Recipe Review

This Loaded Stovetop Mac & Cheese Is So Good, I Can’t Stop Going Back for Seconds (and Thirds)

updated Nov 30, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

When I first saw Carla Hall’s mac and cheese recipe, which was originally featured on The Chew, I knew I had to include it in our celebrity recipe showdown. I also knew it would take some work to decipher it. That’s because the recipe now only lives on, where it looks to have been submitted by a home cook. I had to read it closely a few times to figure out what was going on (all the directions are lumped into one paragraph), but luckily for you, deciphering recipe code is my job.

The truth is, there are so many delicious elements to this recipe that I didn’t even mind the extra work. It starts with a roux base and three types of cheese, to which Carla adds crispy bacon, caramelized onions, and garlicky breadcrumbs. Although less is often more, could this be a case where more is more? I tried it to find out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Carla Hall’s Mac and Cheese

Since the recipe on the site is poorly edited, I’m going to write the instructions in the order I think is best.

The first thing I would do is make the caramelized onions (you’ll need four or five onions to make one cup). As they’re caramelizing, boil one pound pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, then drain and reserve. Cook the bacon in a large pot, reserving the bacon fat in the pot. Add butter to the bacon fat, then stir in the flour to make a roux. Whisk in the whole milk and cook until the mixture begins to thicken. Add in the pepper Jack cheese, white cheddar cheese, and cream cheese, then whisk until the cheese is melted and smooth. Crumble the bacon and add it to the cheese sauce along with the caramelized onions and the cooked macaroni. If you’d like, you can transfer the mac and cheese to a serving dish.

Lastly, you’ll toast breadcrumbs, butter, garlic, salt, and pepper in a skillet over medium heat. Top the mac and cheese with the breadcrumbs and finish with fresh parsley.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

My Honest Review of Carla Hall’s Mac and Cheese

I love a loaded mac and cheese, and I really love this recipe. Out of all the stovetop recipes I tested, this one has all the feels of a baked macaroni and cheese — primarily because of the toasty breadcrumbs on top. I love the smokiness of the bacon, the sweet and savory flavors from the caramelized onion, and the faint heat of the pepper Jack cheese. The cream cheese gave the cheese sauce a very smooth texture and lots of savory flavors, and the parsley helps bring balance to all those rich ingredients. I felt like I could eat it on its own (no sides needed), and I found myself continuing to go back for more.

Carla’s recipe is a party showstopper, a potluck star, and the belle of the banquet. It’s also great as leftovers, and the bacon makes it feel like you could eat it for breakfast.

Credit: Amelia Rampe

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

  1. Cook the bacon in a large pot. The recipe says to cook the bacon and make the cheese sauce in a saucepan, but because you’ll ultimately be stirring in one pound of macaroni, a large pot will give you more space.
  2. Make the onions and breadcrumbs in advance. The only downside to this recipe is that it’s much more time-consuming than most stovetop mac and cheese recipes. To save time, make the onions and breadcrumbs the day before and store them in an airtight container.
  3. Boost the flavor even more. It’d be fun to add mustard powder or a touch of hot sauce to add some different dimensions of flavor. I’d also like to see what would happen if I used evaporated milk, like the Serious Eats version. But honestly, this recipe has it all, so it really doesn’t need much more.

Rating: 9.5/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

Have you tried Carla Hall’s mac and cheese recipe? Let us know in the comments!