Tonight's Dinner: Smokey Mac & Cheese

Aug 8, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. ET

Mac & Cheese is one of those classic comfort foods that's great no matter what time of year. This version gets a little smokey flavor thanks to some smoked gouda.

Not only is Mac & Cheese one of the classic comfort foods, it also happens to be my favorite comfort food. Whenever it's on a menu I order it. Sometimes it's amazing and sometimes it's horrible. The best kinds of mac & cheese aren't just cheesy, they're also super rich and creamy. I always thought it had to do with the amount of cream and butter you added. But no matter how much cream or butter I added, it was never creamy enough. So, I finally asked a chef: "please, tell me what the secret is to creamy mac & cheese." Turns out it's not cream, or even butter for that matter. It's a little ingredient found in the baker aisle of the supermarket: evaporated milk. Yes, it's still milk, but something about the way it's processed makes all the difference in the world. That and pouring your pasta right into the milk.

If you're like me, you probably drain your pasta and rinse it with cold water to stop it from cooking. Well for mac & cheese, this is a big no no. Yes, you should still drain the pasta, but under no circumstances should you rinse it. Rinsing the pasta takes away all the stickiness that helps keep it together in the casserole dish. That stickiness combined with the evaporated milk and American cheese is what makes mac & cheese the wonderfully rich, creamy mac & cheese that I and most people I know adore. So the next time you make your mac & cheese, remember these two simple things: don't rinse your pasta and use evaporated milk. You won't be sorry.

Smokey Mac & Cheese


  • 1 pound small elbow pasta
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup butter melted
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
  • 4 ounces American cheese, cut into cubes
  • 4 ounces smoked gouda, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot of salted water, boil the macaroni for about five minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside. DO NOT RINSE.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the evaporated milk and eggs. Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese and melted butter. Place the al dente macaroni in an ungreased 3-quart baking dish. Pour milk mixture over macaroni. Stir in the cubes of cheddar, American, and smoked gouda. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the top.
  3. Bake uncovered for 35-45 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden brown. Serve immediately.

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