Ina Garten’s Truffled Mac and Cheese is the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had. Sautéed mushrooms add a meaty flavor to the ultra creamy-cheesy sauce using Gruyere and cheddar cheeses. Truffle butter adds an umami that takes it to the next level. Topped with a toasted bread crumb-garlic topping, this is one special recipe.
I’ve made some excellent macaroni and cheese recipes in my day; namely my Grandma Phyllis’s Famous Mac and Cheese and a tasty Vegetable Mac and Cheese. And I don’t like to label any recipe as “best” because my best might not be what qualifies as best to you. So I call this Mac and Cheese the best macaroni and cheese I’VE ever had because, for me and several of my tasters, it truly is. I implore you to give it a try and see if you agree.
This is Ina Garten’s Truffled Mac and Cheese recipe and I wouldn’t presume to improve upon anything Ina has presented. But what I’ve done is explain the steps for home cooks who are new in their recipe-making journey and I’ve streamlined steps that required using up more pans and bowls than necessary. I’ve researched and tested acceptable substitutions for harder to find ingredients- like the truffle butter.
Important ingredients in Ina Garten’s Truffled Macaroni and Cheese-
Cremini mushrooms- Ina recommends half cremini and half shiitake. Several tasters found the shiitake mushrooms too chewy, so I’ve since been using only cremini and we love it.
Cream sherry- Sherry is added to the mushrooms after they’re cooked for a nice sweetness. If you only have regular sherry, I provide options for how to make dry sherry mimic the cream sherry.
Pasta- Cavatappi is recommended but any favorite pasta shape will do.
Scalded milk- Scalded milk or milk heated to the desired temperature in the microwave, provides the same outcome.
Nutmeg- A small amount of nutmeg is added so it’s not forward-tasting, but a classic addition to many macaroni recipes.
Bread crumb topping- The topping is made using white bread, fresh garlic, and fresh parsley. Perfect for a subtle crunch in most every bite.
The two most important ingredients in this recipe-
White truffle butter- Not always easy to find but truffle butter adds a luxurious earthy and musky hint to the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had. 🙂
Gruyere and extra-sharp cheddar- Gruyere has a distinct flavor and the extra-sharp cheddar is the perfect strong cheese to accompany it in this recipe.
How to make Truffled Macaroni and Cheese-
Saute the mushrooms- Mushrooms get sautéed before being added to the Truffle Macaroni and Cheese. Ina says to cook until “tender” but we like our mushrooms browned pretty well. The mushrooms don’t really cook much further while baking in the oven so I’d saute them to your liking.
I cooked my mushrooms until they’re dark around the edges plus a good many of them are caramelized. You can leave out the mushrooms if anyone in your family doesn’t like them. They add a nice complexity to the texture of the dish.
Cook your pasta- Ina recommends cavatappi pasta and I’ve used it every time I make this mac and cheese because it’s substantial and ridged so it holds the creamy cheese very well. Plus, it’s a cool shape. But any ridged pasta will work well if you can’t find cavatappi- Ziti, penne, rigatoni, large elbow (though not ridged, this is classic mac and cheese pasta), or twisty fusilli.
White truffle butter adds an incredible musky and earthy undertone to this recipe and contributes to this being “the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had”. However, it can be hard to find so I’ve done some research for other options that can give you similar results; like how to utilize truffle oil instead (pretty easy to find), or how to incorporate garlic and black pepper instead which won’t exactly taste the same, but will elevate the flavor pretty closely to what you get when using truffle butter. Note: white truffle butter is more mild than black truffle butter and if you try to use black truffle butter or oil instead, the flavor will be brighter. Either type of truffle may be used.
White Truffle Butter Substitutions for this recipe-
White truffle butter is found commonly in Italian markets or specialty grocers. If you can’t find truffle butter I have two substitutions that work very well.
Truffle oil- Truffle oil is more common and found in most major grocers. If you can find truffle oil, I recommend two tablespoons of truffle oil and two tablespoons of salted butter to replace the 4 ounces of truffle butter in the recipe.
Fresh garlic and black pepper- Truffle flavor is reminiscent of garlic and pepper; you can add four smashed and minced garlic cloves or two teaspoons garlic paste plus 1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper to 4 ounces of salted butter in the recipe.
Making the truffle cheese sauce-
The truffle butter is melted before adding the other ingredients for the cheese sauce.
All-purpose flour is then sprinkled onto the melted butter and cooked to remove the raw flour taste. I’m showing this picture where the flour has clumped quite a bit which may happen as you stir it. Not to worry, this will eventually smooth out when mixed with the hot milk. If you can’t completely smooth it out at this point, it will come out of the oven perfectly creamy so don’t fret about it.
Hot or scalded milk is added to the flour and stirred until the mixture becomes thick and creamy.
Gruyere and extra sharp cheddar are Ida’s recommendation in the Truffle Mac and Cheese and I definitely use them. Gruyere can be pricey but it’s so full of flavor and melts incredibly well that it’s worth paying for. The high water to fat content in this cheese helps the cheese to melt without separating. It can seem a bit “stinky” before melting but stick with it. Extra sharp cheddar pairs well with the Gruyere and the sharp tang it provides is uncompromised and just right when baked and incorporated in this recipe.
