Perfect Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Perfect Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a bad Macaroni and Cheese. Let’s face it, a plate of pasta and cheese sauce going to be pretty good no matter the recipe you start with. But when I enjoyed a bowl of the famous Beecher’s Macaroni and Cheese when I was in Seattle, I realized that macaroni and cheese could be more than just good – it could be really great. I think it was great for two reasons – it had lots of a wonderful creamy sauce and it was made with a really great cheese (and it makes a huge difference!).

Possibly the best, creamiest, creamy macaroni and cheese recipe ever!

So like all food-obsessed people, I turned to the internet to find a recipe that might be a reasonable facsimile. I discovered not a facsimile, but the actual recipe for Beecher’s Macaroni and Cheese (they had apparently published it in their cookbook). Of course, there was still one problem – I was in Canada and Beecher’s cheese was not. Of course, Beecher’s cheddar is great and you can definitely use it if you can get your hands on some, but the British, Irish and my fellow Canadians make a pretty mean cheddar themselves, so it was just a matter of finding a really great, aged cheddar to fill in.

Coastal CheddarI sampled a number of candidates (all in the name of “research”, of course :) and settled on a mature British Cheddar called “Coastal”. I loved it’s combination of sharp cheddar flavour with a bit of nuttiness. It’s worth seeking out. I found it at my local Walmart, but I believe it’s also available at Costco and probably any place that has a good sized collection of nice cheeses. If you can’t find it, use any great cheddar that you might pick up for a special occasion.

This isn’t the exact Beecher’s recipe, but it is certainly based on it. Of course, the cheese is different, but it is also comes about as a result of a “happy accident” I made when preparing the published Beecher’s recipe for the first time. You see, I failed to properly read the instructions and added all 4 cups of the cheese sauce to the dish, instead of the specified 2 cups. Yes, I accidentally doubled the sauce and found macaroni and cheese heaven! It should be no surprise, of course. If 2 cups of cheese sauce is good, 4 cups has to be great, right? And great it was. The combination of extra, creamy sauce with really great cheddar was perfect.

Experiment with your favourite cheeses and make your own signature dish. I loved the combination of the nutty Coastal with the sharp Canadian MacLaren’s Imperial cold-packed cheese. (Using two different ones gives a nice depth of cheese flavour). I topped mine off with a bit of Extra Old Balderson Cheddar.

macandcheeseDPerfect Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Perfect Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
It's handy to have a scale for this recipe, to weigh the dry pasta and cheese. I've added alternate measurements where I could. Use a really great cheddar for this, as well as whole milk, if you can. It will make all the difference in the finished dish. I like to use two cheddars, a really great, aged one for most of it and then another one, a bit milder but still sharp, for a bit of depth of flavour. Experiment and find your favourite combinations.
Recipe type: Main Course
Serves: 4

  • 8 oz. dry macaroni (1 2/3 cups, measured in a 2 cup glass liquid measure. Note that this measure will only work for macaroni and probably not a larger pasta shape. Weighing is recommended.)
  • Cheese Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole* milk (3%) *recommend whole milk here, if you can
  • 7 oz./200 g. a really good, really aged cheddar, broken or chopped into small chunks (I used British Coastal Cheddar)
  • 2 1/2 - 3 oz. of another variety orange or white old, sharp cheddar, grated (I used MacLaren's Imperial Sharp Cold Pack Cheddar - You'll need about 1/4 of the container for 2.5 oz)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (little less if using table salt)
  • 1/4 tsp. (regular) chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • Topping:
  • 1/2 oz. additional old cheddar, grated
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
  1. Add water and a bit of salt to a large pot and place over high heat for the pasta. While it's heating, prepare the cheese sauce.
  2. For the cheese sauce: In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk and cook for about 2 minutes.
  3. Very slowly add the milk, a little at a time, whisking constantly. Once all the milk has been added, cook, stirring frequently until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. (Don't rush this step. The mixture will not be thick, but will noticeably thicken after 8-10 minutes of cooking).
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the cheese, salt, chili powder and garlic powder. Stir until the cheese is melted and all the ingredients are incorporated, about 3 minutes. (If the cheese isn't melted completely after about 3 minutes, you can put the pan back on low heat and stir until it is melted). Set aside for a minute.
  5. Preheat oven to 350° F. with rack in the centre of the oven. Oil or butter an 8-inch square baking dish, an 8-inch cast-iron skillet or individual baking dishes.
  6. When the pasta water is boiling, add the macaroni and cook for 2 minutes less than the package directions indicate. (The noodles will finish cooking in the sauce in the oven). When the pasta is cooked, drain and immediately rinse well with cold water. Make sure your pasta is well drained.
  7. Add the cooked pasta and to the cheese sauce and mix gently, but thoroughly. (It might look like too much sauce or too little pasta, but trust me, it will all be good in the end). Spoon or ladle the mixture into a prepared baking dish or individual dishes. Sprinkle the top of each with a bit of additional grated sharp cheddar cheese (you don't need a lot here, as there is plenty in the sauce), then sprinkle with the chipotle chili powder.
  8. Bake in the preheated 350° F. oven uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce has bubbled up around the edges and the top has a nice golden crust. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.
Adapted from Beecher’s macaroni and cheese recipe

