Recipe Review

I Tried Carla Hall’s “Luxuriously Creamy” Mac and Cheese, and It’s Honestly the Best I’ve Ever Made

published Dec 29, 2023
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Overhead view of mac and cheese in a square, glass baking dish, with a scoop taken out of the bottom right corner.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Julia Choi-Rodriguez

The four-cheese mac and cheese recipe from Carla Hall promises to be as fun and vibrant as her personality. I was excited to come across the recipe and include it in our mac and cheese mega showdown

The recipe features four kinds of cheese, none of them especially mild — yellow sharp cheddar, white sharp cheddar, apple-smoked cheddar, and apple-smoked provolone. These get stirred into a fairly classic bechamel sauce; I say “fairly” because it incorporates a little grated onion for deeper flavor, as well as ground mustard and paprika. There’s nothing unusual about those spices; they often make an appearance in mac and cheese. But the amounts seemed hefty: a tablespoon of the mustard and a teaspoon of the paprika. 

Finally, the recipe uses crumbled cheese crackers as the crunchy topping. There’s a lot going on here, and I was eager to find out if all these elements would clash or come together in harmony. 

Get the recipe: Carla Hall’s Four Cheese Creamy Mac and Cheese

How to Make Carla Hall’s Four Cheese Creamy Mac and Cheese

This recipe involves a few steps and, as the title indicates, four different cheeses — but none of the steps are difficult and all of the cheeses add up to maximum deliciousness. 

While the oven preheats and a pot of water comes to a boil, you’ll make the cheese sauce. It starts with onion sautéed in a bit of butter. Some flour, a good amount of dry mustard, and a hefty dose of paprika go into the pan and are cooked and stirred to form a roux. You’ll then whisk in warm milk and simmer until the sauce is thickened. At that point, you’ll gradually add the cheeses: a mix of yellow and white sharp cheddar and smoked cheddar and smoked provolone. 

Next, you’ll boil the macaroni, but only until barely al dente (a mere 2 to 3 minutes). You’ll drain and rinse the pasta, stir it into the cheese sauce, and transfer the mixture to a casserole dish. 

To make the topping, you’ll pulse cheddar-Parmesan cheese crackers (like Cheez-It Duoz) with butter until they’re crumbled. The topping goes on top, the dish goes into the oven, and the mac bakes for about 30 minutes.

My Honest Review of Carla Hall’s Four Cheese Creamy Mac and Cheese

When I slid the casserole dish into the oven, I was a little worried; the mixture seemed too soupy. But of course, the macaroni ended up with a lovely texture — it was not mushy, which can happen with some mac and cheese. The al dente pasta absorbed some of the sauce, but only enough to flavor the pasta through and through without detracting from the overall creaminess.

The sauce was luxuriously creamy and rich. And the flavor was divine. The mix of cheeses gave this mac and cheese more complexity and depth, with a lovely balance of sharp, tangy, and smoky flavors working in beautiful harmony, none overpowering or overshadowing the other. 

But the best part? That salty-crunchy-cheesy topping provided the best textural contrast so that the mac and cheese underneath seemed even creamier.

If You’re Making Carla Hall’s Four Cheese Creamy Mac and Cheese, a Few Tips

  1. Use a large pot. The recipe calls for a large saucepan for making the cheese sauce. Know that you’ll eventually need to stir the cooked pasta into the pot, so aim big. A Dutch oven works nicely.
  2. Go slowly. The recipe instructs you to “gradually add the cheese” to the white sauce. Make sure you heed that advice. If you add too much cheese at once, it will not melt smoothly. 
  3. Opt for a 13×9-inch dish. The recipe doesn’t provide specific dimensions for the casserole dish you’ll use for baking the mac and cheese. I used a 13×9-inch dish, and it was the perfect size.

Overall rating: 10/10