have enough cheese in the house.

  71. Petro Borchard

    My first time ever commenting on a blog. Been drooling over your blog for a couple of months now and yesterday, while looking for a chicken recipe, saw this lovely mac one.
    Too lazy to check metric equivalents, I added a whole 500 g packet of wholewheat macaroni elbows to the pot. Decided that it might be advisable to check and realised that I then had to double the rest of the ingredients. That had the result of making a HUGE amount which is wonderful – I am adding leftover shredded chicken to it tonight and then we will be digging in again!
    I used yoghurt instead of cream cheese and crumbled in about 100g gorgonzola that I had available on top of the rest of the cheese. Suffice to say it is very filling and intensely satisfying. I guess if I ever had to request a “last meal” this would be it!
    I threaded bacon onto skewers, dotted sweet chilli sauce on them and after grilling it to a yummy jammy crisp, served that as a side dish to keep my hubby silent about the absence of meat – not that he could say anything, he was too busy munching more mac+cheese!

  72. wjbk

    We just polished this off. Absolutely delicious. I used slightly less cheddar than called for — maybe 3/4 lb., and I also cut the butter and salt by about half. As Deb suggested, I pureed the cottage cheese before adding the milk gradually. No grit at all. Just a great, simple rendition of mac and cheese.

  73. jarrelle sartwell

    i made this for a friends whose dad is on hospice and the family has pretty much been living at the hospital. my friend and her husband have 2 little kids so i hoped that this was kid-friendly and adult-friendly also. it was both and it was a hit! i also made a batch for my family and we finished it in 2 days!!! once again thanks!

  74. Kim

    I was just wondering why do you need to puree the cottage cheese and milk first? And, also, could I use cream cheese and sour cream in place of the cottage cheese? I use cream cheese and sour cream in all my macaroni and cheese recipes, and I don’t want to let it go. also, can I use evaporated milk instead of regular milk?

  75. Becky

    I tried this with ricotta and I found it was a bit dry and didn’t seem ‘cheesy’ enough. I think you do need a lot of cheese that melts into strings (which ricotta doesn’t do, but cottage cheese kind of does), to make it cheesy. Was easy, though, and that’s always a great thing!

  76. Tara

    Wow – I’ve made this three times and it was so sinful and delicious. I keep meaning to make this to bring somewhere, but it’s so hard when I make it not to dig right in! I found even if I blend the cottage cheese first, it still kind of “clumps” back up during cooking. I’ve never liked cottage cheese, but thankfully, cannot taste it in this recipe.

  77. Mina

    Oh god, I’m gonna make this. I grew up trying to convince my mother to buy boxed mac and cheese whenever possible (I can count the number of times she agreed on one hand), as she always made it homemade. With onions. And cracker crumbs. Both of which I despised immensely. Even if I couldn’t really taste the onions, I knew they were there and that made it WRONG. I love you, mom, but I can’t find it in myself to accept your recipe as real mac and cheese.

  78. Eliza

    I used ricotta, skipped the butter, and used some ends of extra sharp cheddar and garlic herb cheddar and parm (less than a pound though) along with whole raw milk. It’s so good that my picky three year old asked for seconds… but maybe a bit dry.

  79. Eliza

    Mmmm! Second time and it’s even better… more cheese this time, cottage cheese, I still skipped the butter… it’s not dry at all, so gooood!

  80. msrhellie

    I printed this recipe out because it looked so darn good. I made it last evening and yes it was very good. I would not change a thing. I take that back, I would lower the temperature on my oven to 325 – 350 and perhaps use a water bath, it browned to quickly on the bottom. Being African American, for some reason we feel we make the best mac and cheese and it is a staple at our Thanksgiving dinner. My mom never ever brought that blue box into our home, always made it from scratch. Last year I gave my brother another recipe (because he makes the Thanksgiving dinner)which was good, but this year I am submitting this one…..YUMMO

  81. I’m making this tonight for dinner. It’s rainy, soggy, windy and cold here in Seattle and this will be the first time I’ve ever made homemade Mac & Cheese. My mom always used the “blue box” and I’ve only ever had dry, extra greasy, not-cheesy-enough, or weird-ingredient homemade Mac. So… this post speaks to exactly what I’ve been looking for in real Mac & Cheese.

    I blended the cottage cheese in the food processor w/o milk first and it got very smooth, so I’m looking forward to a fab dinner! Thanks!! Love, love, love your blog.

  82. bunny

    this sounds sooo good!

    also, when on the prowl for a recipe, check the box! many many years ago, my mom’s friend made macaroni and cheese while my mom was visiting and my mom was shocked to learn that it came from the back of the mueller’s elbow macaroni box. my mom has used it ever since, tweaking it however she likes every time, and it is always delicious (and never includes any funky stuff). i always forget that boxes (particularly for products that have been around forever) have recipes on them and not only that, they are super time-tested and, normally, easy to adapt to my needs.

  83. Abbey

    My husband was in the hospital Monday for an awful case of food poisoning and requested “comfort food” when he finally got his appetite back. I couldn’t think of anything better than this mac and cheese recipe. It was delicious. We used a good sharp cheddar and a bit extra cayenne and it was exactly what the doctor ordered!

  84. James

    Hi Deb –

    Just wondering if this will safely serve 5 adults for dinner?

    Just tried your mushroom lasagna, apple and cheddar scones.

    So good.

  85. Elly

    A few friends and I are Smitten Kitchen fans and knew that we’d be making at least a thing or two from your site for my 21st birthday dinner. Cheese is one of my most favorite things, so we took your advice and served it with a “g’normous” salad, wine, and bread from the local market. It was a fantastic addition to my evening, and was so rich and so well balanced by its counterparts. Thanks for the recipe, Deb!

  86. Angie

    YUM! I made this today and I did use the skim milk and nonfat cottage cheese and I can’t imagine it being any more fabulous! This is exactly what I was looking for and it was so easy to boot! Thank you!

  87. Angie

    Also, I made the pound of cheese with half sharp cheddar, a bit of parmesan and the rest colby jack. Gooooood! Best attempt at this yet…this is my new go to recipe for baked mac n cheese!

  88. Dee

    OMG! This is the easiest mac and cheese I have ever done in my life…I never cook on a Friday night but I wanted something comforting.I didn’t have a blender, no cayenne and no dry mustard. I used my mixer to blend the ingredients. I used almost a tsp. of ordinary yellow mustard, 2% milk and a little canned milk and I definitely added some nutmeg (dried). It is sooooooo good. I can’t believe it. My only concern was the placement in the oven since my element is at the TOP of my electric oven. Was it supposed to furthest away from the element?

  89. Leah

    I wonder if subsituting the whole milk for a 1% would work, or maybe condensed milk? And using 2% cottage cheese…I have made this twice already but I am always trying to make things a bit healthier.

  90. MikeB

    Certainly an easy recipe and with half white sharp and half medium yellow Tillimok this came out as tasty as it looked! I bit of heresy however, I tossed in two cans of Goya Pulpo in hot sauce (that’s octopus in an oil based sauce – I drained it well). Was well satisfied with the result on a chilly southern california day. Happy New Year to all!

  91. brooke

    simply amazing! and ten times easier than the recipe i grew up with. i love the 2:1 ratio of cheese to pasta, but the idea “no-boil” was what really grabbed me!

  92. Erin Day

    Ok, this looks amazing. I love the addition of cottage cheese in mac n’ cheese. This reminds me a bit of our family’s famous Great-Aunt Betty’s mac n’ cheese recipe. Hers calls for cottage cheese, sour cream, an egg and extra sharp cheddar. It’s tangy and scrumptious. The secret is to underboil the elbows and let the mixture sit for at least overnight before you bake it. It’s better if it sits for 24 hrs. I don’t know why, but it’s magical. I am going to try your version for more immediate gratification! Thank you. I am smitten with your kitchen. Hehe.

  93. Becky

    I think this is the best mac & cheese I’ve ever tasted-and I was a big fan of the other recipe you refer to before this. This one is a keeper! Love your site!

