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5 from 12 votes

Macaroni and Cheese

There's nothing like macaroni and cheese! This mac and cheese recipe comes together in no time, and you won't believe how incredibly easy it is.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: macaroni and cheese
Servings: 8 servings (approximately)
Calories: 554kcal
Author: Jennifer Farley


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (2 ounces)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Optional: 1 clove garlic, grated (highly recommended, see notes)
  • 12 ounces freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese (preferably extra sharp)
  • 6 ounces freshly grated American cheese (deli counter only, see notes)
  • 6 ounces freshly grated gruyere cheese
  • Optional: Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • In a large Dutch oven or saucepan, bring about 4 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain through a colander, rinsing briefly to keep the pasta from sticking.
  • Rinse the saucepan with cool water and dry off, then place back on the burner over low heat and add the butter (if the pan is still hot, remove from the heat while the butter melts to keep it from browning).
  • Once the butter has melted, add the flour and begin whisking to form a paste. Continue whisking constantly over low heat until the paste (technically known as a roux), turns slightly yellow and begins to smell fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, then turn the heat up to high. Whisk in the mustard, cayenne pepper, and garlic, if using.
  • Cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce bubbles and thickens, 7-10 minutes. You’re looking for the consistency of cream soup.
  • Once thick, remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the cheeses, one handful at a time. Make sure to do this off the heat. Once the sauce is smooth, stir in the macaroni.
  • Divide into individual portions and serve.
  • Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


I grate the garlic using a microplane zester. This helps release the liquid and creates a paste that blends right into the sauce. If you don’t have a microplane zester, you can finely mince the garlic.
Don’t use packaged American cheese. It’s not the same thing as what you’ll get at the deli counter, which can be purchased in blocks.
If you have a food processor, you can save a ton of time by using the shredding disc attachment to grate the cheese.
See post for additional tips.


Calories: 554kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 106mg | Sodium: 546mg | Potassium: 404mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1265IU | Calcium: 907mg | Iron: 1.4mg