How Long To Boil Noodles For Mac And Cheese


Your standard macaroni and cheese can benefit from a little protein added to round it out and give it the substantial boost it needs to become a “main dish.”

How Long To Boil Noodles For Mac And Cheese

My favorite ways to add a bit of protein:

Cut up some chicken or chorizo sausages for a simple, no-fuss addition.

A few crispy bacon slices should be fried, cooled, and then crumbled into your mac. Try our hard cider mac and cheese, jalapeño mac and cheese, or rosemary bacon mac and cheese to witness this in action!

Stir in some leftover turkey or chicken.

For a seafood twist, sauté some shrimp (or lobster!) with some butter, garlic, and red pepper flakes. A little lemon juice and lump crab make a delicious addition to your standard mac and cheese. (If you use seafood, be sure to source it sustainably!).

Drain the fat from a skillet of spicy Italian sausage or ground beef, then toss it into your pasta.


Making a mac and cheese sauce with cheese is a creative endeavor. Although it’s perfectly acceptable to choose a time-honored recipe and stick with it—hello, all-cheddar cheese sauce!—the greatest macaroni and cheese frequently incorporates a variety of cheeses. The graphic below features a few of my favorites, but there are countless options!

How Long To Boil Noodles For Mac And Cheese

A few tips for choosing cheeses:

Expensive cheese does not equal delicious cheese sauce. Spend less money on an ostentatious cheese that will eventually melt and cover a mountain of carbohydrates. Your favorite regular cheeses will work just fine! What you should look for in a cheese sauce is aged cheddar and parmesan (aged cheddar tastes a lot more like “BOOM! IM CHEDDAR!” than regular sandwich cheese).

Shred your own cheese. Ever look at the ingredients list on the back of pre-shredded cheese? Its usually “cheese,” (of course) followed by a whooooole bunch of other stuff. This is bad for two reasons: (1) preservative chemicals are gross and I dont like it when theyre all over my food and (2) the chemicals they put on pre-shredded cheese often prevent it from melting smoothly. Use a sturdy box grater to shred a block of cheese or go full cheese-ster with the shredding disc of a food processor (more details in the equipment section below!).

Taste as you go. When I first added blue cheese to mac and cheese sauce, I added an extremely large handful of the cheese. And it tasted horrible. (Thankfully, I was able to calculate the ratio and produced a rather delicious blue cheese mac and cheese, phew.) Start small when experimenting with new cheese pairings, particularly if you’re using a strong-flavored cheese like pepper jack or smoked gouda. Add a small handful of cheese to the sauce and taste it to gauge the development of flavors. You can always add more cheese!.

Balance strong flavors with mild ones. I adore the robust tastes of gruyere, pepper jack, blue cheese, and smoked gouda, but it’s easy to overdo it and ruin the unique flavor you’re trying for. To achieve the ideal taste combination, select a cheese that you want to draw attention to and pair it with subtle flavors that enhance the creaminess and depth of your sauce without overpowering the cheese that is on display. Havarti, fontina, and white cheddar are excellent mild cheeses to pair with those bolder flavors. My favorite pairings are Goat Cheese Havarti, Smoked Gouda Sharp Cheddar, Gruyere Fontina White Cheddar (like in our lobster mac and cheese), and Pepper Jack White Cheddar.

Dont be afraid to keep it simple. While creating new cheese blends is often enjoyable, there are instances when a simple sauce with just one cheese is exactly what the mac-doctor ordered. When I add layers of flavor to my sauce through other means, like adding proteins, vegetables, or mix-ins like pesto and squash puree, I usually use just one type of cheese. Similar to how you don’t want one cheese flavor to overpower another, you also don’t want an excessive amount of cheeses to overpower the other ingredients in your mac and cheese. A single cheese addition allows the other flavors to come through in dishes like Roasted Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese and Havarti Spinach Mac and Cheese, for example.


Talking about mac and cheese, it seems most appropriate to start with the mac Although macaroni pasta is perhaps the most well-known mac-to-the-cheese, there are other types of noodles in the sea besides macaroni (noodle in the sauce?).

When selecting your pasta for macaroni and cheese, look for shapes with plenty of texture. The best pasta for mac and cheese has deep grooves, pockets, and ridges – these features help each noodle catch as much cheese sauce as possible. Avoid long noodles like spaghetti or fettuccine, whose smooth surfaces dont hold cheese sauce all that well, and opt instead for short, ridged shapes like radiatore or shells. My favorite pasta shapes for mac and cheese are in the graphic below!

How Long To Boil Noodles For Mac And Cheese

Remember that different brands of pasta with similar shapes have different names and labels. Look for short, textured pasta with lots of grooves to hold the amazing cheese sauce you’re about to make, rather than obsessing over the perfect pasta name.

Always boil pasta until it’s al dente, which is Italian for “to the tooth,” and still has a slight bite to it. The salt has a major flavoring effect on the noodles.

Cook pasta for 3 to 4 minutes LESS than al dente if you intend to bake it. Pasta should be slightly undercooked when placed in the oven to ensure that it cooks through to a perfectly al dente consistency because the pasta will continue to cook there.

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