  94. Lora

    I made this with 1% milk, 2% cottage cheese, and a mix of mozzarella and cheddar; because that was what was in my refrigerator. It was delicous! My daughter couldn’t wait long enough to sit down, and tucked into her dinner standing up! I had to hide the cottage cheese container though, or she would not have eaten it!

  95. Amanda Robinson

    I liked that this was easy to make, no cooking the noodles on the stove or making a sauce. But, it wasn’t creamy enough for my liking – it seems almost grainy when I was eating it – I think that I’m going to have to stick to making a sauce!

  96. sam

    My husband said, “Phenomenal.” I let it sit a little too long after it came out of the over, making it more dry than I meant, but boy, was it good. I also used a larger platter than I needed to, only had an 8×8 and a somewhat larger oval, which I used. Might have been too large. Really great, easy and totally delicious for all ages, as we proved tonight. Thank you!

  97. I’ve just discovered your blog and had to try this. It tasted amazing, but seemed a little dry since I’m so used to overly cheesy, soggy versions (I also used 3/4 lb of cheddar). It was different, and I liked it!

  98. Pegi

    I love my more intensive recipe that involves making a sauce and all, but you may have won me over with the no boiling thing.

    Oh, and don’t be so quick to dis adding a bit of bacon to mac&cheese – it is phenomenal!

  99. Olivia

    Delicious!! I used ricotta instead of cottage cheese, and it still turned out great!! And it reheats like a dream (even 5 days later – my wonderful lunch today.) Definitely a recipe I’m holding onto!

  100. Kim

    Thank you so much! For a first-time mac-n-cheese maker this doesn’t look intimidating. Im trying this tonight! Thanks for the yummy idea!

  101. Sarah DC

    First time to the site via my colleague who is a devoted reader — clicked on “Surprise Me” and landed here — holy catfish! 1. What a great feature and 2. What a GREAT recipe to land on! Thank you thank you thank you!

  102. Ross


    I’ve been using your recipes for a little over 4 years now. I cook for Hillel of Colorado on Fridays, feeding somewhere between 50-80 people. This recipe has been made each year, and is one of the most popular dishes I’ve ever made. I dunno what it is (yes I do, whole milk, full fat cottage cheese, and 6lbs of extra sharp cheddah) about this recipe, but it’s so easy, and SOOO delicious.

    Thank you for everything you’ve done with this site, you continue to amaze me. Just wanted to let you know that dozens of people will enjoy this tonight and it’s all thanks to you!


  103. Kim

    Listened to you on Martha Stewart Everyday Foods last week while driving to my sons soccer game. Went to The Smitten Kitchen as soon as I got home. Love it! So, I am always in search of fabulous Mac & Cheese, always convinced that no matter how delicious, there’s a better recipe to be found. Well, my search is over, I will look no further! This is, hands down, the most delicious Mac & Cheese I have ever had! Thank you!

  104. Laura

    Hi Deb – at 8 months pregnant this recipe is the perfectly simple and delicious – THANK YOU! I keep thinking I will freeze some for life with a new baby – but then we eat it all. I have made one adjustment – I add a head of raw cauliflower cut into mini florets (the size of the pasta) and it adds a great flavor and a veggie…making a one dish meal that almost feels healthy. Thanks!

  105. Michelle

    I am the laziest of lazy chefs, and I have simplified this recipe even further! I use literally only three ingredients: pasta, half and half, and shredded cheese. If I’m feeling particularly lazy, I’ll even use a disposable pan. ;) But even with the reduced ingredients, it comes out simply amazing. It’s so easy and great for family parties. We just had one yesterday, and I made a double batch of this – it was a huge hit with the adults and kids alike.

    Anyway, for anyone who is interested, all I do is pour the pasta into the pan, cover that with a pint carton of half and half (no measuring! told you I was lazy, LOL), mix those together a bit to make sure the pasta is all covered and distributed evenly across the bottom of the pan, and then top with 3-4 generous handfuls of shredded cheese. I don’t even bother mixing at this point. I just make a nice thick layer, then cover with foil and pop in the oven for the first 30 min. When it comes out, I sprinkle with another generous handful of cheese (no butter) and pop back in for the last 30 min.

    It truly doesn’t get any simpler. And when I buy the pint of half and half and a disposable pan, I literally have no clean up other than the serving spoon. Deb, thanks for showing me that I don’t have to go through all the mess and hassle of making a sauce and cooking my pasta first to make amazing mac and cheese! Is there any better comfort food?

  106. Jen A

    Deb, I love this recipe!! I have tried Martha’s mac and cheese but didn’t think it was worth the time and effort. I needed a mac and cheese for a busy weeknight dinner and this is the one. I love it. It is so simple and delicious. Thanks, I love your site.

  107. Josh

    Thank you so much! As a 33 year-old bachelor, I love this site! I have tried to cook before, and while it’s obvious that I cook with love, the results have been mixed and sometimes even completely disastrous. I seem to be the only person in my family who was not born with the Southern Cooking Gene, and actually believed that I was hopeless in the kitchen and resigned to a life of take out, cereal, and sandwiches. Macaroni and Cheese is my favorite food ever, and I happened upon your website and became, well..smitten! Crossing my fingers and hoping for the best, I made this recipe on Friday night, and when I finally tasted the finished product, I could hardly believe that I had made it! Baked Macaroni that was rich and creamy and cheesy all the way through and didn’t require preboiling the noodles no less! Since then, I’ve made your Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares (HUGE hit at work!) and have my eye on the Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup next. I’m legitimately excited to go home from work and cook now! Thank you so much for giving me confidence in the kitchen! Who knew Macaroni and Cheese could be so profound?!

  108. Hi Deb,

    If I make this ahead (up to putting everything in the pan) and leave in the fridge for a day before baking, will it be okay? I’m worried that the noodles will turn to mush if I don’t bake right away. Thoughts?


  109. carli

    Ok, Deb- I’m having a mac n cheese crisis. I searched high and low for a great recipe at Thanksgiving. I was leaning toward the Martha Stewart one, and after seeing that you’d posted it, decided to go that route. In the end…yeah, it’s good. Solidly good. But for the PRICE and the EFFORT I wanted to be blown away and though it took me 2 days to admit it (because I wanted to have finally found THE recipe), I just wasn’t. It was a little flat for me. So here I am again. I’m interested in this recipe. Dare I try it for Christmas? What are your honest thoughts when comparing the two. Here’s what I’m going for- a nice “looseness”; not runny by any means and not even neccesarily creamy, but not dry. I hate the mac n cheese that you can cut into chunks. And a sharpness. Even with the pecorino the Martha recipe lacked any bite. Thanks for any thoughts. Love your site.

    1. deb

      Hi Carli — So, the Martha one will reheat better because it has a bechamel (white sauce) to suspend the cheese and this is mostly melted cheese and milk, no sauce. No mac-and-cheese reheats perfectly, btw, they all have a little oiliness from cheese that’s melted being melted a second time. But the white sauce/bechamel ones do so slightly better. That said, you can also make the whole thing the day before and just bake it the day of and it will be bubbly fresh. The Martha one is a little looser, but could be made more so by holding back some noodles, making more sauce or even playing around with dialing the flour back in the sauce a little, making it less thick. You also could punch up the cheese — using all cheddar for the gruyere and increasing the salt. Hope that helps.

  110. carmen

    @Michelle (143)- If you are still checking this, I used your “lazy girl” recipe and it was the ultimate success! I am keeping it for all future mac and cheese uses, especially on a cold night with a good movie or tv show. THANKS!

  111. Megan

    I made this and froze it (to eat in a few weeks when our baby arrives and I’m too crazed to make even something as simple as this recipe)… At what temp and for how long should I bake it when we take it out of the freezer?

  112. Eliza

    I just made a triple batch (that’s a LOT of cheese). It’s a favorite in our house and will come in handy in a few weeks (I’m freezing some) when my husband guts the kitchen (gah!). Thank you!

  113. Goojah Mama

    I have made this yummy Mac & Cheese once a week for the past four weeks since I discovered your recipe. Love the simplicity. I too had a bit of a grainy texture the first time I made it then realized that it will be creamy the more you “gently stir” after the first 30 minutes of baking. It has made it to my “favorites list”. Love your blog! Many thanks.