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    • Thanks Liz. In this house, mac and cheese is the comfort food of choice. It cures what’s ailing, not matter what that is ;)

  • I have tried this at Pike Place Market and made it at home with their cheeses. I do like the idea of it being extra creamy with the added sauce so I will seek out great cheese here in British Columbia and try my go to recipe once again.

  • This is great, Jennifer! I love the research you put into this :) I make a very similar recipe, but I never bake mine — we eat it straight from the pot. I should try baking it! And I should try using a nice cheese instead of just an economical one :) Yumm! It’s lunchtime!

    • I love food research ;) I usually find that the baking part dries out mac & cheese, but not this one. It’s very, very saucy before baking and just perfect after 20 min in the oven. And what a revelation it was for me to find what a difference great cheese makes (I was like you and usually just grabbed the big block of Kraft Old).

  • This really is the best macaroni & cheese I’ve ever made & it really is about good cheese. I used about 7 oz of sharp & 3 oz of coastal smoked cheese & it was perfect. You had me with the picture alone.

    • So glad you enjoyed it, Joann! I hear you about the picture. Every time I see it, I want to get up and head to the kitchen and make some ;)

  • I made this last night. It was SO GOOD. I had a stomach ache because I ate too much; it was that delicious. We used about half sharp cheddar and half pepperjack, because it was what was in the fridge! Sprinkled in some mustard and cayenne as well. Yum!!

  • The recipe looks great! However, I’m confused about the pasta measurement, is it just 1 2/3 cups or the whole box?

    • Hi Abeje, I always weigh my pasta, but to help people out who don’t have scales, after I weighed it, I put it into a 2-cup glass measure and it measured out to 1 2/3 cups. If your box happens to be 8oz. then the whole box would work, too (as long as it’s macaroni). Hope that helps.

  • I just happened to come across this this morning and decided to try it for lunch. I ended up halving it and using Penne pasta (since it was all I had on hand) and it was SO good! I’ve tried a lot of different mac and cheese recipe and this is the first one that I will absolutely be making again:)


  • This was by far the best mac and cheese my fiance and I have ever made!!! I made this for my potluck lunch on Friday for work ….but instead of tossing it into the oven after we finished on the stove top I put it into a crockpot then into the over night. Then once I got into the office on Friday put the crockpot on and let it get warm. Everyone in my office LOVED IT! I actually doubled the recipe and had enough left over just for my fiance and I…which then we ate for lunch today! SO SO SO GOOD! Def. will be making again.

  • I’ve made this twice in the past ten days – an obvious hit around here. First time around, I used the Coastal Cheddar for the main cheese – Heaven! Then, last night Kerrygold Dubliner which was also great. I have several recipes for M&C in my repertoire, some using combinations of expensive cheeses and other additions. This one is a classic, I think – there’ll always be a place for it. Thanks, Jennifer!

    I saw a recent chef-hint to divide leftover refrigerated Mac & Cheese into squares in preparation for broiling w/extra grated cheese on top. Serve as lunch or as sides. I have yet to try it, but I’m intrigued because I never have much luck re-heating M&C leftovers without it separating into an oily mess.

    • It’s a big hit in my house, too! And you’re right, it’s just a great classic mac and cheese. I’ve tried it with a number of cheese combinations, but always seem to drift back to the Coastal/Imperial combination. Just hits all the right notes for me.

      Interesting idea about the leftovers. I wonder how it would work with this one, since it’s pretty saucy, but I’d certainly be game to try it ;)

  • Thanks for the recipe. I used sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack. My husband really enjoyed this and so did my kids so it’s definitely a keeper. Can’t wait to experiment with some more cheeses.

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