Creamy Macaroni and Cheese Recipe (2024)

By Julia Moskin

Updated Feb. 28, 2024

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese Recipe (1)

Total Time
1 hour 40 minutes
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There are two schools of thought about macaroni and cheese: Some like it crusty and extra-cheesy (here’s our recipe), while others prefer it smooth and creamy. But most people are delighted by any homemade macaroni and cheese. It is light years ahead of the boxed versions. This creamy version has one powerful advantage for the cook: There’s no need to preboil the pasta. It cooks in the oven, absorbing the liquid from the dairy products.

Featured in: Macaroni and Lots of Cheese

Learn: How to Make Mac and Cheese

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Yield:6 to 8 servings

  • 2tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1cup cottage cheese (not low-fat)
  • 2cups milk (not skim)
  • 1teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch of ground cayenne
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • ½teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼teaspoon black pepper
  • 1pound sharp or extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
  • ½pound elbow pasta, uncooked

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (8 servings)

426 calories; 25 grams fat; 14 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 7 grams monounsaturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 27 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram dietary fiber; 5 grams sugars; 22 grams protein; 487 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Creamy Macaroni and Cheese Recipe (2)


Make the recipe with us

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tablespoon butter to grease a 9-inch round or square baking pan.

  2. Step


    In a blender, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Reserve ¼ cup grated Cheddar for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated Cheddar, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

  3. Step


    Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.



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Cooking Notes


This is now my go-to Mac & Cheese, with only one alteration to the recipe as published. Omit the added salt. It was way too salty with it. Here is a helpful hint: if you combine all ingredients in your baking dish in the morning, and let it sit in the fridge during the day, it will cook in half the time.


Today was the second time I made this dish. The first time, it came out dry. My kids loved it, but I was left disappointed because it was not creamy as expected. This second time, I par cooked the pasta and cooled it before adding it to the liquid. I didn't bake it for another 30 min. II baked it for 15 minutes. This time it turned out creamy. I believe that cooking the pasta just a little before combining cut the thirst of the pasta & minimized the amount of liquid it absorbed.


The more aged the cheese, the drier it will be. You need to use a moister (i.e. younger) cheddar for a creamier result.


To make it less "grainy" you need "fats." I've seen this made on another cooking show and they talked about it. You need to use half and half. Not 2 percent milk. I know it is decadent, but this is what creates the "creamy" consistency you all crave. Up your fats in your dairy.


Be sure to put a sheet pan under this to catch any spills.


Whole milk ricotta (instead of cottage cheese) and a slug of cream cheese in the blender mix, the sharpest cheddar I can find (occasionally augmented with shredded Parm or smoked Mozzarella), more than a "pinch" of cayenne, and buttered Panko crumbs on top at the end. Yummy every time. I also find that leftovers freeze and reheat (in a slow oven) very well.

Emily Weinstein

This macaroni and cheese has distinct advantage above all others: you neither boil the pasta, nor make a roux. The process is as unfussy as the dish itself, and the dish itself is outrageously good.


*Definitely* add more liquid. I doubled the recipe and used 5 cups of milk; next time, I'd add up to 6 cups. This is NOT a creamy, spread-like-risotto recipe; it actually sets up nicely. Also, DON'T ADD SALT! I'm a salt lover who heeded others' advice and am glad I did; it would have been a touch too salty for me, way too salty for others. I used mostly yellow cheddar, some white cheddar, feta, parmesan and queso fresco, all blended in the food processor. (I cleaned out my cheese drawer.)


I double it and split it into 2 casseroles. I freeze one of them uncooked/raw. when i am ready to use it, i defrost overnight and then bake as directed.


I've made this several times, using the recipe as a starting point; most any dairy product works in place of the cottage cheese (sour cream, cream cheese) - and I add extra milk to try to make it saucier.
I love not having to cook the noodles separately.
Biggest success was adding finely chopped (smaller than the pasta) cooked cauliflower. This was a huge hit in my house, even when people didn't know it was in there. Imparts great flavor.


According to Martha Stewart, use white cheddar rather than orange. She didn't have a reason but I think she is correct. White cheddars are better behaved than the orange ones in cooked preparations.