  114. Heide

    Made this tonight, and it turned out great! I added a head of broccoli (to the blender step) just to make me feel less guilty, still tasted amazing! As some others mentioned, mine was a bit curdle-y , but didn’t seem to impact the taste

  115. Allison

    Made this tonight, followed recipe to a T. Was terrible, hard to choke down. Disappointed and a waste of $$$ for all the cheese required. Sadly, the hunt is still on for a decent edible mac n cheese.

  116. Leah

    Sorry to hear that Allison, I have made this at least 10 times and it’s been delicious each time.
    Did u use full fat?

  117. Okay, I bought a pound of arugula at the farmers’ market yesterday, so started wandering around your archives looking for suggestions. Ran across this — and now my plan is mac and cheese with an arugula salad on the side! Not at all what I had expected, but boy oh boy does it sound yummy.

    (I’ve had success with the Alton Brown stovetop version, by the way.)

  118. britnaay

    haaaay! im britnaay and I made this Mac n cheese and it was like totally the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Like I couldn’t think of a better idea of a meal than this :-) lol anyway when I made it it, it looked creamier. So than I decided to make it less creamy by baking it more. It failed. ANYHOWS the results were fabulous and I reccomend it. :-)

  119. Holley

    I made this with ricotta rather than cottage cheese like a few commenters had suggested. Not worth making again that way. It tasted fine, nothing special, and was a bit greasy. It also was unattractively chunky-looking. One of my kids wouldn’t even taste it because she thought it looked so gross. If I’m going to eat something with a pound of cheese in it, I want it to be knock-your-socks-off delicious. With ricotta, this was not.

  120. Lisa

    The amount of pasta appeared so disproportionate to the huuuuge amount of cheese that I was skeptical – but I, um, might have just eaten almost a half-pan by myself. I didn’t have cottage cheese, so I used enough sour cream and french onion dip (heh) to equal 1 cup, and added a few dashes of hot sauce. GEEZ. Easiest mac and cheese I’ve ever made, and definitely a repeat. It’s not smooth and refined, but it reminds me of Grandma-type mac and cheeses at church potlucks. That’s a good thing.

  121. Jade

    just tried this gem and it turned out fabulously! thanks for posting. i misread your instructions and ended up blending most of the cheddar in with the cottage cheese mixture and it actually came out swell. we also had wet mustard not dry, and i used a tsp of that and it was great. i love that the recipe is so forgiving! husband, myself, sister-in-law, AND brother-in-law were happy all around! served with wine and an apple/arugula salad. the cheese and apples were a hit!

  122. Kim Simmons

    Curious if this will freeze and thaw well? My daughter loved the other Mac and Cheese on this site, but this one looks so much easier…

    1. deb

      Kim — The other mac-and-cheese will probably freeze better. The cheese in that one is suspended in a thicker sauce; it’s creamier. This one is best when first made.

  123. Thejewishhostess

    Loved this recipe- for my teenage daughter I substituted quinoa pasta and skim plus milk. Dijon mustard was fine. LOVE the no-cook pasta idea. I just forwarded this recipe to my married working daughters who are always looking for easy and hearty recipes for their hungry hubbies. Deb- I love your new cookbook- wishing you continued success! Marlene.

  124. Jess

    I made this a few days ago for my classmates and it was a big hit! Making it again tonight for my boyfriend and myself. I wanted to chime in here because I used a tiny amount of nutmeg this time around (didn’t last time) and my kitchen smells like heaven!

  125. Justin

    I have made this several times now. Love it. My favorite substitution has been Creme Fraiche for the cottage cheese. It was all I had in the fridge one night and so used it instead. For the people who don’t like cottage cheese I thought it made everything even more creamy. I also have been throwing in some black truffle oil, just a couple of teaspoons. People seem to think it takes it over the top. Personally I didn’t notice much difference.

  126. Justine

    I made this this weekend and it was so delicious. I was skeptical since it didn’t require making a cream sauce, like most recipes do, but this one was absolutely perfect, especially when paired with a nice light salad.

  127. Steph

    Made this last night and it was so good. Hit the spot on a cold night with some steak. I kinda guilted myself into making a salad too but I knew all I really wanted was the mac and cheese! I might add a bit more liquid to make more sauce. I also used mozzarella, the authentic parmesan cheese [not Kraft] and cheddar. Yum!! =D

  128. Kim

    Oh my goodness! This recipe is so good! I’ve tried making other mac and cheese recipes and none measure up to this one! Sooooo good!

  129. Erin

    I’ve made this twice now and both times my dinner guests were floored.

    I used yogurt instead of cottage cheese and whisked the wet ingredients together, and I had some purple curly kale lying around that I tore up and mixed in.

    Total winner.

  130. judy

    I’ve been thinking of mac and cheese for ages. Yesterday I tried to make it. I looked for a recipe without bechamel sauce. I found an easy one and made it. It called for 2 eggs, mustard and worcestershire sauce. Well I dropped the bottle. I had another but the smell from the broken bottle put me off. I can’t get sharp cheddar where I am. Only special cheese shops. I didn’t like it but yours sounds lovely. Jamie Oliver usez cottage cheese I stead of bechamel in is half hour meals programme.

  131. Carol

    This is a winner! I have had terrible luck with baked mac & cheese recipes, but even the 5 year old agreed – this one rocks! Yum!

  132. Al

    Made this tonight – was feeling a bit too hungry to wait for an hour for the dish to cook and for some reason just HAD to have mac and cheese tonight and this recipe looked the best… so there were some speed-up adjustments I made.
    I poured the milk and cottage cheese mixture into a pot, heated it up, added a little butter, salt, pepper and added the pasta to the mix. While I was grating the cheese and sauteing mushrooms (I had some for using up) the pasta got nice and soft. I added cheese, mushrooms and some additional milk to the pot, poured everything into a baking pan, put some cheese on top and stuffed it into a preheated oven. 15-20 more minutes in the oven were enough to have wonderful mac and cheese on my table!

  133. polly c

    I have made this recipe before over the years and it is amazing when it is hot out of the oven. I made it to bring to Thanksgiving dinner this year though though and by the time everything was ready – about two hours – it had turned to a dry, tough brick of starch and cheese. Nothing creamy about it at all. (I did a quick reheat in the microwave, but that didn’t help much.)


  134. proudm

    Have made this many times – usually cooking in individual 14 oz. ramekins, and it is so ridiculously good and insanely easy, and works just as well with gluten-free penne. One note though – this recipe serves about 4 if making individual servings.

  135. bd

    I love this recipe! I experimented recently, making it in a slow cooker. It looked pretty much done after one hour on high, but due to timing of the meal, it sat on low for about another hour and got a nice, brown crusty edge…. mmmmmm

  136. hanaleigirl

    It worked! It worked! Even at altitude (6200 ft), it worked! I did not add more liquid like I often need too. Fiance gobbled it down, going into the rotation for easy/fast meals. W00t!

  137. Sophie

    Deb or anyone else, could this version work as a camping style ‘foil packet’ recipe? Looking for simple, fool proof meals I can get the kids to eat on a raimy British camping trip. Thanks

  138. Allison

    It’s 3 in the morning, and I just woke up really hungry, so I tossed this dish together. It was PERFECT. I wasn’t sure a 9×9 square dish would be large enough, but it was just right. I followed the recipe exactly was written, though I was unsure of the cottage cheese (which I generally despise). But it gave the dish a depth that most mac and cheese recipes are missing.

    Also, if you think a 9×9 pan won’t make enough for a family, don’t worry. As Deb mentioned, make a salad with it, and this will be plenty. I have a history of annihilating mac and cheese, haha, and all I needed was a good scoop to be satisfied.

  139. Rebecca

    I added garlic powder, oregano, and parsley for an herby version. I also baked it in a 8ish” x 12ish” pan to maximize golden crust to cheesy goodness ratio.

  140. Katy

    This reminds me of my father’s macaroni and cheese recipe which is the only mac-and-cheese I had growing up and is still, with only a few deviations, the one I make.
    1 lb elbow
    1 lb sharp cheddar, shredded
    1 lb sour cream
    1 lb cottage cheese

    Boil pasta until al dente, drain and then add all other ingredients. Mix well, bake at 350F for about 30 minutes, or until golden, delicious and bubbling. Yum.

