Friday Random Recipe: Mac and Cheese!

One of my favorite comfort foods is a mac&cheese tuna casserole. That’s real mac&cheese, not any of that glow in the dark orange garbage. It amazes me just how many people have never actually had a proper, home-made macaroni and cheese! It’s really good eating (unlike the glow in the dark stuff). The most important thing for this is to use good cheddar cheese. The pre-shredded stuff is tasteless – you need a good brick of some kind of high quality, aged cheddar cheese. Of the widely available stuff, my favorite is Cabot extra-sharp.


  • 1 pound of macaroni, cooked according to instructions an the box, then cooled.
  • 3/4 pound shredded cheddar cheese.
  • 2 cups milk.
  • 8 tablespoons butter.
  • 1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced.
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard.
  • 1 can of good quality tuna, preferably packed in olive oil, drained
    and crumbled.
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs.
  • 2 tablespoons of flour.
  • 1 head broccoli, steamed and cut into small pieces.


  1. In 2 tbs of butter, brown the sliced mushrooms. Add salt to taste.
  2. In another 2 tbs butter, toast the bread-crumbs until they’re nicely browned.
  3. Put the cooked macaroni, broccoli, mushrooms, and tuna into a large mixing bowl, and mix
    them together.
  4. In a saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tbs butter, and then add the flour. Whisk together
    to form a roux, and cook on medium low heat until it’s about the color of coffee with milk.
  5. Add the milk, and whisk vigourously to dissolve the roux into the milk. Increase the heat
    to medium, and stir until it reaches a boil and thickens.
  6. Add the mustard and 2/3rds of the cheese, and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thick. Add salt and pepper to taste (remember that the salt in the sauce is the only salt for the macaroni.)
  7. Pour the sauce over the pasta mixture in the bowl, and mix it through.
  8. Dump the resulting mixture into a large casserole dish. Top with the toasted bread crumbs
    and the remaining cheese.
  9. Cover with foil, and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes; then remove the foil and let it bake
    for another 20 minutes.

It’s a humble dish, but it’s really awfully good. If you’re adventurous, you can also do all sorts of variations – this dish is great for playing with. For example, replacing the mustard with curry powder
is terrific!

0 thoughts on “Friday Random Recipe: Mac and Cheese!

  1. Moopheus

    Here’s a tip: don’t cook the pasta completely before putting it in the oven. Stop it while it’s still very very al dente. It’ll continue to cook in the pan and not be overcooked when done.
    Some Stilton, Gorgonzola, and/or Gruyere are also good mixed in with the cheddar.

  2. chezjake

    I agree on the Cabot’s extra-sharp cheddar – excellent stuff. I like to add a tiny pinch of cayenne or 1/2 tsp. white pepper along with the mustard.

  3. Gerald

    I’ll have to try that…
    In the meantime, I can’t resist putting my own recipe, coming from my mum, the only recipe I asked from her — Because I could live on it for the rest of my life. 🙂
    It’s actually simpler than yours.
    1. Cook macaroni, but not too much, they’ll finish cooking in the oven.
    2. Bechamel, like your steps 3 and 4.
    3. When bechamel is done, take it off the stove and add 3 handfuls of grated cheese and mix. I use swiss cheese, but up to you. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    4. Very important ingredient: Add some nutmeg powder. Very flavorful, so don’t put too much!
    5. Mix pasta and sauce, put in a greased pan, cover with grated cheese, and put some bits of butter around.
    6. Cook in oven until golden.
    I love it hot from the oven, with some ketchup. Very good the next day too. 🙂
    mmmm… Sorry, gotta go make some now….

  4. Paul Carpenter

    I disapprove of tuna in mac and cheese. I have not yet come across pre-packaged mac and cheese, I’ve only ever had it home made. Actually it might be tomorrow’s dinner. There will be no tuna though, that is silly.
    A good variation on mac and cheese is cauliflower cheese which is pretty much self explanatory and very tasty.

