Meaty Braised Brisket Mac And Cheese Recipe

Comfort food serves a special function in our diets, whether it's playing to our nostalgia of the past or highlighting a creamy texture that feels like a warm hug. Tasting Table recipe developer Katie Rosenhouse shares this meaty braised brisket mac and cheese recipe that features her "ultimate comfort foods," she says. She recalls eating brisket for holidays and says that mac and cheese is a recurring dish in her family's weekly repertoire. 

Both of those dishes offer a delicious and nourishing meal, and together, the experience is further heightened. "The braised brisket is tender, with an umami-rich, savory flavor that contrasts the creaminess of the mac and cheese," says Rosenhouse. "With a layer of crispy panko breading, this dish is over-the-top, to say the least." Considering its heartiness, she recommends, "To round out the meal, serve this brisket mac and cheese with a green salad, sauteed spinach, or any of your favorite veggies."

Gather the ingredients for meaty braised brisket mac and cheese

This recipe has two main parts that are combined for serving, so you'll need a variety of ingredients. For the meat, get olive oil, beef brisket, kosher salt, ground black pepper, a yellow onion (peeled and thinly sliced), ketchup, beef stock, garlic cloves (minced), dark brown sugar, paprika, and white vinegar. For the mac and cheese, you'll need large elbow macaroni, unsalted butter, all-purpose flour, whole milk, sharp cheddar cheese (shredded), Parmesan cheese (grated), kosher salt, ground black pepper, panko breadcrumbs, and fresh parsley (chopped). 

Step 1: Preheat the oven

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Step 2: Season the meat

Season the brisket on both sides with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.

Step 3: Heat the oil

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

Step 4: Sear the meat

Add the brisket to the pot and sear until golden brown; flip and repeat.

Step 5: Add onions

Remove from heat and add the onions.

Step 6: Combine the marinade ingredients

In a glass measuring cup or bowl, whisk to combine the ketchup, stock, garlic, brown sugar, paprika, white vinegar, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.

Step 7: Coat the meat

Pour the sauce over the brisket to coat.

Step 8: Bake until tender

Cover and bake for 2 ½–3 hours, or until the brisket is tender. Set aside.

Step 9: Boil water

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Step 10: Cook the pasta

Add the pasta and cook until almost al dente.

Step 11: Drain and rinse

Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Step 12: Melt the butter

In a large pot, melt the butter.

Step 13: Combine butter and panko

Transfer 2 tablespoons of the melted butter into a bowl and toss with the panko to coat. Set aside.

Step 14: Brown flour in the butter

Add the flour to the remaining butter in the pot. Cook, whisking, until the color deepens, 1–2 minutes.

Step 15: Whisk in milk

Slowly add the milk, whisking until smooth with each addition until all of the milk has been added.

Step 16: Cook the mixture while whisking

Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking, until the mixture is slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon.

Step 17: Stir in the cheese and seasonings

Remove from heat. Add the cheeses, salt, and pepper, and whisk until smooth.

Step 18: Toss the pasta with cheese sauce

Add the drained pasta to the pot and stir to coat with the cheese sauce.

Step 19: Increase the oven heat

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Step 20: Prep a baking dish

Lightly grease a 5-quart baking dish.

Step 21: Transfer the pasta to the dish

Pour the pasta mixture evenly into the dish.

Step 22: Add panko

Top with the panko mixture.

Step 23: Bake

Bake for 20–25 minutes, until golden brown.

Step 24: Remove the brisket from the sauce

While the mac and cheese is baking, transfer the brisket to a cutting board, reserving the sauce in a bowl.

Step 25: Slice the meat

Thinly slice the brisket, and then chop it into bite-sized pieces.

Step 26: Add the meat to the sauce

Stir the brisket back into the sauce.

Step 27: Add the meat to the pasta and garnish

Pour the brisket over the baked mac and cheese, then garnish with chopped parsley.

Step 28: Serve

Serve immediately.

Meaty Braised Brisket Mac And Cheese Recipe
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Two comfort foods combine in this beef brisket-topped mac and cheese recipe for a hearty, warming meal with both artisanal and rustic flair.
Prep Time
40
minutes
Cook Time
3
hours
Servings
12
servings
serving brisket mac and cheese
Total time: 3 hours, 40 minutes
Ingredients
  • For the brisket
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (2-pound) beef brisket
  • ½ + 1 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • ¼ + ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • ¾ cup beef stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • For the mac and cheese
  • 1 pound large elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  2. Season the brisket on both sides with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
  3. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the brisket to the pot and sear until golden brown; flip and repeat.
  5. Remove from heat and add the onions.
  6. In a glass measuring cup or bowl, whisk to combine the ketchup, stock, garlic, brown sugar, paprika, white vinegar, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
  7. Pour the sauce over the brisket to coat.
  8. Cover and bake for 2 ½–3 hours, or until the brisket is tender. Set aside.
  9. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
  10. Add the pasta and cook until almost al dente.
  11. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
  12. In a large pot, melt the butter.
  13. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the melted butter into a bowl and toss with the panko to coat. Set aside.
  14. Add the flour to the remaining butter in the pot. Cook, whisking, until the color deepens, 1–2 minutes.
  15. Slowly add the milk, whisking until smooth with each addition until all of the milk has been added.
  16. Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking, until the mixture is slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
  17. Remove from heat. Add the cheeses, salt, and pepper, and whisk until smooth.
  18. Add the drained pasta to the pot and stir to coat with the cheese sauce.
  19. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  20. Lightly grease a 5-quart baking dish.
  21. Pour the pasta mixture evenly into the dish.
  22. Top with the panko mixture.
  23. Bake for 20–25 minutes, until golden brown.
  24. While the mac and cheese is baking, transfer the brisket to a cutting board, reserving the sauce in a bowl.
  25. Thinly slice the brisket, and then chop it into bite-sized pieces.
  26. Stir the brisket back into the sauce.
  27. Pour the brisket over the baked mac and cheese, then garnish with chopped parsley.
  28. Serve immediately.
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What's the secret for tender brisket?

You'll definitely want the meat to be properly cooked when pairing it with the creamy mac and cheese. "Low and slow is key for tender brisket," Rosenhouse says. "I like braising mine in a covered Dutch oven at 325 F for 2 ½ to 3 hours, but you can also prepare the brisket in a slow cooker." If you're opting for the latter, she recommends to "Cook on low for about 8 hours for equally tender results." 

Although you might be tempted to rush the process to dig into your meal faster, follow Rosenhouse's advice. The brisket cut is muscled with tough tissues, so it requires low and slow heat to break down the fibers into a tender, palatable consistency. If you undercook it, you'll be chewing your way through muscle with none of the rendered fat that makes it so succulent. That said, don't overcook it either or the meat will become dry. 

What cheeses are best for brisket mac and cheese?

It's all in the name: Mac and cheese calls for plenty of cheese. If you're used to the boxed variety, the powdered cheese isn't a particularly gourmet affair. However, when you're making this hearty dish from scratch, it's all about adding fresh cheese for a creamy and gooey result. This recipe calls for sharp cheddar and Parmesan, which provide a rich and salty taste. However, you can mix and match if you prefer other types of cheese.

"Cheddar is a classic for mac and cheese," Rosenhouse says, "but feel free to swap in some Gruyère if you're feeling extra fancy, or Pecorino Romano in the place of the Parmesan." Gruyère is a little less bold than sharp cheddar but infuses the dish with nuttiness and mild fruit and mushroom aromas. Meanwhile, Pecorino has a bright and tangy taste that stands out. You can also try popular options such as Gouda, mozzarella, Havarti, Fontina, or even goat cheese.