  141. Aida

    Just have to say, I’m now in a food coma. This was the best Mac and cheese I have ever had… I came to your site looking for a macaroni and cheese recipe earlier today, and so happened to have all these ingredients on hand… I subbed half the pasta for raw cauliflower, and just mixed it with the noodles and cheese mixture in the very beginning… I will never make another macaroni recipe ever…. AMAZING !

  142. Maro

    This is the best mac & cheese recipe — it’s versatile and simple. Kicking myself for the times I’ve made a bechamel when this existed.

    Made it twice now — tonight, with goat Gouda and a few bits and pieces left in the cheese drawer, added some scallions, too.

    I’ve never had cottage cheese around for it, but yogurt stands in just fine.

    Like another poster, I did half and half cauliflower and elbows and it was like scalloped veggies and mac/cheese had a baby. Yes, please.

  143. Sandy

    This is GOOD. I made a half-batch last night and due to family dietary requirements (my husband is mildly lactose-intolerant, altho he gets on better with well-cooked dairy, and doesn’t do well with sharp spices; Mom for whom I’m also cooking is *supposed* to be on a low-salt, low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, but owing to years of hot-pepper eating, has burned out her taste buds so anything not rather highly seasoned tastes bland/flavorless to her) made it in 4 individual casseroles. Easy. If you do that, measure everything (literally, 1 oz. pasta + 1-3/4 oz. cheese in each, 3/8 cup milk-mix). Also, reduce cooking time for the small dishes: 20 min. with foil, reduce heat to 350, 20 min. without foil, turn oven off and let them cool in residual heat for 15 minutes. I left out the salt, pepper & nutmeg, subbed mild Dijon mustard (1/2 tsp) for the dry, and made DH’s with all Monterey Jack cheese, then used mixed Jack/cheddar for the rest of us and added a spoonful of green-chile salsa to Mom’s. Perfect texture – the pasta on top was just chewy. I wish I’d remembered to butter the dishes, but I left out all the butter, because the tops looked oily when I took the foil off. And I used 2% milk and cottage cheese, bcz that’s what was on hand.

    And, adding cauliflower? Trying that next; thank you, Maro!

  144. Patricia Manfull

    What are the nutritional amounts, ie: calories, sat. fat, protein, etc. per serving. I really need that information.


    1. deb

      For a toddler, probably muffin or ramekin-cup sized. Or you can just do it in a rectangular or square pan and cut it into squares once cold and set and freeze them.

  145. Ellie

    Hi! I made this the other day, and was pleased how well it doubled for a 9 x 13 pan.
    I want to double-y double (er, quadruple) the recipe and make this in large disposable aluminum pans for a potluck lunch for a bunch of hungry teenagers, but won’t be able to make it fresh right before serving it. Am I crazy for trying to make that big a batch, keeping it in the fridge overnight, and then reheating it before serving? What, if anything, could go wrong?

  146. Sarah

    This is my go-to mac and cheese recipe. Last night I added Frank’s red hot sauce and chopped up cauliflower for some more zip, and it was great. Next time I do it that way, I think I’d add some blue cheese and maybe some scallions.

  147. Juliana

    I have made this (awesome) recipe a bunch of times and it has always come out perfectly…until recently. The past two times I have made it, the cheese and pasta don’t come together and I get goopy cheese mixture next to barely covered pasta. The only thing I think that has changed is location…we moved, so new oven. Any ideas before I move on to your other Mac and cheese recipe? Thank you!!

  148. Mindy

    This was a rare miss for me of the recipes on this site. I have been aware of this NYTimes recipe for awhile and was always skeptical, but finally figured since it was on smitten kitchen it was worth a shot. Granted, I altered the recipe by substituting ricotta for cottage cheese, so this isn’t entirely a fair review, but I did not love this. I found it edible, but the texture was weird, and my 6 year old refused to eat it. And if I’m going to make mac and cheese from scratch, even one as easy as this, then it needs to be one that my child will eat.

    1. Anne

      Mine turned out terrible also. I think it might have been better if I used better cheese. I just had store brand sharp cheddar. It was really a weird texture and too much cheese, not smooth at all, and I had used sour cream.

      1. Lizzie

        I am a huge fan of this site, but this was a rare miss for me. I followed the recipe to the letter, using sour cream rather than cottage cheese, and it came out a curdled wreck. It was also oddly dry. My husband, a mac and cheese worshipper, stared at the pan for five minutes in horror. We eventually tried to rescue it by adding in cream, which gave it a little sauce, but it still had a terrible grainy texture. The taste was fairly bland, too. Granted, I used typical store-bought cheddar, and a better quality cheese may have made a difference, but the depressing texture turned me right off. I’m wondering if it needed more milk–it may help to suspend the cheese as the pasta begins to absorb all the moisture.

  149. Sarah

    I am currently searching for my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe, and am trying a different recipe once per week. Based on internet comments, I am probably going to end up loving Martha’s Macaroni and Cheese the best, but in the name of science and cheese I must rule everything else out first. Currently tabbed recipes include ones from Smitten Kitchen, America’s Test Kitchen, Alton Brown, Ina Garten, Michael Simon, NY times, The Guardian, and Slate. The only thing I haven’t decided is whether to try Martha’s Mac and Cheese now (after which everything else may be a disappointment), or last (when we are all thoroughly tired of macaroni and cheese). I started with this recipe, and have made it twice.

    The first time I made this I followed the original recipe (meaning I included the nutmeg), but used your advice to puree the cottage cheese first which helped smooth it out. I ran into only one (human error) problem. After the first baking period, when I removed the foil, I accidentally turned the oven off. I turned it on again before putting the macaroni and cheese back in, and it was on when I checked on the macaroni a few minutes later. But when I went to take the macaroni and cheese out, the oven was off. Was there some mysterious oven-only power outage? Unlikely. Did someone else turn the oven off? Did I actually forget to press start, and thus the oven was slowly cooling down to around ~200 (I checked the temperature the oven turned on at after removing the mac and cheese) for the second half hour? Probably.
    Still, the cheese melted surprisingly well. It looked as if it had finished and set, and the cheese on top was clearly melted, if not browned. Unfortunately as soon as I scooped some out I could tell that there was a problem. It glooped onto the plate. The cheese had definitely separated, and oily liquid oozed out of the mound of macaroni. There were good aspects, however. It was very cheesy and sharp. The mustard wasn’t too strong, and you could taste a very slight heat from the cayenne. The noodles absorbed liquid well and yet still had a bit of a bite to them, like al dente pasta. It was the same when reheated.

    I made it a second time to give this recipe a fair shot, without messing up part of the cooking. I still followed the recipe, but also made some brand changes (listed below). The second time the macaroni and cheese browned beautifully on top. It didn’t form a thick crisp shell, only a thin one (I had centered it in the oven). The cheese sprinkled on top partway through cooking had separated, but the rest of the macaroni and cheese had not. The noodles were tender (as I suspect they were meant to be the first time). The cheese flavor was sharp and strong, despite me only using sharp cheese, not extra sharp. The spices weren’t really noticeable this time, however. The cheese was a bit grainy, not smooth as it would be with a cheese sauce. I’m not sure if this was a problem I had, or just how this recipe works. Overall, it was very cheesy and tasty. The cheese did separate on re-heating, but that was expected.

    For everyone that also had the cheese separate: due to me trying to find out what went wrong with my first batch, I have learned several things about cheese separating when melting and ovens thanks to the internet:
    1. The sharper a cheese is, the more likely it is to separate. (Use milder cheese?)
    2. Fat is a stabilizer. (Use higher fat milk, cottage cheese, and/or butter?)
    3. Cheese is more likely to separate when it is melted at too high of a temperature. (Adjust oven temperature? Adjust location in oven? Keep cheese cool so it melts more gradually once in oven?)
    4. Ovens may heat from the top, bottom, or both. In general, the center part of an oven is the safest, using lower shelves browns the bottom of your dish or helps center a really tall dish, and the upper part is the hottest and helps brown the top of your dish.

