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How Do I Stop Mac and Cheese From Being Too Dry?

Asked by yask. Answered on 23rd September 2010

Full question

Hi Nigella team ! How can I keep mac and cheese; from getting too dry in the oven? Even if I do put lots of cream in the cheesy sauce, after I take it out of the oven it is really dry, it's as if the sauce totally evaporated. Thank you

Our answer

Pasta, even when cooked, will tend to absorb any liquid that it is sitting in and a dry mac and cheese is very frustrating. There are a couple of steps that may help. First rinse the cooked and drained pasta with lots of cold water. This will remove any excess starch that may be clinging to the pasta and this starch can sometimes affect the consistency of the cheese sauce. Leave the pasta to drain for 5 minutes or so before adding to your sauce.

Second is the sauce - the amount of sauce that you need for a baked mac and cheese is surprisingly high. As a rough guide for 500g (1 pound) pasta you need a sauce made with about 1 litre (1 quart) milk. The pasta should be slightly submerged in sauce when in its baking dish, but once your mac and cheese emerges from the oven the macaroni should be nicely coated with sauce, rather than dry.The sauce should also not be too thick, for the 1 litre of milk you will need about 100g plain flour (scant 1 cup all-purpose flour) to thicken it and the consistency should be such that it lightly coats the back of a spoon (the cheese that you add will thicken the sauce slightly too). Finally if you do have a favourite recipe that you are not keen on adjusting too much then make the mac and cheese at the last minute, put the hot mixture into a warm baking dish, give it a couple of minutes under a preheated grill (broiler) and serve immediately.

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