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Best-Ever Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

- Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch Stelling; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall
Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch Stelling; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

In the South, we know that mac and cheese is worthy of the Thanksgiving table just like every other creamy casserole and hearty carb-packed dish—especially this best-ever version—because down here, mac ‘n cheese is like everyone’s favorite aunt. We get excited to see it at the holiday dinner, it fits in seamlessly wherever it goes, and it never ceases to give some true Southern flair. Our Test Kitchen’s secret to an incredible macaroni and cheese is cubes of Cheddar cheese that melt as the pasta bakes, creating pockets of gooey goodness in every bite. The dish can be made through Step 2 up to one day in advance; cover and refrigerate. Bring the dish to room temperature (about 30 minutes) before proceeding with Step 3. We’re all for a make-ahead Thanksgiving recipe! It's time to pull together your Thanksgiving dinner menu and you can't leave this recipe off.

Active time: 25 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Yields: Serves 10

Ingredients

16 ounces uncooked large elbow macaroni, large shells, or cavatappi pasta

6 tablespoons salted butter

1/3 cup grated yellow onion

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 1/2 cups milk

1 3/4 cups heavy cream

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

4 ounces extra-sharp yellow Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup), plus 4 oz. diced (about 1 cup), divided

4 ounces sharp white Cheddar cheese, shredded, (about 1 cup), plus 4 oz. diced (about 1 cup), divided

How to Make It

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare pasta according to package directions for al dente.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium. Add next 6 ingredients; cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add flour, and cook, stirring, until golden, 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk and cream. Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, whisking, until slightly thickened, 5 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce. Remove from heat; stir in 3/4 cup each of shredded Cheddar cheeses until melted. (Reserve remaining 1/4 cup each of shredded cheeses.) Stir in pasta and diced cheeses; pour into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch (3-quart) baking dish.

Bake on a rimmed baking sheet in preheated oven until bubbly and golden, 30 minutes. Remove from oven; increase oven temperature to broil. Sprinkle with reserved shredded cheeses; broil 6 inches from heat until cheeses are melted and golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from oven; cool slightly on a wire rack, about 15 minutes.

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