    Differences between first and second time, from most likely to have made a difference to least likely:
    1. First time: may have accidentally turned the oven off. Second time: No problems.
    2. First time: used 8oz Cabot extra sharp New York style cheddar and 8 oz Cabot sharp Vermont cheddar cheese (or the sharp NY and extra sharp VT, don’t remember). Second time: used 16 oz Cabot sharp Vermont cheddar cheese (white).
    3. First time: Used Friendship 4% small curd California style cottage cheese. Second time: used Breakstone’s 4% small curd cottage cheese.
    4. First time: Put casserole dish in the upper third of the oven (second from the top, of 5 racks). Second time: Put dish on center rack.
    5. First time: measured out everything in advance, so that things were sitting on the counter and inching closer to room temperature. Second time: Grated cheese in advance and put in fridge, kept each ingredient in fridge until last possible moment.
    6. First time: Mixed cheese and milk mixture, then noodles, and let it sit for a few minutes while oven warmed. Second time: Mixed noodles and milk mixture, then cheese, and put it in the preheated oven right away.
    7. First time: Land O’Lakes unsalted butter. Second time: Fancy European style Land O’Lakes unsalted butter (higher fat content).
    8. First time: I didn’t need a whole tablespoon of butter to grease the pan, but I sort of mushed/smeared the extra on the bottom. Second time: I didn’t need a whole tablespoon of butter to grease the pan, so I only used what I needed, naturally.
    9. First time: freshly grated nutmeg. Second time: already ground nutmeg.

    I have no idea which of these changes caused the cheese to not separate. But they are possible solutions.

  150. Kim G

    This was sooooo good BUT my sauce curdled/ which happens every time I try a Mac and cheese recipe without a roux. Can anyone help?! I would love to make it again. Thanks!

  151. Sybil

    Can you eliminate the cottage cheese (something I never have on hand or buy) or perhaps substitute something else successfully? I love the idea of no-boil pasta and everything in one pan.

    1. Liz deForest

      I have been making this for years and never have cottage cheese on hand. I use a bit more milk. I also use high quality whole wheat macaroni because that is what is on hand. This recipe is very forgiving.

  152. Kim G

    Would someone please speak as to why this recipe curdles? I love the flavor and have made it 3 times with different cheeses and get the same result every time.

          1. Kara

            I followed the recipe exactly, but like many other reviewers the texture was grainy. Did not use cottage cheese for that very reason— and used Cabot cheese as well. Will not make this again.

        1. deb

          I’m sorry to hear. I haven’t had curdling on this but it is near the top of my to-revisit list this winter so I should be able to tell you more soon.

        2. Kristen

          I make this all the time and it works perfectly every time. I always use sour cream since I always have that on hand. I have tossed in half a head of ground cauliflower for some extra fiber and it just melts in and you don’t even know it’s there, so that would be a good option for kids who don’t eat vegetables. Honestly, I have made this without even using the recipe and measurements, and it turns out perfectly every time. A really hard recipe to mess up.

  153. Marion Tayor

    very easy and satisfying; has a nice ‘kick’ from mustard, ground pepper and healthy dash of cayenne. Used 1/2 of the recommended cheddar (ie, 8oz instead of 1#), and it seemed plenty ‘cheesy’

      1. Ellen Berkowitz

        Hi – was about to make this for a meal train. In 2012 you said the other mac and cheese would freeze better and in 2018 you said it was fine to freeze this one. I’d rather make this one — I’ve made it multiple times — but if they reheat it I’m concerned it will separate. Thoughts?

        1. Elizabeth

          Can yogurt be substituted for sour cream? I make that swap frequently when cooking and wondered if you have tested that in this recipe.

  154. Diane

    I know I’m digging in the archive but I’ve gotta ask some questions. We are doing our best to pull of Thanksgiving while living out of the country. Your green bean casserole is already on the menu. I have some homesick Americans requesting macaroni and cheese. We have something very similar to cottage cheese that is really delicious and oddly creamy even though it’s lowfat. I don’t even know if I can get full fat cottage cheese here. Is the direction about the milk and cottage cheese being full fat about flavor or chemistry? I’m also struggling with the pasta to cheese ratio but have learned to trust you and your many followers.

  155. Trevor

    I’ve been a fan of yours for years but it seems odd to me to call this recipe your own, even with the “adapted from” line when it’s almost 1:1 to the original New York Times recipe, especially when looking at your 2006 version of the recipe. How did the 2006 version differ from the NYT original?

  156. Erika

    I love this recipe so much—it’s my standard mac and cheese (added it to the Thanksgiving table last week!). Like Deb, I’ve found that you can make it with 3/4 lb of cheese, not a full pound, and I skip the nutmeg bc that’s just weird. I tend to reserve 1/2 cup for sprinkling… and bc I like my mac and cheese to have a little depth, I usually add 1/4-1/2 cup minced yellow or sweet onion.


    1. Virginia

      Try the nutmeg! Seriously, it’s the secret ingredient in every cream sauce I make, and it’s delicious. Just grate in a bit from a whole nutmeg, or sprinkle in a teensy pinch if you have it already ground. It gives the sauce a wonderful depth of flavor, but doesn’t make it taste like Christmas cookies or anything. Adding onion sounds yummy, too!

  157. Charlotte Knox

    Sounds yummy for my tummy.
    We only use Cabot cheese at our house because it’s Lactose Free !! So, for those with lactose intolerance they could use ‘LACTAID’ brand milk and the CABOTS cheese.
    Thanks for always sharing your work with the world

  158. Barb

    Do you think it will be ok with gluten free quinoa, rice, and cornflour pasta? It looks delicious and sounded wonderful bubbling away the other day on your feed.

    1. I just made it with 1/2 c 2% greek yogurt and 2 1/2 cups whole milk – delicious! However it did get grainy as it cooled. I was using up some pre-shredded cheese, so I wonder if that was why. I’m going to try it again with a proper block of cheddar.

      1. Erika

        Ooh! The only time I’ve ever had any texture issues with this recipe is when I used pre-shredded cheese. Usually I use Cabot, a mix of 2 of the very/super sharp cheddars, and about 3/4 of what it calls for. Other than that I stick to the recipe (other than adding minced onion…)

  159. Heather

    This unfortunately did not work for me. It could be because I used creme fraiche and cheese other than cheddar. It turned out very oily on top and not creamy or saucy at all. The other two mac’n’chee recipes on the site are far superior, and Martha’s, especially, is more forgiving in terms of using whatever cheese you have on hand. Jamie Oliver also has a nice one, with tomatoes in it.

  160. This has been my favorite Mac and cheese recipe since I first made it several years ago. We have an open house on Halloween, and this is the most popular thing we serve. It’s so good, my friend asks that I bring it to her holiday party every year. In fact, I’m making it today. I also have to make it for her same friend next November when she runs the NYC Marathon. I’m tempted to try one of the cottage cheese alternates today, so I don’t have to mess up the blender… but I don’t want to mess with perfection. No need to try Martha’s recipe as this is the best. Everyone loves it!

  161. Sam

    Made this last night. It tasted good but it definitely wasn’t “luscious.” It was dry and curdled. The cheese separated and I think the sour cream got all lumpy. Made a different SK Mac & cheese based on a Martha Stewart recipe a few weeks ago that was amazing. This just isn’t that great.

  162. Chelsea

    Made this last night…well, kinda. Used probably 1.5 c milk, 1 c half and half, a dash of lemon juice, and no cottage cheese (or substitute). Then I added 2 eggs because I was worried it wouldn’t be thick enough. Shockingly, these substitutions were highly successful! I thought it was delicious and didn’t notice any separating problems that others have noted (but maybe I’m just not that observant/discerning?).

    I also subbed a bit for the spices – some hot sauce and a bit of prepared yellow mustard instead of the cayenne and dry mustard. (Clearly my kitchen is really well stocked.) I’d recommend dry mustard rather than prepared (and if you use prepared, don’t use that much and mix it in really well) but I think the hot sauce sub was just fine.

  163. Alyssa

    Well this was a Hard No, one of only a handful from SK, which is my go-to. I followed this to the letter, down to the recommended Cabot cheese. Used sour cream because cottage cheese is another Hard No. This clumped up big-time in the oven, which means my kids wouldn’t touch it, and frankly I wasn’t interested in that texture, even if it tasted good. Not sure what happened. Mine wasn’t dry, but was a curdled mess :( Bummed because it was SO easy!

