Macaroni cheese with title image

How to make next level macaroni cheese

Master the art of making macaroni cheese. We've broken this comfort food classic down into basic steps with 10 easy ways to take it to the next level.

Whether you know it as macaroni cheese or mac ‘n’ cheese, the granddaddy of pasta bakes comes in many incarnations from the classic, simple family supper to more luxurious versions with lobster or pulled pork.

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In our test kitchen we’ve developed the ultimate next level mac ‘n’ cheese with Marmite offering you 10 easy ways to take this classic comfort food dish to the next level. 

To give it universal appeal, we’ve steered away from adding pungent cheeses, but made it extra savoury with a few clever seasonings that enhance the cheese flavour. We’ve made the recipe extra indulgent, too, by increasing the amount of cheese used, and for the sauce-to-pasta ratio we’ve gone with an amount that’s saucy but still holds its shape when scooped from the dish.

10 ways to take mac ‘n’ cheese to the next level:

1. Make the sauce with brown butter
2. Add evaporated milk
3. Choose the right cheese
4. Choose the perfect pasta
5. Double up on breadcrumbs
6. Boost the flavour with Marmite
7. A hit of heat
8. Extra seasoning
9. Get the right flavour balance
10. Show restraint 

1. Make the sauce with brown butter

Browning the butter for the sauce adds a nutty flavour to the classic cheese sauce.
 

2. Add evaporated milk

Evaporated milk in glass bowl

This adds a sheen and richness to the sauce, but without it tasting overly creamy.
 

3. Choose the right cheese

One pile of cheddar and one pile of parmesan cheese

Rather than throwing in the whole cheeseboard we’ve just gone with extra mature cheddar to keep the flavours clear, and parmesan, which acts as a salty seasoning. As well as grated cheddar, we’ve added chunks, to give melted cheesy pockets.
 

4. Choose the perfect pasta

Two circles of elbow macaroni pasta on white surface

For the best ratio of sauce to pasta, classic elbow macaroni is the best. You can use other pasta but this turns it into a pasta bake.
 

5. Double up on breadcrumbs

Two piles of white breadcrumbs - dry and fresh

We’ve used two types of breadcrumbs, as they do different jobs. The fresh are there to soak up the oil from the cheese and the panko guarantee crunch.
 

6. Boost the flavour with Marmite

Marmite on a spoon

Marmite is like a flavour bomb and using it cranks up the umami (savouriness) of the dish. We’ve used Marmite this way before to take cheesy pizza bread to the next level.
 

7. A hit of heat

We’ve used English mustard powder to add extra peppery heat, but a spoonful of Dijon mustard would work just as well.
 

8. Extra seasoning

Adding cayenne pepper to pot of macaroni cheese sauce

Cayenne pepper is a classic seasoning that adds warmth and enhances the flavour of the cheese.
 

9. Get the right flavour balance

Pot of red wine vinegar

We’ve added some acidity in the way of a splash of vinegar to cut through the richness of the dish. It also acts as a seasoning.
 

10. Show restraint

We’ve kept things strictly mac ‘n’ cheese and held back on other main ingredients that often make a guest appearance. We haven’t added tomato because they release their juices as they cook, which dilutes the sauce and stops the top becoming crunchy. We held off on bacon because we wanted to keep it meat-free and even though cheese & onion is a classic flavour combo we found the taste overpowering.

Get the full recipe for next level mac ‘n’ cheese with Marmite and treat family and friends – it serves up to 10 people!
 

Try more variations on macaroni cheese…

Macaroni cheese recipes collection
Best ever macaroni cheese recipe
Macaroni cheese in 4 easy steps
3-veg mac ‘n’ cheese
Cauliflower & macaroni cheese
Macaroni cheese with bacon & pine nuts

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Have you made our ultimate macaroni cheese yet? Let us know your thoughts below…