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The Super-Simple Hack That Makes the Creamiest Mac and Cheese

Carrie Havranek
August 30, 2021
Photo Credit: Natalie Jeffcott

I recently stumbled across a secret way to make the creamiest mac and cheese ever and I can’t wait to share it. One caveat: I cannot take credit for what I am about to explain to you; I am merely the messenger. The actual hack comes from the Netflix series High on the Hog.

If you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it. Broadly speaking, the series charts the history of Southern cuisine’s roots in Africa and the inimitable contributions Africans have made to American cuisine. Hosted by chef and writer Stephen Satterfield and based on the James Beard Award-winning book by Jessica B. Harris, High on the Hog is an important and engaging watch for anyone interested in race, history, food, and how they interrelate.

But you want to know about how to get the creamiest mac and cheese…

How to Make the Creamiest Mac and Cheese

In one episode, Satterfield goes to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. People say that Jefferson was America’s first foodie, as he also popularized French fries and ice cream. And mac and cheese, which back then was called macaroni pie.

The show explains that mac and cheese was likely invented in colonial American days by Jefferson’s enslaved black chef James Hemings, who traveled to France with Jefferson so he could learn how to cook professionally. And the secret to creamy mac comes from Mr. Hemings.

Are you ready? Cook your mac and cheese in equal parts water and milk.

In practical terms, that amounts to about three cups of milk and three cups of water per pound of pasta. The pasta absorbs the milk and the water and becomes creamy in and of itself—and that’s before you add the cheese and butter. There’s a silkiness to the pasta that you can’t achieve otherwise. It’s the only way I make mac and cheese now, and my kids can’t get enough of it.

How to Make Mac and Cheese Healthier

By now, you may be wondering, why is Clean Plates telling me about mac and cheese? First of all, we believe in balance. Not every day is full of kale and chia seeds. Mac and cheese is an occasional indulgence that many people, adults and children alike, greatly enjoy.

And, believe it or not, you can adapt mac and cheese to almost any dietary need. Here’s how:

  • Substitute plant-based milk (coconut would be positively rich and creamy)
  • Try plant-based cheeses
  • Use gluten-free or legume-based pastas
  • Add easily cooked veggies such as peas, frozen spinach, chopped broccoli florets

Whatever you do, if you cook your noodles in a combination of milk and water, your mac and cheese will never be the same, regardless of whatever else you do (or don’t do) to make the dish healthier.


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