    1. mister worms

      My experience was very similar, sadly. I used Cabot extra sharp, sour cream, low fat milk and although I am a compulsive recipe tinkerer, I stuck with the directions. There wasn’t much of a “sauce” at the end but oil slicked cheesy noodles. They didn’t taste bad, but if I’m going to use a pound of cheese (omg) and indulge in that much fat and carbs, my expectations are going to be fairly high. It’s too bad since I like these one-dish sort of recipes with uncooked pasta and an unfussy recipe should be reasonably forgiving.

    2. Jen

      I’ve never written a bad review, and never experienced a recipe from Smitten Kitchen that I felt even “meh” about. I have loved them all. But this was awful.

      I followed the recipe exactly as written with no substitutions. The whole thing curdled. I’m disappointed to have spent money on these ingredients, and feel even worse having to throw the whole thing out. I should’ve read the other review writers who had the same issue.

      Love all of the recipes I’ve tried here, but if you’re reading this, please skip this recipe and try another.

  164. Tracy

    This recipe was great! I used nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, not because I’m a dieter or fat free person but because I was trying to avoid that brick in the stomach too full feeling I always get after eating mac n’ cheese. And I messed up and added the quarter cup of cheese on top at the beginning instead of halfway through, and did not mix either. Other that that, I followed the recipe to the letter. I really enjoyed it! It was still very rich (hard not to be with a pound of cheese) but not overly so. I thought about replacing the milk with buttermilk but figured one substitution was enough in these uncertain times. Now the real test will be if my toddler eats it. I would recommend putting a cookie sheet under the baking dish because mine bubbled over and caused some smoky burnage on the bottom of my oven.

  165. Debra Murphy

    This is amazing! My go-to has always been the Barefoot Contessa’s but I was looking for something less involved. Honestly, this recipe is just as good with so much less effort. I skipped the extra butter on top but followed the recipe otherwise and it is a winner! Thank you, Deb!

  166. Robin

    Made this during quarantine instead of ordering out for pizza. It seriously could not be easier or more delicious. I’ve been recommending it to all my friends who aren’t still pretending to not eat carbs. I used sour cream and creme fraiche because it’s what I had on hand (not because I’m fancy but because I shop super randomly these days. The hour-long wait to get into the store leaves me brain dead.) Didn’t have quite enough milk but I added a few tablespoons of water and hoped the full fat sour cream would balance it out. It worked! I added bread crumbs because we had leftovers from another recipe and it was a nice crunch bit of goodness but you’ll be fine without it. Everyone loved it, including my 10 year old who prefers her mac n cheese from a box. And glad I didn’t spend the $40 on sub-par, not-NY pizza.

  167. This can become an expensive dish to make when using luxurious substitutes for cottage cheese so, my question is: For the sake of economy would it be okay to use 1 cup of evaporated milk instead of cottage cheese, or, perhaps 1/2 cup of evaporated paired with 1/2 cup of ricotta? I, too do not like using cottage cheese in a creamy sauce.

  168. Liz Duerk

    I made this today and it was very good but very rich (for my taste buds :) ). I used sour cream which was tasty but I think next time I make it, I’ll cut the amount used in half. Very cheesy and delish! I would definitely recommend trying this recipe!

  169. Meghan

    Made this basically to the T except for instead of elbows we used trompelli. I don’t know if that’s what caused this to go wrong or what. But I agree with the comment that said this was very ‘kugel’ like and seemed almost curdled. It tasted good but just didn’t hit the spot for mac and cheese that we were looking for.

  170. sange

    There are 3 mac and cheese recipes on SM and personally, this one didn’t give me the cheesy ooze I want in macaroni and cheese. It was good, quick, and didn’t call for $50 in cheese to make dinner for 4 people (all good things!) – but the other two recipes on this site definitely have a better (and tastier) wow factor.

  171. Melanie

    The recipe was delicious, but unfortunately it curdled. I used sour cream and sharp cheddar. I followed the recipe exactly – any idea what could be the reason? It’s such a pity because the recipe is so simple and otherwise super delicious.

      1. Elisabeth S

        Same, same. Sour cream. Cabot cheese. I thought maybe my GF pasta was the problem, because followed the recipe to a T otherwise, but now I don’t know. I should have read through the comments first!

  172. Joanna D-C

    I started making this before reading the comments, at which point I got nervous – they’re pretty mixed. But I followed through, and I’m glad I did. I’ll be making this again. Yummy comfort food that took about ten minutes to put together on a busy weeknight when I had leftover sour cream to use up and no time or patience for anything fussy.

    The only significant thing I did differently from the written recipe is that I used half the amount of cheese called for (half a pound instead of a full pound) because more seemed over the top, and I had no regrets – the result was plenty cheesy. For the type of cheese, I threw in what I had left of different things in my fridge: about a third sharp cheddar, a third gouda, a (smaller) third parmesan. I used sour cream instead of cottage cheese, and semi-skimmed milk (the U.K. equivalent of 2%). Everything went into a covered pyrex dish at gas mark 5 for the specified amount of time (although I uncovered it later than the recipe said to, more like 50 minutes in).

    The dish did not have any sauce – more like some soft baked cheese mixture cuddling the macaroni. Which was still delicious and comforting, but may be why some other comments complain of it being ‘dry’ (which I suppose it was, but not, in my opinion, in a bad way). Upping the amount of milk and sour cream, and sticking to the plan of keeping it covered for longer than half of the overall cooking time, should fix that. Even if you don’t, though, it’s still warm, soft, cheesy goodness that takes almost no time to prep and leaves very few dishes. Give it a go!

  173. Kalle

    Fingers crossed for an answer before thanksgiving! Any chance this same recipe could be done in the crock pot if I parboiled the noodles?

    1. deb

      I wouldn’t boil the noodles and then make the recipe as-is because the liquid level presumes that your noodles are uncooked. I haven’t made crockpot mac-and-cheese before but if it usually works, I don’t see why you couldn’t just place all the ingredients in there as written and let the crockpot do as the oven would. Good luck!

      1. Sue Smith

        Mine also split. I used 1/2 c sour cream
        1/2 c milk. Fresh grated Tillamook (all we in PNW use) sharp and extra sharp cheese. Yes, it was tasty and we adults will certainly not let it go to waste, kids were not convinced.

  174. Judy

    I also recommend the Mac and cheese recipe in Art Smith’s cookbook. Similar concept-classic without extraneous ingredients or flavors. I think it calls for liquid smoke which I eliminated, and I think I use more dry mustard. It’s perfect and delicious, and I bake it in a9x13 roasting pan to increase the crunchy top layer. I highly recommend it.

  175. Christina

    Maybe this is a stupid question but can you sub Greek yogurt for the sour cream. The dairy in our house is limited to milk and Greek yogurt. We normally use the yogurt whenever we want sour cream on a dish.

  176. Kathleen

    I’ve had a version of this recipe for many years, and shared it with the community we were a part of in Stockholm in the ‘aughts. Since the people living in our Visiting Scholars complex were from all over the world, we would all take turns sharing a special recipe from our country. This was ours!

  177. Jessica

    Smells delicious and I like the taste. I’m a bit reluctant about serving it to others. Like other commenters, I followed the recipe exactly and it curdled.

  178. Sandy

    Pretty tasty! Just made for Thanksgiving dinner with some changes: used Plain Greek yogurt in place of Sour Cream/Cottage Cheese, used yellow Mustard rather than Dry Mustard, added a squirt of Sriracha and instead of 8oz I just used the full 10oz bag of noodles.

