Michael Symon’s Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese and I have a long history together. I grew up with the blue boxed variety and then moved into the realm of frozen cheesy pasta goodness.  Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but in a pinch both Stouffer’s and Trader Joe’s have a mighty fine frozen mac and cheese product.  And I suspect that someone, somewhere, has passed one of these off as homemade.  I’m not saying I’ve ever done that.  I’m just speculating that it has happened.  The thing about that is as easy as frozen mac and cheese is, homemade is not much more work.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I boil water?
  • Can I carefully measure out hot cooking water?
  • Can I pour cream into a saucepan cook it down?
  • Can I shred cheese?
  • Can I mix together pasta, cream, cheese, and cooking water?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you can make macaroni and cheese.  And not just any mac and cheese.  This is Michael Symon’s mac and cheese (MSmac).  With no disrespect to the recipes I’ve tried from Martha, Ina, and Deb, this might just be the best mac and cheese I’ve ever made.  Why is that?

First: I prefer stovetop mac and cheese over one that is oven baked. MSmac goes directly from stovetop to plate so my mac and cheese needs can be met in no more time than it takes to make the sauce and cook the pasta.

Second: I don’t want to spend $$$$ on three, four, or five different cheeses.  MSmac calls for one cheese and while it’s fancier than American or Cheddar, it won’t break the week’s food budget.

Third: MSmac has a rich, silky cheese sauce.  There are no lumps, clumps, or globs to dampen my mac and cheese enjoyment.

Fourth: MSmac has bacon.  Does that really require an explanation?

Fifth: There really isn’t a fifth reason since bacon trumps anything else I could say.

I first discovered MSmac thanks to Alice at Savory Sweet Life.  She wrote about it and I knew that it would not be long before MSmac and I found ourselves alone together.  It was our destiny to find one another across the Intewebs.  And let me tell you, destiny does not like to wait.  Now that destiny has brought me together with MSmac, I don’t know what could ever tear us apart.  This is what I want when all the little things in my day go wrong.  This is how I want to console myself when the Universe is conspiring against me.  This is my definition of comfort food.

Perhaps MSmac is right for you?

Disclaimer:  Side effects of MSmac are mild to moderate and include eating it straight from the pot and licking cheese sauce off of serving utensils.  Consult professional help for sauces requiring 30 minutes or more to reduce.

Mac & Cheese

Adapted from Chef Michael Symon

BAH Note: I’ve scaled this down because having the full recipe’s worth of this in my house is dangerous.  In my opinion, this is best served as a side so you can enjoy a smaller serving and not feel completely wicked.  But it can just as easily be your main course.  You’ll want to be sure to use a nonstick saucepan and watch your heat so that the cream doesn’t scorch or boil over.

BAH Tip:  I’m bad at guestimating when liquids have reduced, so to check I carefully poured the hot cream into a 2 cup liquid measuring cup to gauge my progress.  It’s really about the volume of the cream more than it is about how long it takes.  Just be patient and don’t rush the process.

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/4 pound bacon, fried, drained, and crumbled
  • 1/2 pound short pasta
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Bring cream and rosemary to a low boil over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Keep at a low boil, stirring frequently, until reduced by half and thickened, approximately 25 minutes.

While the cream is reducing, cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid before draining the pasta.

When the cream has reduced, add the pasta and grated Gruyere and stir to combine.  Add pasta water until the sauce is as loose as you like.  Stir in the crumbled bacon, taste for seasoning, and add salt to taste.

{printable recipe}

43 thoughts on “Michael Symon’s Mac & Cheese

  1. Oh my. Bacon. Bacon makes everything better! And here I thought I was loyal to Alton Brown’s stovetop recipe. This might trump it. I’ll have to run some extensive taste tests and let you know! 😀

    1. Amy, the only words of caution I’ll give you is that if you are doing this as a solo, covert operation, you will definitely want to scale the recipe down. The reduced cream makes for a rich sauce. And I have yet to find the key to reheating MSmac. Maybe I need to mosey over to Twitter and query Mr. Symon himself.

  2. Adding bacon AND heavy cream AND good cheese is practically cheating!

    I swear by Alton Brown’s recipe, and I use whatever cheese I have on hand (usually several varieties). My mom made the best Mac and Cheese ever, but unfortunately never gave me the recipe. 😦

    (And I agree that Stouffer’s m&c is pretty good, as is their noodles Romanoff.)

