Ina Garten's Game-Changing Tip For The Creamiest Mac And Cheese

Think you love mac and cheese more than the next person? You might be right — if you happen to live in Canada. According to Global News, Canadians purchase 1.7 million of the 7 million boxes Kraft Mac and Cheese produces globally each week. That's 55% more than U.S. consumers buy, and nearly 25% of the total boxes produced.

But celebrity chef and television personality Ina Garten doesn't live in Canada — she lives in East Hampton, New York, and she has a tip to take your mac and cheese to the next level. Via Instagram, the chef writes, "Mac & Cheese is the ultimate comfort food but this [version] is so easy — you don't even need to make a béchamel!" 

Béchamel sauce is a simple combination of flour, milk, and butter gently emulsified in a saucepan over low heat (per Bon Appétit). It's a thick, rich, clingy sauce popular in savory dishes like lasagna, croque monsieur, and potatoes au gratin. While not a particularly difficult roux to make, béchamel is still an additional step — and one which, according to Garten, isn't necessary at all. So, what's her secret? It isn't a slow-cooker, fancy ingredients, or even extra milk.

Let your mac soak overnight

The Barefoot Contessa's secret to the creamiest mac and cheese? Cook your pasta the day before. Typically, having your pasta soak up all the sauce is a frustrating inconvenience many homecooks try to avoid. But, according to Garten, it's the key to nailing a perfect mac. To do it, says Garten, salt your pasta water and boil the pasta as normal. Then, transfer the cooked pasta to a mixture of heavy cream, grated cheese (Garten recommends two cups of Gruyère and one cup of cheddar), and nutmeg. The pasta should be refrigerated and soaked in the mixture for roughly 24 hours so it has time to absorb the cream. The next day, says Garten, bake your soaked, likely-expanded pasta in a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle with additional cheese and breadcrumbs. 

If you want to skip another step, in addition to foregoing the béchamel, try soaking your dry pasta instead of boiling it. Not only does this save active cooking time, but it also reduces your carbon footprint (per Exploratorium) and your pasta will rehydrate just the same as it would on the stove.

As iconic iconoclast comedian Mitch Hedberg once observed, "Fettucini alfredo is mac and cheese for adults." While there's certainly some undeniable truth to the statement, if you're using Garten's overnight recipe, all mac and cheese can be mac and cheese for adults — and creamier than ever.