Stir the cheese sauce until all the cheese is melted before combining the other ingredients.
Prepare the macaroni and cheese for the oven-
In the pot you cooked the pasta, add the cheese sauce, mushrooms, and pasta, stirring until fully incorporated. Then transfer to the baking dish for the oven.
White bread, fresh garlic cloves, and fresh parsley make the perfect topping for this macaroni and cheese.
After the breadcrumb topping is added, placing some reserved mushrooms on top makes a nice presentation.
The dish is baked, uncovered, until the top is golden brown and the sides are nice and bubbly.
Ina’s Truffled Mac and Cheese is special and rich enough to be the main dish and that’s how I like it. However, the flavors here pair well with steak, prime rib, or roasted fish. You can’t go wrong.
I hope you love this recipe as much as I did. And for other meatless main dishes, I have several Risotto recipes sure to please, plus Polenta in the Instant Pot is an Italian favorite.
Truffle Macaroni and Cheese
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter unsalted
- 1 pound cremini mushrooms stems removed and caps sliced thin
- 3 tbsp cream sherry See notes for using dry sherry
- 1½ tbsp Kosher salt
- 1 pound pasta cavatappi, penne, or large elbow macaroni
- 3 ounces white truffle butter See notes for substitution if unable to find
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 quart whole milk scalded, or heated to 170F°
- 12 ounces Gruyere cheese grated (about 4 cups)
- 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar grated (2 ½ - 3 cups) yellow or white
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
For crumb topping
- 2 garlic cloves smashed
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley rough chopped
- 3 slices fresh white bread trimmed of crust and torn into large pieces (enough to make about 1 ½ cups bread crumbs)
- Heat a large saute pan to medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter. Once butter is melted, add 1 pound sliced mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid and most of it has evaporated. You can remove them from the pan now, but I like them a little caramelized; just cook to your liking because they won't brown further when baked in the oven. Add 3 tablespoons cream sherry and continue to saute until the sherry is absorbed, about another minute. Set aside but save the saute pan for cooking the cheese sauce. Take between 15-25 slices of the mushrooms and put into another small bowl or plate; these will be sprinkled on top before baking (optional).
- On another burner, start a large pot of water to boil and add barely a splash of olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente, the pasta will become more tender when baking in the oven. If using cavatappi, 6 to 7 minutes is good. Drain well.
- While the pasta is cooking, in the same saute pan you cooked the mushrooms, melt the 3 ounces truffle butter on low heat and whisk in the ½ cup flour. Cook for about two minutes to remove the raw flour taste; the mixture may clump, this is fine. Slowly whisk in the hot quart (4 cups) milk and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to smooth and then becomes thick and creamy. If it's quite clumpy, just stir until the clumps are small, it will smooth out as you continue in the following steps and will be great.
- Turn off the heat, add the 12 ounces grated Gruyere cheese and 8 ounces grated cheddar, 2 tablespoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg. Stir until completely melted. Preheat the oven to 375F° now, while you complete the rest of the recipe.
- In the large pot you cooked the pasta in, return the drained pasta, add the cheese sauce and cooked mushrooms (minus the few you took out for garnish). Mix until incorporated well, then pour into a 10 x 13 by 2-inch baking dish, or whatever similar size baking dish you have.
Make the crumb topping
- Place the 2 cloves smashed garlic, 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, and 3 slices torn fresh white bread into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until they're minced. Sprinkle this mixture over the pasta and then arrange the extra mushroom slices on top in a line down the center or scattered as you please (this step is optional, but tells your guests what they're getting).
- Bake at 375F°, uncovered, for 35 to 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown (if the top seems to be getting too dark, you may lay a sheet of aluminum foil lightly over the top while it finishes baking). Serve hot.
- Leftovers stay fresh in the fridge in an airtight container for 3 days. This dish may also be frozen- wait until completely cooled, then wrap in two layers of plastic wrap or press and seal wrap, then wrap that in aluminum foil, sealing edges well. To reheat, place in refrigerator overnight, remove covering and reheat in 375° oven until warmed through. Also may reheat individual portions in the microwave.
I’m so glad you posted this in time for Easter! I’ve been looking for a new side dish for our family dinner that would impress in taste and in presentation. This is perfect! Thank you for sharing I’m excited for this one!
Sally Humeniuk says
Hi Mindy, I agree that this would be a fabulous Easter side dish!
B) Your photos
C) Your stories
D) This Mac and Cheese combo!!
Sally Humeniuk says
Thank you, Amanda!
renee tula says
The possibilities for Mac and Cheese are endless! I have a feeling when I make this it might be my favorite 🙂
Sally Humeniuk says
Hi Renee, I have a feeling you might be right! I can’t get enough of this one, either.
Minka e says
Oh my… I LOVE truffle anything. This looks and sounds incredible! Cant wait to make it!
Sally Humeniuk says
I’m right there with you, Minka!