Ina Garten's Mac And Cheese Recipe

Ina Garten's recipes are simply the best. Garten, who is also known as the Barefoot Contessa, is one of the most well-known and well-loved cooks on the planet, and when you make one of her recipes, you always know it will be top-notch. Her mac and cheese is fantastic by itself, but the added twist by our very own Liz Capozzoli takes it to a whole new level. Capozzoli of OwlbBaking took the recipe and added an Italian spin to it — making it both unique and delicious. She added roasted garlic, fresh basil, and some shredded mozzarella cheese. If your mouth wasn't watering yet, it probably is now! "I went with an Italian twist because Ina's original recipe calls for sliced tomatoes on top," Capozzoli says. "To me, any pasta dish that calls for tomatoes is also begging for some garlic and fresh basil! I decided to opt for roasted garlic because it is milder and blends easily when making the roux base for the cheese mixture." 

The recipe is for the intermediate cook, but Capozzoli says that beginners can also take a stab at it. "It does require some multi-tasking and juggling between multiple pots on the stove," she says. "Ina's website lists this recipe as an intermediate but I think if a beginner takes their time and plans out all the steps, they can definitely nail this recipe!" 

Now, let's begin! 

Gather the ingredients

There are quite a few items that you need to throw together this dish, so it's time to see what you have at home versus what you need to get at the store. For starters, you'll need a few simple ingredients, including a head of garlic, olive oil, kosher salt, and vegetable oil. In terms of pasta, Cavatappi or elbow macaroni will do the trick.

This creamy mac and cheese dish also calls for whole milk, unsalted butter, and all-purpose flour. Of course, there's also plenty of cheese, including Gruyère, extra-sharp cheddar, and whole milk mozzarella. To finish your shopping list, add freshly ground black pepper, nutmeg, fresh tomatoes, a few slices of white bread, and fresh basil.

Preheat the oven and cook the garlic

The first step is to turn the dial of your oven to 400 F. We want to get it nice and hot for when the garlic goes in. In the meantime, you can prep your garlic as you wait for the oven to get toasty.

Start by cutting the entire end off of the garlic bulb. Using aluminum foil, make a little pouch for the garlic bulb. Once you have the bulb, place it with the cut end facing up and drizzle it with olive oil. Close the aluminum foil pouch and put it in the oven on a small cookie sheet or tray. Set your timer for 40-50 minutes and roast the garlic cloves until they are tender and soft. When you take them out of the oven, set them to the side and let them cool for at least 30 minutes.

Pop the garlic cloves out and boil the pasta

Once you've allowed the garlic cloves to cool, pop them out onto a small plate. Use a fork to mash the cloves until they're completely smooth. Make sure to remove any of the skin that may sneak in there or large fibrous pieces if you see them. Now it's time to drop the oven's temperature to 375 F. It will need to be at this temperature to bake the mac and cheese.

In the meantime, take out a large pot and add water and salt. Bring the water to a boil, and then you can add in the pasta. Cook it for about six to eight minutes, and once it's done, drain and set it to the side because you'll need it again shortly.

Heat the milk and make the cheese mixture

In a small saucepan, heat the milk until it's very hot but not boiling. In the meantime, get out a large pot and melt six tablespoons of butter. Begin to add the flour just a little bit at a time and whisk as you go. Cook over low heat for two minutes as you continue to whisk.

When you're ready, add the roasted garlic and continue whisking until everything is combined. Now you can begin to add in the hot milk. Use a measuring cup and just put it in a little bit at a time until all of the milk has been added. Cook everything together for another two minutes until the mixture gets thicker.

Move the pot off the heat and add the cheeses, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until everything is combined. You can also dump in your pasta.

Pour the pasta into baking dish and top

Now that the main mix is done, it's almost ready to bake. Pour the pasta into a 9x13 or 3-quart baking dish. Arrange the sliced tomatoes on top of the mac and cheese. In a small bowl, melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter and combine it with the fresh breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the dish. 

Pop the baking dish into the oven for 30-35 minutes. Another indicator that the mac and cheese is done is when the sauce starts to bubble, or the macaroni begins to brown on top. Then, you can take it out. 

Garnish with fresh basil and enjoy

Once it's done, take the pasta out of the oven and garnish it with fresh basil leaves. Capozzoli says that there are plenty of options for cooking this dish. "This mac and cheese can easily go from casual or upscale dining," she shares. "It's great for entertaining at a nice dinner or as a side for BBQs. I would go with a simpler protein. A piece of herb grilled chicken, filet of salmon would be great." 

As for leftovers? They will be good if stored in the fridge for about four or five days. "Mac and cheese also freezes well," Capozzoli says. "You can freeze off individual portions for later too!" Enjoy.

Ina Garten's Mac And Cheese Recipe
4.9 from 31 ratings
Ina Garten's mac and cheese recipe gets an upgrade with the addition of fresh basil and roasted garlic. It's a dish that works wonderfully as a meal or a side.
Prep Time
40
minutes
Cook Time
90
minutes
Servings
7
Servings
Ina Garten's mac and cheese with a twist in baking dish with fresh basil
Total time: 130 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni
  • 1-quart whole milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided (6 tablespoons and 2 tablespoons)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (4 cups)
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
  • 4 ounces of whole milk mozzarella cheese, grated (1 cup)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¾ pound fresh tomatoes (4 small), cut into thin slices
  • 5 slices of white bread, crusts removed, processed into bread crumbs
  • 15 - 20 leaves of fresh basil
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the entire end off of the garlic bulb. Place in a pouch made of aluminum foil, with the cut end facing up and drizzle with olive oil. Close the aluminum foil pouch and place in the oven on a small cookie sheet or tray. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the garlic cloves are completely tender and soft. Allow to cool for 30 minutes.
  2. Pop the garlic cloves out of the head and onto a small plate. Using a fork, mash the garlic cloves until completely smooth, removing any skins or large fibrous pieces.
  3. Drop oven temperature to 375 degrees. Drizzle some vegetable oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat the milk until very hot, but not boiling.
  5. In a large pot (4-quart), melt 6 tablespoons of butter. Begin to add the flour by whisking in a few tablespoons at a time. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, continuing to whisk. When ready, add in the roasted garlic and mix until combined.
  6. While whisking, begin to add the hot milk. Use a measuring cup to add small portions at a time until all of the milk has been added. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
  7. Move the pot off of the heat and add the cheeses, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until everything is combined. Add the cooked pasta and stir well.
  8. Pour the pasta into a 9x13 or 3-quart baking dish. Arrange the sliced tomatoes on top of the macaroni and cheese.
  9. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with the fresh bread crumbs in a small bowl. Sprinkle all over the top of the dish.
  10. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.
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