Ina Garten Mac and Cheese takes plain macaroni and cheese up a notch! Easy to make, this rich and creamy dish features two types of cheese and warm spices and is topped with tomatoes and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs for a combination of tastes and textures no one can resist!
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Is there anything better than homemade mac and cheese? Loved by kids and adults alike, it’s a classic comfort food that never gets old. However, if you’re looking for an easy way to jazz it up, you’re definitely going to want to try my take on Ina Garten Mac and Cheese! In this recipe, you’ll find all the traditional flavors of mac and cheese with a bit of a twist thanks to the addition of tomatoes and breadcrumbs. Serve it as a side dish with ham, vegetables, and more!
Ina Garten Mac and Cheese Recipe
Ina Garten is a culinary powerhouse with good reason. Her recipes are reliable and easy to put together, and this mac and cheese is no exception! An elevated twist on classic baked mac and cheese, it’s rich, creamy, and oh-so-delicious.
This is because it features not one but two types of cheese in a gooey sauce that is lightly flavored with warm spices. Assembled in a single dish, it’s topped with vibrant tomato slices and a scattering of crispy breadcrumbs and bakes to golden perfection. You can even mix and match different ingredients to create new tastes and textures! No matter how you serve it, this is sure to become your new favorite way to make macaroni and cheese!
Ingredients for Ina Garten Mac and Cheese
See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Elbow pasta – Use elbow pasta for that classic macaroni and cheese texture.
- Milk – I use whole milk for richness; you could also use 2% milk.
- Butter – I use unsalted butter in this recipe because it calls for a good amount of salt to be added to the sauce.
- All-purpose flour – Flour helps form a roux, or sauce base, for the cheese sauce.
- Gruyere cheese – Gruyere is a type of Swiss cheese that is salty and slightly sweet.
- Cheddar cheese – Use sharp cheddar cheese for the best flavor!
- Salt and black pepper
- Ground nutmeg
- Tomatoes – Sliced tomatoes will top the mac and cheese.
- Breadcrumbs – Breadcrumbs add a wonderful crunch to the top of the casserole.
Here are a few variation suggestions you can try when you make this mac and cheese recipe:
- Substitute different cheeses – I love the combination of Gruyere and sharp cheddar and wouldn’t change it! However, if you want to try different flavors, you could swap Parmesan cheese for the Gruyere and Jack or mild cheddar for the cheddar.
- Top with crumbled crackers – If you don’t have breadcrumbs or don’t wish to use them, you can top the casserole with crumbled Ritz crackers for a similar effect.
- Add vegetables – Stir in some baby spinach when you mix the pasta with the cheese sauce, or steamed broccoli.
- Leave off the tomatoes – If you’re more of a traditionalist, you can leave off the tomato slices. I recommend keeping the breadcrumbs, though, as they add a wonderful contrast in textures!
How to Make Ina Garten Mac and Cheese
- Heat the oven and prepare the pan: Preheat your oven to 375℉. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.
- Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the elbow pasta according to the package directions. Strain and set aside.
- Make a roux: While the pasta is cooking, add 6 tablespoons of butter and flour to a medium-sized pot, and heat over medium heat. Whisk the melted butter and flour together. Then, whisk in the warm milk. Whisk over the heat for about 1-2 minutes so the mixture gets a little bit thick.
- Whisk in the cheese, salt and pepper, and nutmeg: Remove the pot from the stovetop, and add both grated cheeses, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Whisk together so the cheese melts into the hot milk.
- Stir in the pasta: Add the cooked, drained pasta to the pot of cheese sauce, and stir to combine.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan: Pour the mac and cheese into a 9×13 baking dish and spread it across the pan so it is flat.
- Top with sliced tomatoes: Slice the tomatoes, and lay them on top of the mac and cheese, covering the top of the dish.
- Prepare the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the mac and cheese: In a small bowl, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and stir in the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the mac and cheese.
- Bake: Bake the mac and cheese for 30 minutes. The edges should be bubbling and the topping should be golden brown when finished.
- Serve: Scoop, and serve while hot!
Save time by preparing your cheese sauce up to a day in advance! Follow the directions as listed in the recipe card below. Then, transfer the sauce to an airtight container, and keep it stored in the fridge for up to 1 day. When you’re ready to bake, prepare the noodles according to the package instructions, combine the ingredients, and place the dish in the oven.
How to Store Ina Garten Mac and Cheese
Store cooled mac and cheese in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, warm in the oven on low heat, or reheat portions in the microwave at 1-minute intervals until hot. You can also freeze Ina Garten Mac and Cheese! Once cooled, transfer leftovers to a freezer-safe container, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw them in the fridge before reheating.
This dish is filling enough to be served as a complete meal on its own. However, if you’re looking to round it out with a little extra protein and nutrients or need to feed a crowd, it pairs wonderfully with a variety of sides and main courses. Here are a few of my favorite serving suggestions for dinnertime inspiration:
- Add a salad: Serve Ina Garten Mac and Cheese with a big, vegetable-packed salad! Try my Fresh Corn Salad, Cucumber Tomato Salad, or Summer Salad recipes.
- With vegetables: A simple vegetable side, like steamed or roasted broccoli is a great way to add nutrients and fiber to your meal.
- With ham: Or serve it as the perfect side dish with ham, like my Crock Pot Ham recipe, Crispy Chicken Strips, or Garlic Butter Steak Bites.
Cheeses that work very well in mac and cheese recipes include cheddar, Gruyere, Gouda, Parmesan, and cream cheese.
Yes – Assemble the dish and, wrap it tightly with aluminum foil, and transfer it to the fridge for up to 2 days. Then, bake as usual, adding a few extra minutes as needed until the breadcrumbs are golden and crisp.
Here are a few things NOT to do when making mac and cheese: overcooking the pasta, skimping on the cheese, not using a blend of cheeses, using the wrong pasta shape (like fettuccine), and adding too much liquid to the sauce.
Ina Garten Mac and Cheese
- 9×13 baking dish
- Large pot
- Strainer or colander
- medium sized pot
- Small bowl
- Measuring cup
- measuring spoons
- 1 pound elbow pasta
- ½ cup butter divided
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk warmed
- 4 cups grated Gruyere cheese
- 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 small tomatoes sliced
- 1 ½ cups bread crumbs
- Preheat your oven to 375℉. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the elbow pasta according to the package directions. Strain and set aside.1 pound elbow pasta
- While the pasta is cooking, add 6 tablespoons of butter and flour to a medium sized pot and heat over medium heat. Whisk the melted butter and flour together then whisk in the warm milk. Whisk over the heat for about 1-2 minutes so the mixture gets a little bit thick.½ cup butter, ½ cup all purpose flour, 4 cups whole milk
- Remove the pot from the stovetop and add both grated cheeses, the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk together so the cheese melts into the hot milk.4 cups grated Gruyere cheese, 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Add the cooked, drained pasta to the pot of cheese sauce and stir.
- Pour the mac and cheese into a 9×13 baking dish and spread it across the pan so it is flat.
- Slice the tomatoes and lay them on top of the mac and cheese, covering the top of the dish.4 small tomatoes
- In a small bowl, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and then stir in the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the mix over the top of the mac and cheese.1 ½ cups bread crumbs
- Bake the mac and cheese for 30 minutes. The edges should be bubbling and the topping should be golden brown.
- Scoop and serve while hot!