Recipe Review

I Tried the Mac & Cheese Recipe That Crashed Ina Garten’s Website

published May 27, 2020
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Credit: Kelli Foster

One of the things I love about Ina Garten is her ability to put an elegant spin on even the homiest of dishes. So last month when she posted an Instagram photo of her new overnight mac and cheese recipe, I knew I had to try it. And I wasn’t alone — so many people rushed to get the recipe that her website crashed!

What’s unique about this recipe is that it skips the traditional bechamel sauce altogether. Instead, you mix the par-cooked macaroni noodles with heavy cream and cheese, then let it sit in the fridge overnight. Would this become my new go-to technique? Here’s what happened when I gave it a go.

Get the recipe: Overnight Mac & Cheese

Making Ina’s Overnight Mac and Cheese

I started this recipe the evening before I planned to serve it. I began by par-cooking elbow macaroni in a pot of salted boiling water for precisely four minutes. As it cooked, I combined Gruyère and cheddar cheese with heavy cream, ground nutmeg, salt, and black pepper. I then stirred in the drained pasta, covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and stashed it in the fridge. I also set out five slices of white bread to stale overnight.

I set an alarm on my phone to remind myself to pull the bowl of cream-soaked macaroni from the fridge an hour before I planned to bake (alternatively, I could have popped the bowl in the microwave for four minutes). Meanwhile, I pulsed the stale bread in the food processor to turn it into breadcrumbs, then mixed them with melted butter. After sitting at room temperature for an hour, I spooned the macaroni into a buttered 2-quart baking dish, then topped it with more grated cheese and the buttery breadcrumbs. I baked it for just 20 minutes before digging in.

Credit: Kelli Foster

My Honest Review of Ina Garten’s Overnight Mac and Cheese

If you, like me, prefer your mac and cheese to be swimming in sauce, know that this is not that. Don’t get me wrong — it’s still incredibly creamy and cheesy. But because the macaroni soaks up so much of the cream, it’s just not as saucy as I tend to prefer.

But if you prefer a thicker, more casserole-style mac and cheese, look no further! Every single element — the texture of the noodles, the level of seasoning, the amount of cheese and breadcrumbs — is perfectly spot-on. I loved the two-to-one ratio of nutty Gruyère to sharp cheddar, and the addition of nutmeg reminded me of a classic bechamel and made the casserole feel a little fancy. These are all the sorts of things I’ve come to expect from an Ina recipe.

I also loved how easy the recipe was to pull off. Despite being initially deterred by the upfront planning, it ended up being one of my favorite parts.

Credit: Kelli Foster

If You’re Making Ina Garten’s Overnight Mac and Cheese, a Few Tips

  1. You’ll need 8 ounces of Gruyère and 4 ounces sharp white cheddar. The recipe calls for the cheese in cups, but ounces are more helpful when you’re shopping for the cheese at the store.

2. Shred all the cheese at once, then store the extra in a covered container in the refrigerator for the next day. Shredding all the cheese upfront means there’s barely any prep before baking, and it dirties fewer dishes.

3. Use an equal amount of panko breadcrumbs instead of making your own. A panko breadcrumb topping will still be buttery and delicious.

Your turn: Have you tried making Ina Garten’s overnight mac and cheese at home? Let us know in the comments!