    1. Minx, I can’t argue that the cards are stacked in favor of success with this recipe. I’ve made AB’s mac and cheese and have enjoyed it but this…this is otherwordly good.

  3. when you break it down like that, how can anyone NOT be able to make this cheesy goodness? love the addition of the rosemary and bacon.

    me, i don’t mind m&c baked or from the stove, it is all yum to me!

    1. Lan, I hope the breakdown will convince folks that mac and cheese is not rocket science and will give it a try. The rosemary is a little unexpected but really works with the gruyere.

  4. Wendi, thanks so much for sharing this!! I’ve been searching for the perfect stovetop mac and cheese recipe for years (I also prefer it to the baked variety). I was recently disappointed by Alton Brown’s version . . . no offense to that wonderful man. I can’t wait to try this. I might try it with cheddar and no bacon using the same technique just to see how basic (and cheap) I can get.

    1. Jenna, I can fully support a baconless version. Let me know how this works with cheddar. I have a few other mac and cheese recipes that need to be dusted off and finally make their way online. Maybe this will be the first in my mac series!

    1. Ali, I think I am genetically predisposed to favor stovetop mac and cheese. And I’m ok with that because there are recipes like this.

  5. Noel is pretty traditionalist when it comes to mac and cheese–he loves his amish style baked stuff with the bread crumbs on top. I’ll have to see if I can lure him to the dark side with this!

    1. Beth, perhaps you should “sample” some of this with me before you decide whether to try and lure Noel over to our side. You might decide that you don’t want to have to share the goods.

  6. I can’t make this. I’ll eat it all and swell up like balloon and then be all “I don’t know why I got Chubby McChubberson” and the hubs will remind me I ate mac and cheese with bacon and then I’d say “gimme another bowlfull!!” because I’d already be a cow so what does it matter. I totally can’t make this.

    1. Brooke, I have faith that you would not let that happen. And if you doubt yourself, do what I do and scale the recipe down by 50% or 75% and have other people available to help you eat it.

      I really ought to set up a category called Weapons of Mass Destruction for these most dangerous of recipes.

  7. Mac and cheese in our house is carbonara, which we are well overdue for. Such a tiny bowl of penne…I hope you had seconds and thirds…I digress. Roberto gifted me a new kitchen scale from the kitchen supply store last Friday. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to weigh out pasta every night. We try to stick to a 1/2 pound, but more often than not we’re edging closer to 10 oz/11 oz (if we are especially hungry and fatigued from a long day of work). Wendi, your mac and cheese photo is making me deliriously hungry (as if you couldn’t tell by my rambling)…

    1. Tracy, I think there may have been thirds served up in that tiny bowl. I love my kitchen scale but don’t use it nearly enough since it lives in the cupboard. Hope MSmac inspires you to make some carbonara…especially in this wicked cold a plate of creamy, cheesy pasta goodness sounds like perfection.

  8. I have never seen a mac and cheese recipe quite like this one! I’m so curious to try it. On my own blog, I have been lamenting my own mac and cheese disasters and asking my readers for recipes, and Jenna from Jenna’s Everything Blog gave me this link to your site. Thanks for the recipe; I just might give this one a try. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  9. MSMac sounds good to me! I appreciate the simplicity in cheese selection too. Now if I could just figure out how to use that shredder function on my food processor it would really make those from scratch m&c recipes simpler!

    1. Elizabeth, here’s a tip to make your shredding easier. Put the cheese in the freezer for 15 or 20 minutes or until it firms up. Then it is much easier to grate.

  10. Not sure if this is a “take” on his Mac and Cheese. Maybe it’s how he published it in Live to Cook? I can tell you how he does it at Lola. The cheese is goat, there is poached chicken breast and he adds cherry tomatoes. It is sooo simple to make at home. The goat cheese makes all the differance.
    As for reheating it- not going to happen. Even if you get it at Lola or Lolita, straight from the source, it breaks when it gets chilled. (Although we rarely have leftovers!)
    I am actually making it tonight (without thhe chicken) as a side for a leg of lamb.

    1. Chris, this recipe is one that MS showcased on the Wisconsin Cheese Board’s site. Glad to get a firsthand report that the reheating fiasco was not due to my error. I wish I could get mac and cheese straight from the source at Lola. You’re luckier than I am.

      Poached chicken breast you say? I may have to work some of that into the next batch.

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