Ina Garten Leaves Her Mac And Cheese Out Overnight For A Delicious Purpose

When it comes to comfort food, thick, creamy mac and cheese recipes reign supreme. Mac and cheese is such a classic that there are countless ways to make it — and, of course, some versions are more appealing than others.

Ina Garten might just have the crown jewel of mac and cheese recipes: a cheese lover's dream that will please the whole family. Back when COVID-19 quarantine was getting people down, Garten lifted their spirits (and their appetites) with her take on mac and cheese, and millions of fans immediately clambered to her website to check it out. The dish, which features a creamy cheese sauce and a thick breadcrumb topping, looks like any other homemade mac and cheese — albeit an especially well-made one. 

But Garten's mac and cheese recipe hides a secret you can't see in photos: an extra step that bolsters that "creamy factor" for a filling, savory dish you'll want to make again and again.

The step that makes Ina Garten's mac and cheese even more delicious

Mac and cheese is tasty in the first place, but Ina Garten takes it to the next level with an unforgettable dish. Her secret? It's all in a strategy that'll leave your mac and cheese up all night while you sleep.

You might wonder why leaving mac and cheese ingredients out overnight improves its flavor and texture. Naturally, Garten has answers for that, too. Most mac and cheese recipes require that you make béchamel — a sauce with butter, flour, and milk — which typically only takes a few minutes. However, instead of making a quick béchamel and immediately adding it, Garten opts to leave the pasta in the béchamel sauce overnight. 

This method allows the noodles to start absorbing the cream before they even hit the oven for baking. If you follow in Garten's (barefoot) footsteps, you'll end up with a mac and cheese dish that tastes saucier, creamier, and richer than ever before.

How to make Ina Garten's overnight mac and cheese

Ina Garten's mac and cheese recipe is fairly simple, but it does require a bit of advance preparation. Make sure you start in on her recipe a day before you want to eat the macaroni — that extra overnight step takes time.

Taking that first warm bite will be worth the extra effort, though, especially considering how easy the rest of the recipe is. Start by cooking the pasta in salt water for around four minutes. Then, in a separate bowl, combine cream, nutmeg, Gruyère cheese, cheddar cheese, salt, and butter. Add the cooked pasta into the cream mixture and allow it to refrigerate for 24 hours. 

After the pasta has done its time in the fridge, let the mixture set at room temperature for an hour before placing the mixture in a dish and spreading the rest of the Gruyère and cheddar cheese on top, as well as breadcrumbs and butter. Bake for at least 20 minutes, and you'll have a luscious, craveable mac and cheese dish with the decadent sauce of your dreams.