White cheddar does not curdle or become stringy, and sharp white cheddar has maximum flavor without additional chemicals for "yellowing."

Molly Gallucci

Easiest and best mac and cheese I've ever made! Make sure you puree the cottage cheese mixture well and use fatty milk if you can, the richer the better. I have played around with different cheese blends and found that as long as you keep about 1/2 cheddar you can use other cheeses like gruyere or asiago to add complexity. I've also added additions like bacon and cooked veggies in smallish amounts (less than a cup total) and it's been great! It reheats well (if you have any left!).


I was shocked by how good this was, given the shortcuts. Usually easier means worse. This culinary miracle is now my go-to mac & cheese -- I've made it many times.

For a creamier melt, use one third Velveeta and two thirds cheddar (sharp or extra sharp). No one will know the cheesy cheese is in there, but the texture will be much improved.


Made this yesterday and it's marvelous. Also, wonderfully fantastic the next day. I used whole milk with a splash of half and half. 1/4 tsp. more salt and pepper, 2 tsp. dijon and followed the other ingredients exactly. I almost forgot to stir after taking the foil off, but remembered a few minutes late, with perfect results. I also added buttered breadcrumbs to the top for the last 10 minutes of baking. I will make this again (and probably again and again and again).


Made as described, and it’s very grainy. Used whole milk and cottage cheese at that. Will try again, but apply the recommendations to use half and half and maybe half of a different cheese instead.


Can this be made a day ahead and cooked the next day?


It works with gluten free pasta too! Tried this recipe tonight with gluten free elbows (jovial, although I don't think brand matters) and it came out great. The pasta was well cooked, not over- or underdone, which was my main concern.

Amala the Librarian

Best ever! My mom whines if I don't make it at holidays. I add a little yellow mustard as well (maybe 1/2 tbls).

Amala the Librarian

Oh! And, I forgot to mention in previous post, use spiral macaroni. More surface area = more flavor in every bite.


This was okay but proportions were strange


So so gritty. Followed the recipe exactly as written - tasted good but was extremely dry and gritty. Creamy doesn’t describe this recipe….made sure to use freshly grated cheese to make sure it would melt…disappointing.


Absolute perfection- doubled recipe used 1/2 extra sharp white cheddar, 1/4 jack & 1/4 Gruyère and subbed ricotta for the cottage cheese.

Julie N.

Have been desperately looking for a truly creamy mac and cheese- this is not it. I followed the recipe as-is and it came out almost curdled. Another bust. Onward.


I’ve made this dozens of times at this point and always to rave reviews from kids and adults alike. Never a problem with the pasta, always exactly right. The only thing I don’t do to the word is the cheese- I like to mix it up! Aged cheddar is a part of it, but I love to throw in other aged cheeses like Gruyère along with softer cheeses like Havarti or Gouda. Don’t omit the nutmeg- it makes everything beautiful.


This is our go-to mac n cheese recipe; been making it for years and my kiddo declares it the best mac n cheese in the world! I do add some garlic powder and it takes it to a different level pf deliciousness. We stir in peas, which is one way to get them into little bodies. I would not, however, say this was a “creamy” mac n cheese but it’s still delicious!

more sauce

My rendition:1 box cavatapi pasta 10 min rinse with cold 1 cubed ham steak sauce 1/2 tsp truffle oil3 tbs butter Heavy cream mix with milk 1-1.5 c2 8oz bags sharp cheddar1/2block Gruyère Fresh thyme and dried parsley Dusting nutmeg 1 tsp cayenne Shave on top before bread crumbs Gruyère Bread crumbs PankoPan fried pack panchetta4 cloves garlicUse oil and mix in bread crumbs


This is the first time I have been let down by a five-star NYT recipe. It was bland and the base did not come together.

Lexi Prochnicki

Doubled all the spices except for salt and delish. As others have said, not as saucy as advertised but still yummy.


Made this for the first time last night, and it won’t be the last! Kids, grownups - everyone loved it. I used double cream cultured cottage cheese and extra sharp white cheddar, and baked it in my toaster oven in a 9” round pan. Timing and temp were spot on.

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Creamy Macaroni and Cheese Recipe (2024)
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