Prepare Ina Garten’s mac and cheese recipe for Thanksgiving

Prepare Ina Garten’s mac and cheese recipe for Thanksgiving

I recently made Ina Garten’s “adult” macaroni and cheese that is perfect for Thanksgiving.
Anita Constantinides / Insider

  • I recently made Ina Garten’s “adult” macaroni and cheese dish.
  • The recipe contains Gruyère, cheddar, and blue cheese, as well as bacon and breadcrumbs.
  • I thought Garten’s macaroni and cheese was delicious and perfect for Thanksgiving.

The holidays are right around the corner, which means it’s time to enjoy one of the world’s most beloved pastas.

I’m talking about Mac and cheeseclearly.

I’m a big fan of pasta, especially when the recipe is by Ina Garten (I even rated them!). So, before Thanksgiving this year, I decided to try “adult” macaroni and cheese.

Here’s how it went.

Ina Garten’s “Adult” Mac and Cheese features bacon, basil, and lots of cheese.

Garten’s “adult” mac and cheese includes Gruyere, extra sharp cheddar, and blue cheese.
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To prepare “adult” macaroni and cheese garten for four people, you will need:

  • 4 cups elbow noodles or cavatappi

  • 4 slices white sandwich bread

  • 8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated

  • 6 ounces of grated cheddar cheese

  • 4 ounces crumbled blue cheese (Garten recommends Roquefort)

  • 8 ounces bacon, cut into thick slices

  • 3 cups of milk

  • 4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter

  • 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil leaves

  • Half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

  • A pinch of nutmeg

First, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees F and prepared the bacon.

I cooked the bacon for 15 minutes.
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I placed the bacon on a paper tray, arranging it in a single layer. Garten recommends placing a baking rack over the baking sheet, but I didn’t have one, so I lined the baking rack with aluminum foil to avoid making a greasy mess.

I cooked the bacon for 15 minutes, until the slices were crispy, then transferred them to a plate covered with a paper towel.

While the bacon was in the oven, I prepared the bread crumbs and started cooking the pasta.

My chopped basil.
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I cut off the crusts of my sandwich bread, cut each slice into smaller pieces, and roughly chopped the basil.

I then threw the pasta into a large pot of boiling salted water and let it simmer for about six minutes. I chose cavatappi instead of elbow macaroni because I think it holds a gooey sauce better than great macaroni and cheese.

Once the pasta was ready, I drained the pasta and set it aside.

And I grated a lot of cheese.

My shredded Gruyère cheese.
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If you’re doing this for Thanksgiving, just enlist some family members to help!

I threw the chopped bread and basil into the food processor to make the breadcrumbs.

Homemade bread crumbs.
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After a few pulses, the breadcrumbs are ready!

Once the bacon had cooled a bit, I roughly chopped it.

My bacon pieces are chopped.
Anita Constantinides / Insider

Garten kept her bacon bits extra chunky while demonstrating this recipe on an episode of the show “Contessa barefoot” So I did the same thing.

Then I started heating up some milk to make the roux.

Garten says to make sure the milk doesn’t boil.
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I heated the milk in a small saucepan, making sure it did not boil.

While the milk was heating, I began to melt the butter.

Don’t burn the butter!
Anita Constantinides / Insider

I added the butter to a saucepan over medium-low heat.

Then I added the flour to the bowl with the melted butter.

Prepare the roux for the mac and cheese sauce.
Anita Constantinides / Insider

Stir the butter and flour together over low heat for 2 minutes.

“This cooked butter and flour will act as a thickener for the sauce,” Garten explained during the episode.

When the flour and butter were whisked together, I added the hot milk.

I cooked the sauce for an additional 2 minutes so it had time to thicken a bit.
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Garten says you should cook the sauce for an additional minute or two, until it thickens and looks smooth.

“It’s not incredibly thick, but what it does is it just coats the spoon,” she added.

I removed the pot from the heat and added all the cheeses as well as the seasonings.

Add seasoning to mac and cheese sauce.
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Garten recommends adding a teaspoon of salt, some freshly ground black pepper, and nutmeg.

“It’s a really classic spice used in gratin,” Garten says in the episode. “You wouldn’t know it was there, but it will make everything taste better.”

I added the cooked cavatappi to the bowl, along with the chopped bacon.

Add bacon to mac and cheese.
Anita Constantinides / Insider

I gave everything a good stir as the delicious smell of cheese filled my kitchen.

Then I poured the macaroni and cheese into a casserole dish.

The macaroni and cheese fits perfectly into a 12-inch casserole dish.
Anita Constantinides / Insider

Garten has used individual gratin dishes while preparing her take on “Barefoot Contessa” since she was a young age She makes it for herself and Jeffrey. Since I doubled the recipe to make dinner for my family, I used a 12-inch casserole dish instead and it was the perfect size.

I sprinkled the breadcrumbs over the macaroni and cheese and then threw the dish in the oven.

Macaroni and cheese before going into the oven.
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I didn’t end up using all the breadcrumbs because I had already covered the entire top, but my family later said they wished there had been more – so I recommend using all the last breadcrumbs!

If you plan to make your macaroni and cheese garten the day before, simply place your dish in the refrigerator overnight and bake it right before serving.

Garten says to bake the macaroni and cheese for 35 to 40 minutes, but the pasta didn’t need that long.

The breadcrumbs on the mac and cheese were beautifully golden.
Anita Constantinides / Insider

While reading reviews of Garten’s recipe on the site Food Network websiteI’ve seen several people say their macaroni and cheese turned out dry after baking it for the recommended amount of time. Many people recommended baking the pasta for 25 minutes or less.

I checked my macaroni and cheese at the 20 minute mark and saw that the breadcrumbs were already starting to brown. The breadcrumbs were beautifully golden at the 25 minute mark, so I took the dish out of the oven.

Moral of the story? Not all ovens are created equal, so check your macaroni and cheese on the go.

The pasta was still simmering when I started serving dinner, and it looked like a creamy, cheesy dream.

The macaroni and cheese was still simmering when I started serving it.
Anita Constantinides / Insider

The sound of the boiling sauce was so satisfying, I couldn’t resist taking some video of it.

My family all watched excitedly as I dug my spoon into the bread crumbs and pulled out a scoop of sticky pasta. Dinner can’t come soon enough!

Garten’s “Adult” Mac and Cheese is easy, delicious, and a great side dish for Thanksgiving.

Garten’s “Adult” Mac and Cheese is perfect for Thanksgiving.
Anita Constantinides / Insider

My parents and sister were big fans of Garten’s Mac and cheese. The texture is velvety rather than cloying, and I loved the flavor balance between the Gruyère, cheddar, and blue cheese. Roquefort definitely adds a little flavor, so if you’re making this for someone who doesn’t really like blue cheese, maybe only do half so you get the depth it adds. But I personally am not a huge fan of blue cheese and did not find it overpowering.

I also liked the way the smoked bacon cut through the cheese—I even recommend throwing in an extra slice or two. The crunchy breadcrumbs on top were also a big hit, adding a nice contrast to the creamy pasta underneath (definitely don’t skimp on them).

I think Garten’s mac and cheese flavors are perfect for the holidays and would go well with turkey. We also enjoyed eating it as a main course for dinner.

If you’re looking for a great traditional Thanksgiving dish with a twist, Garten’s “Adult” Macaroni and Cheese is a great choice.

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