21st Century Mac and Cheese


This is comfort food at its finest -- and most simple. Enjoy this delicious remake of a childhood favorite.


  • 1/2 pound (2 cups ) raw penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 3/4 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 generous cup (5 ounces) shredded good quality, extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 5 ounces cream cheese, crumbled
  • 2/3 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese
  • Generous 1/8 teaspoon each hot red pepper flakes
  • Generous 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Generous 1/4 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 saltines, coarsely crumbled


1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish, and add cooked pasta.

2. In a blender or food processor combine egg, milk, and garlic, and process 3 seconds. Add onion, cheeses, peppers, salt, and paprika, and blend 10 seconds. Turn into dish, folding into macaroni. Casserole could be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 24 hours at this point.

3. To bake, bring casserole close to room temperature. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Coat crackers with butter and spread over top of casserole. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes, or until thick yet creamy. If top is not golden, slip under broiler for a minute. Remove from oven, let stand about 5 minutes, and serve.

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
4 servings and doubles easily
  • Moving to Harlem with Marcus Samuelsson

    What motivated Marcus Samuelsson to move to Harlem and open Red Rooster, his acclaimed restaurant? He tells The Splendid Table's Melissa Clark that 9/11, his mother, and the Great Migration all played a part. He also discusses the challenge of making fried chicken in the same neighborhood as legendary spots like Sylvia's and Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken.

Top Recipes

Emeril Lagasse: 'Learn something every day or you're cheating yourself'

Emeril Lagasse, author of Essential Emeril, says he keeps an open-minded approach to food.