  179. Trene

    I’m a big Smitten Kitchen fan and can’t remember a recipe I’ve made from this site that wasn’t phenomenal. Unfortunately, this recipe was quite average to me and I definitely won’t make it again. On the plus side: the pasta did cook through until tender, which was my main point of skepticism. The dish cooked up exactly in line with the recipe instructions and had a beautifully brown and cheesy top. The flavor was quite good as well – though a bit mustardy for my taste – I think the flavor would be great for a summer barbecue with grilled or smoked meat. I was also impressed that the flavor was so satisfying with only 1 cheese (I used sharp white cheddar). That said, I had the same experience some other commenters did – the dish looked curdled and quickly turned tough as it cooled. My guess is this is the starch from the pasta at work (which usually cooks off when you parboil the pasta). I’m not a fan of creamy stovetop mac – my family only ever makes baked mac and cheese that bakes up like a firm casserole, but I’m used to something with a luscious cheese-pull when hot and much more silky than this. Some others thought the curdled/graininess of this dish was from not using a roux, so I’ll also share that my typical mac and cheese also doesn’t use a roux but it has never cooked up curdled. It’s a similar base of sour cream, milk, and seasoning but I use egg in it as well and at least 1 cheese with the cheddar that’s softer than the cheddar (e.g. gouda). For reference the recipe I use is very similar to Sunny Anderson’s spicy mac and cheese. Hope this helps others and thanks for years of AMAZING recipes Deb!

  180. V

    This was wonderful and just what I was looking for. Love that I don’t have to pre-cook the noodles-it’s a game changer. thank you!!!

  181. Cristina

    I made this with gemelli instead of elbows and dijon mustard instead of dried mustard. I let it cook for 10+ minutes with the oven turned off. It was delicious – I willmake this again! I’ll also freeze a few portions to keep some for another day.

  182. I made this for Thanksgiving and again tonight and it is incredibly simple and very rich and tasty! I use 2% Greek yogurt instead of the cottage cheese or sour cream, and it works great. I also use 1/2 extra sharp and 1/2 sharp cheddar. I don’t think I will ever make mac n’ cheese again by boiling macaroni first and making a sauce with a roux. This one’s a winner!

  183. Arleen Smith

    Wanted to make this and add lobster to make……wait for it, Lobster MacnCheese!
    Cook the lobster first? Boil, broil, or sauté it? When would you add it in?

  184. Caroline Wallace

    I am always scared of pasta dishes where you cook the pasta in the sauce, because I’m afraid it will be gluey. I wasn’t sure this was going to work when I realized I was out of sour cream and substituted cream cheese. But, I trusted Deb and this mac came out PERFECT. Absolutely delicious, perfectly cooked, crispy brown top. Everything I want from a mac and cheese! Make immediately.

  185. DT

    Mine curdled too. I followed recipe to a T except subbed sour cream for the cottage cheese. Looked like scrambled eggs were in there. However, all 5 of us ate it with no complaints and the taste was good. Love that the pasta cooks IN the sauce in the oven, saving time.

  186. SBL

    I’ve made this recipe several times and loved it. I wondered, though: would a low-carb version work for times when pasta isn’t an option?

    So, I made the sauce as written (cottage cheese variety), but reduced the milk by half. Then, cut a large head of cauliflower into florets and roasted them until soft w/crispy edges. Mixed into the sauce in place of pasta and baked for 30 minutes. Totally fabulous.

    1. deb

      There is a print icon that leads to a print template at the bottom of each recipe, where it says “DO MORE:” You can also click CTRL or ⌘ + P from any recipe post and it will take you to a streamlined print template.

  187. Samantha

    Hi! I’ve made this quite a few times (usually with some smoked gouda and whatever else I have on hand) and love the taste, but I also often encounter the curdling problem others have mentioned. Any ideas on how to avoid that?

  188. Kelsey

    I made this for the first time and brought it to a potluck dinner un-tasted. It was my first homemade mac and cheese. Everyone raved about it and wanted to know who made it and I wasn’t even a little bit surprised because Deb never lets me down! Everyone needs a go-to tried-and-true recipies-always-work place and smitten kitchen is absolutely that for me. Thank you!

  189. Courtney

    My kids wanted to make dinner and chose this because they didn’t need to boil the pasta. I was a little skeptical after reading some of the comments but it was so so good. We used sour cream, and took a previous commenter’s advice and did half mild cheddar, half sharp (nothing fancy). We forgot the butter completely. It baked up perfectly—browned on top, cheesy and smooth sauce, and somehow there was kind of a crust on the bottom too (?). Yum. My youngest asked for seconds after his first bite!

  190. Chris W

    I’ve made this recipe a few times and we really enjoy it. My bf makes a great “fancy” mac and cheese with a mix of cheeses and a roux, and last night he declared this mac to be even better than his and “restaurant quality.” The texture is definitely different than a mac made with a roux, which is why I think some commenters find the finished product to be curdled or separated. This is definitely a dense, intensely cheddary mac and cheese, and if you’re looking for something very smooth and creamy, this might not be the recipe for you.

  191. Jamie

    How would you adjust this for a gluten-free pasta? In my limited experience, GF (rice) pasta cooks MUCH faster than traditional, so presumably would need less baking time? Maybe baking for only 20-30 minutes covered and then slid under a broiler for the last few minutes to caramelize the cheese on top? I love this idea of not preboiling the pasta, especially since GF pasta goes from al dente to mush in no time at all.

  192. Marlene

    I see all the other comments were from eons ago, but I am here to say that in 2021, I made this mac ‘n cheese using gluten free elbows and oh boy, is it good!!
    Thanks, thanks so much!! ❤️

  193. Diana

    I have this in the oven now, and I hope it lives up to the hype! My concern is not boiling the pasta before putting in the oven. But we’ll see! I’m wondering if you can please share cup measurements for the cheese and pasta, instead of the pound measurement? Thanks!

  194. Katie

    I’ve made this a few times now and it is one of my faves. Easy to prep ahead of time and tasty. My son is two and used to like it but lately won’t eat much when I make it. Such is the nature of toddlers. I almost never put in the extra butter (I forget) and tend to use whatever varieties Of cheese I have left in the fridge. Today I used cheddar, fontina, and smoked Gouda. It was tasty!!!!

  195. taash

    I made this a few nights ago, and doubled the recipe so I’d have leftovers. Despite my fears that it wouldn’t thicken, it came out perfectly.

    Some thoughts:

    I used extra-sharp cheddar, and the night I made it, that was too intense. It mellowed by the next day, but in future, I’d use a milder Cheddar — and I used nearly one part Emmenthal to three parts Cheddar. I recommend adding an alpine cheese for the gooey, stretchy texture. I’ll try upping the Emmenthal next time to see how that works.

    It didn’t brown over the entire top, only in the corners, and to be honest, I love the contrast of a crisp/crunchy gratin. In future, I’ll add buttered crumbs or torn-up bread to create the crust.

    Bacon will turn the volume up to 11.

  196. samantha

    hoping to use this recipe for thanksgiving! i’m wondering though if it could be made in a crockpot instead. and if so, any recipe changes to accommodate the different baking method?

  197. Danita

    Tasted great. I forgot to add the butter at end but it was fine without. I used sour cream and Trader Joe’s extra sharp cheddar. Love how easy it is to put together.

  198. Erica

    Finally found my perfect mac & cheese recipe—thank you, Deb, as always for absolute magic! I’ll be making this again right away since it’s too delicious not to add it to our Thanksgiving line-up, especially since it’s so easy. I opted for creme fraiche and added a generous splash of heavy cream, some gruyere, and a little bit of Trader Joe’s caramelized onion cheddar, and I never want another version, though I’m sure it’s terrific as written.

  199. Colleen

    I have made this many times and plan to make it this Thanksgiving! I have only ever used mascarpone (instead of cottage cheese or ricotta) and cabot cheddar. The texture has always been excellent the recipe loved by all from the 2 year old to the grandparents. An amazing go-to for my family!

  200. Elise

    I absolutely love most Smitten Kitchen recipes, and was super excited to try this because of how easy it looked, but this one was a miss! The top was a beautiful browned lid, but underneath, the sauce was curdled, similar to other commenters. I used sour cream and cheddar, as recommended, so I am not sure where it went wrong.

  201. Niki Cunningham

    I made this without the mustard, cayenne, or nutmeg and added pureed spinach. I also used ricotta and all the random cheese in the fridge (some mozarella, monterey jack, cheddar, colby) and it was was DELICIOUS. Huge crowd pleaser–adults and kids. thanks!

