Monday, September 12, 2011

Yummy Baked Macaroni with Cheese

As frequent readers of Our House in Provence blog know, I am co-owner of Bistro Des Copains, a small French bistro in Occidental, California located about 60 miles north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. One of the items on the menu since the day we opened a little over 5 years ago is a yummy baked macaroni with cheese.

The Bistro's baked macaroni and cheese is a favorite of guests, for young diners who enjoy the dish as a main course as well as for adult diners who order the dish as a side to share with table mates to accompany their main course.

At the end of the night, when I am in a mood for something simple and delish, I often order the baked macaroni with cheese with a side of veggies usually haricots verts amandine. The latter dish lets me say I ate something healthful.

Wife Shirley is a registered nurse and works in a local acute care hospital. On Sundays, the nurses who work from 3 PM to 11:30 PM often bring in dishes to share for a pot luck meal. Shirley asked me this morning if I would be willing to make a big dish of baked macaroni with cheese for her to take for pot luck.

I would guess for most people in the US, when you say macaroni and cheese, they immediately think of the macaroni and cheese dish which comes in a blue box from Kraft, a favorite childhood dish for many. Preparing a delicious homemade version of baked macaroni with cheese is easy so I decided to share my recipe along with pictures of the various steps.


1 16-oz box of elbow macaroni
5 cups whole milk (you can substitute 2 % low fat milk), brought to light boil,then reduce to simmer.
2 ounces butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups grated Gruyère cheese
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated white pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

My version of baked macaroni with cheese is not exactly the same as the Bistro's but it is equally delicious. Start by gathering all of the ingredients together for your "mise en place" a French term which literally means "putting in place" everything you will need to make the baked macaroni with cheese.

A close up of my mise en place for the baked macaroni with cheese with a large green heirloom tomato, vase of basil and Roma tomatoes I got this morning at the market.

Start by melting the butter in a sauce pan.

When the butter is melted and bubbles subside,

add the flour and begin to whisk, a flat whisk works best for stirring food in the corners of the pan, until a pale smooth roux is formed. I take the pan off the heat while I whisk the flour into the melted butter.

Either before you melt your butter or while you are making the roux, you should bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil and cook the elbow macaroni until it is done to taste. Drain well! Sprinkle with a little olive oil (2 tablespoons will do) and stir to keep the macaroni from sticking together while you finish your béchamel sauce.

Pour one ladle full of warm milk into your roux and stir till smooth then add the next ladle of milk and stir. Keep repeating this process until all of the milk is incorporated into the roux; continue whisking until the sauce thickens and bubbles gently.

Add all the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 2 cups of grated Gruyère cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir until the cheese is completely incorporated into the béchamel sauce.

Pour the béchamel sauce with the grated cheese over the macaroni.

Mix thoroughly.

Butter a 10 x 14 inch baking dish.

Pour the macaroni mixture into the buttered dish.

Place the baking dish into an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake the macaroni for 12 minutes and remove from the oven; cover the surface of the macaroni with the remaining 1 cup of grated Gruyère cheese. Return to oven.

Bake the macaroni until golden brown on the surface, approximately 12 minutes.

Over the years, chefs at the Bistro have tried different combination of cheeses and topped the macaroni with bread crumbs or small croutons to give the macaroni more crunch. However, I like this way the best.

I have seen versions of baked macaroni with cheese in other restaurants with bacon, others with mustard, and of course different cheese combinations but I have not found a version that I like better.

What variations do you like with your baked macaroni with cheese? Let me know. I have shown you exactly how to make my version so I know this will turn out great for you. I hope you enjoy.

Bon appétit mes amis et à bientôt.


  1. Mmm. Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite comfort meals. The crunchy top it gets from baking might be the best part! :)

  2. I have never had anything but home made macaroni cheese, but I like your idea of two different cheeses, will try this out. I have always used cheddar cheese. Thanks. Diane

  3. Hi! I love your blog (and stayed for a week in Sablet in early June). My little boost for my homemade mac & cheese is when I butter the baking dish, I then coat it with panko or bread crumbs (or if you're feeling extravagant, you could toss the crumbs with grated parmesan first). Any leftover goes on top. I tend to bake mine longer, 45 mins or so, and this forms a lovely buttery crumb-y crust, especially in the corners! PS: thanks for the heads up on your blog about the flea market in the square in June - rainy but fun!

  4. Thanks for the great recipe! I am definitely going to make this. Our daughter has been dying for mac n cheese since we moved to France. Now we can all enjoy:)

  5. Camille - I love good mac & cheese.

    Diane - I have had some very good mac & cheese with white cheddar cheese.

    phillyukgirl - Thanks for checking in and for the nice comments about my blog. I like your idea of panko crumbs, probably adds an ideal amount of crunch.

    Ashley - You are most welcome. You can't fail; I hope your daughter enjoys the mac n cheese.

  6. Love the blog - thanks for all your great postings. My mom used to put sliced tomatoes in mac and cheese and I top mine with breadcrumbs - but always eat it with ketchup (I know, I know).

  7. French Home Decor - Thanks for checking in on my blog and for posting your comment. The tomato sounds good...I'm glad "you know".