  5. Jonathan Vos Post

    Since my son, as a child, loved mac & cheese (as well as peanut butter & jelly sandwiches), there was the matter of my wife and I going to fine restaurants (of which there are many in greater Pasadena, as well as cities we took him to for conventions and conferences).
    Fine restuarants are happy to make mac & cheese for a child while serving the adults something more exotic. The Parkway Grill in Pasadena did a particularly delicious version, as did a couple of restaurants in Edinburgh, Scotland, their key being the proper superposition of 4 difference high quality cheeses. Just be willing to pay gourmet prices for gourmet food.
    I just flew back from Boston where I chaired 2 Physics sessions and co-presented 12 papers, Oct. 28 – Nov. 2, 7th International Conference on Complex Systems, the flights delayed and turbulent due to Hurricane Noel offshore Massachusetts at the time. My principal regret at ICCS-07 being that I had no more than a minute of conversation with the formidable Blake Stacey, who works with the sponsoring organization NECSI, whereas I would have wanted at least a half hour with him, as he is such a brilliant person in the blogosophere, including Science Blogs.
    8th International Conference on Complex Systems, May 2009 (1.5 years from now) will again have me again as executive committee chair of a Science Fiction mini-convention within the conference (as I ran for 6th International Conference on Complex Systems, with Dr. David Brin, Dr. Geoffrey Landis, Dr. Stanley Schmidt, Dr. Mary Turzillo, Dr. Marvin Minsky, and Dr. John Forbes Nash, Jr.).
    The menu will depend on the venue. Florence Italy is under consideration (where they do know mac & cheese) but the leading contender right now seems to be Alaska.

  6. Ben Chun

    I second Gerald’s recommendation of a speck of nutmeg! I do that with all white sauces. I also fall on the “no tuna” side of this debate, but remain open to mustard and mushrooms. This is serious business!
    If you want to experience the jealousy of your colleagues, bake some of this and bring it to school for lunch. I did that a couple weeks ago, and I could have probably opened a restaurant selling this to teachers. Everyone loves a good homemade mac & cheese.
    I did not, however, chair any conferences or fly anywhere this week. Sorry.

  7. DennyMo

    Add some green peas, I think you’ve restored a bit of my childhood to me. 😉 Two questions of clarification, though: I assume that’s one pound of macaroni AFTER cooking, not dry weight? And what size can of tuna do you typically use?

  8. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    That’s one pound of macaroni *dry weight*: for my usual casserole, I use a full 1-lb box. I hate peas, that’s why I
    do the brocolli. Nice fresh crunchy broccoli is much nicer than nasty mushy peas. 🙂
    I use the cans of Ortiz oil-packed italian tuna. (I discovered them a few years ago, and even though it’s sort of expensive, it just tastes *so* much better that I can’t go back.) The cans are metric, but it’s between 4 and 6 ounces, before the oil is drained.

  9. Trinifar

    The value of “humble” food is emmense. As has been noted mac & cheese can be as simple and truly humble or as fancy and rich as one can wish. My own view is this is one dish everyone should know how to make at home — without the retangular box with the strange orange powder. Oh, and some sauted onions are a nice addition.
    (Hadn’t thought about adding tuna, have to give that a try!)

  10. Jonathan Vos Post

    Childhood favorite has grown up
    Article Launched: 11/07/2007 12:39:58 AM PST
    If you grew up on the orange Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner, first introduced in 1936, as many kids did, you may still crave the comfort of that homey dish.
    Take a look at many restaurant menus – and you’ll find chefs adding their own touches to the American culinary icon. The upscale makeover may be made with crab, lobster, black or white truffles, broccoli, brie, mascarpone, Gorgonzola, white cheddar, a variety of pastas beyond elbow macaroni and much more.
    “Mac and cheese is popular today because it is so comforting, and so universally endearing,” says Marlena Spieler, author of “Macaroni & Cheese.” “Its soothing texture and unchallenging flavors take us back to a less stressful time.[truncated]


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