  202. Christine

    OMG – I couldn’t believe how easy this was to make and how DELICIOUS it is. I’ve tried this and the Martha’s Mac & Cheese and while Martha’s is great, not sure it is worth the work when this one is so yummy. I made it with sour cream and did use the nutmeg. Wouldn’t change a thing.

  203. Jordan Battani

    I’m late to this party but feel compelled to comment. I’ve made this EXACTLY as described several times and it’s always been a big hit. (And here’s where I turn into that commenter who doesn’t follow the recipe….)
    Today I had no milk, but had some wonderful buttermilk that needed using. And oh! A fridge container of some roasted cauliflower needed to be used (so it became half(ish) of the macaroni….) I always use Greek yogurt for the cottage cheese substitution. And then I was out of elbows – so it had to be the penne….
    Everything else (and the method) exactly as written.
    Still sublime. This is truly an awesome recipe (or, as I used it just-this-once) a guideline.
    ThanksDeb! Chag Pesach sameach…

  204. Mary C.

    I have been making this recipe for years and cannot believe I have not yet left a comment. I will forever defend this recipe. It is not your creamy, saucy, kind of mac and cheese, but it is simple and divine. I typically use sour cream but this time I had whole milk Greek yogurt needing to be used. The end result was just as amazing. I also tend to lean towards the 3/4 of the amount of cheese prescribed method to feel slightly better about the enormous serving I consume. Amazing Sunday night dinner with leftovers to make Monday brighter. Thanks!

  205. Grace Hyde

    Made this tonight and it was so easy and delicious. I used sour cream but didn’t have enough to make the 1 cup. But I did have a little bit of sour cream/horseradish mix leftover from steak for dinner the other evening. The small kick of horseradish was good! I really prefer this method versus the stovetop method. No boiling pasta ahead – just dump everything in and bake! Thanks for the recipe.

  206. Moira O’Connell

    A perennial Thanksgiving favorite in my house is “Classic Cul de Sac Mac ‘n’ Cheese” from Claud Mann’s “Dinner & a Movie Cookbook.” Mucho cheese.

  207. Bethe K.

    I’ve never been disappointed by a SK recipe until now. This was…inedible. I used sour cream and Cabot extra sharp with regular milk, so I’m not sure where it went wrong, but it was alarmingly awful. A bit curdled, way too oily, and just yuck. I’ll stick to not skipping the roux.

  208. Rebecca

    This was pretty good but something was off with the texture; too thick of a top layer of cheese and not enough goo to hold it together. However, it was super easy to make and of course I will eat the leftovers because there’s really no such thing as bad mac & cheese in my book!

  209. Helen A

    Followed the recipe to a T. Unfortunately it was not very tasty, although it was fast to make. The sour cream curdles and noodles were generally on the dry side. Maybe cooking the noodles first might help with the dryness issue, but then it wouldn’t be a one pot meal.

  210. Meg Perry

    Made this with banza chickpea pasta for a guest with celiac- came out great. I have childhood nostalgia for Mac and cheese with velveeta so I swapped that for part of the cheddar. No leftovers, much to my sorrow!

  211. CJ

    Made this for dinner using ricotta. It is quite tasty but next time I will not dot the butter on top as it just became an oily mess, but will use more than quarter cup of cheese on top. So happy not to have to cook noodles before hand!

  212. Grace

    Perfect size recipe and tastes great! For a very hands-off recipe, this is perfect.
    I agree with Deb’s tweak to not use cottage cheese if you’d like to avoid any slight graininess, but if swapping for a different dairy I increase the salt by 1/4 tsp.
    Also, I find using Colby Jack cheese (purchased in block form and then shredded) improves the texture and also makes the flavor more palatable for picky eaters.

    Note: I’ve baked this in a glass pan and a metal pan side by side, and the glass pan caused the cooking time to lengthen and the sauce to separate more than the batch in the metal pan. Also, do not use bagged shredded cheese, as it will cause it to be VERY separated and grainy.

  213. Amy G

    Man, idk if my dried mustard is more potent or what, but mine came out tasting like horseradish (and i guarantee i didn’t use that accidentally, I don’t have any), and I’m certain I only used a tsp. Quite sad about it, because I don’t think I can stand to eat the rest. :( So if you’re like that about mustard/horseradish, too, I recommend skipping it.

  214. Holly Smith

    I doubt anyone will see this comment in time, but I’m putting it out there anyway! I’ve used this recipe before and loved it, but tomorrow I would like to double it and bake it in a 9×13 pan. Can anyone recommend to me how I ought to adjust the baking time accordingly? Thanks!

    1. Doris Riener

      Holly, I was also looking for help doing this back in March but decided against it due to many comments about “curdling”. I made this recipe once as directed and loved it but was afraid to experiment with two 9×13 pans for a party. Instead I opted for this recipe [], which I made the day before and baked the day of. It turned out great. Hope this helps!

  215. Sarah

    This looked so good and I made it immediately. Unfortunately it was a waste of ingredients. The cheese “sauce” doesn’t cling to the pasta and is just a broken mess. I’m an experienced cook and this should have been a successful recipe. It wasn’t.

  216. Leslie

    I have a baked Mac & Cheese recipe passed down by my grandmother who stated making it during the Depression (my mom was born in 1929, 4 months after it started) my mother learned by watching her mom, I in turn watched mine….we have NO written recipe for this lol, it’s all based on how it looks and how it ‘feels’ lol, when it feels ‘right’ it is, it’s definitely one of those “your ancestors tell you it’s good” recipes lol

  217. Marian

    Why do you use so much more cheese in this baked mac and cheese compared to the stovetop version? In this baked recipe compared to the stovetop version, there is only twice as much pasta (8 ounces vs. 4 ounces in the stovetop recipe), but an additional 15 ounces of cheese (16 ounces vs. only 1 ounce in the stovetop recipe), which is way more cheese than in the stovetop version. Shouldn’t the stovetop recipe maybe have a bit more cheese (it has 1/16 of the cheese in the baked version)? Additionally, you call for 1 cup of cottage cheese or sour cream, which would add more richness and flavor to the baked version, and neither of these ingredients are added to the stovetop version, but now I want to try adding in maybe a tablespoon of one or the other to see what it tastes like.

  218. Ingrid

    Liked the flavor but like others said it curdled and was dry. I wonder how this could be corrected since the recipe is easy and flavor good. I used creme fraiche, NO cottage cheese.

  219. Stephanie

    Here is a crazy hack that happened:
    I had no sour cream and no cottage cheese…but, I did have Trader Joe’s whole milk Eggnog yogurt. I tried it and noticed it was subtly sweet, tangy, hint of nutmeg. It worked! (I did NOT add more nutmeg).
    Honestly, it gave luscious bechamel vibes.

    1. Stephanie

      Instead of cayenne, I added some red pepper flakes.
      In addition to dry mustard, I added a dollop of dijon.
      On top, instead of the additional 1/4 cheddar, I opted for a combo of mozzarella and pecorino.

  220. FF

    I made this yesterday with sour cream instead of cottage cheese, penne instead of elbow macaroni, & extra sharp cheddar. Easy & good, both right out of the oven & the next day. It’s not better than creamy versions with Bechamel sauce but it is faster & perfectly OK for family meals. Thanks!

  221. Leslie Stout

    Deb! Fellow Smitteners! What a great recipe this is! I love the technique, and the finished product is every bit as delicious as it is gorgeous. I had several bits of leftover cheeses, from sharp cheddar to oozing stinky-ish Brie; they all contributed something to the enjoyment of the dish. Thank you AGAIN, Deb Perelman

  222. Karen Yoho

    OK – it’s in the oven as hungry soon-to-be diners are either watching football, scrolling through devices, or napping. . . Waiting for thanksgiving meal. I don’t understand how 1/2 pound of pasta is enough. And it looks a little curdled. But we added more cheese and threw it back in the oven. I should have test drived at home before making in a strange oven. I love SK recipes so I am sure all will be well.

  223. Elisabeth S

    FYI this did NOT work with gluten free elbows. Must be something the GF pasta releases as it cooks, but the cheese sauce gets all chunky and curdled. Bummer. I have another mac and cheese recipe which calls for cooking the pasta first and the GF pasta works fine in that one :(