I Made the Ina Garten Overnight Mac and Cheese Recipe That People Can’t Stop Talking About

Is this Overnight Mac and Cheese worth the wait? I had to find out.

Ina Garten Overnight Mac and Cheese in Square DishNancy Mock for Taste of Home

This recipe is the perfect example of how the Barefoot Contessa can elevate a classic comfort food so that you wouldn’t hesitate to serve it when entertaining friends. This Ina Garten Overnight Mac and Cheese recipe combines twisty pasta with Gruyere, cheddar and plenty of cream, then tops it with a crispy gratin.

What makes this mac so special? It rests overnight in the cream and cheese sauce. When baked the next day, reviewers say it emerges from the oven cheesy and creamy, with the perfect texture. I decided to put this recipe to the test!

How to Make Ina Garten’s Overnight Mac and Cheese

Ina Garten’s Overnight Mac and Cheese recipe is prepared over two days; the sauced pasta has to rest overnight in the fridge and is baked the next day. The recipe makes 4-6 servings.

Ingredients

Ina Garten's Overnight Mac and Cheese ingredientsNancy Mock for Taste of Home

  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 8 ounces Italian elbow macaroni or cavatappi
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese, divided
  • 1 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, plus extra to grease the pan
  • 1-1/2 cups fine-textured, fresh white bread crumbs

Ina’s Tip: Make your own breadcrumbs by removing the crusts from five pieces of white bread. Tear the bread into small pieces and pulse them in a food processor (one of Ina Garten’s kitchen essentials) until they become fine crumbs.

Directions

Day 1

Step 1: Cook the pasta

Ina Garten's Overnight Mac and Cheese cooked pastaNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the pasta to the water. Cook the pasta for exactly 4 minutes. Drain the pasta and hold it aside.

Step 2: Make the cream sauce

Ina Garten Overnight Mac and Cheese Cream SauceNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Combine the heavy cream, nutmeg, 1 cup of the grated Gruyere cheese, 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese, 2 teaspoons salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir the pasta into the cream sauce, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the pasta for a full 24 hours to allow the noodles to absorb the cream sauce and expand.

Day 2

Step 3: Bring the pasta to room temperature

Ina Garten Overnight Mac and Cheese Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

Take the bowl of pasta out of the fridge an hour before you plan to bake it, to let it warm up.

Step 4: Spread the layers in a baking dish

Ina Garten's Overnight Mac and Cheese baking dishNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter an 8-in. square baking dish or another 2-quart dish, then spoon the pasta mixture into the dish. Spread it into an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining grated Gruyere and cheddar cheeses over the top. Mix the melted butter with the breadcrumbs until they’re thoroughly moistened. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.

Step 5: Bake

Ina Garten's Overnight Mac and Cheese Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

Put the dish in the oven and bake the macaroni and cheese for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the dish halfway through the baking time. Watch the gratin topping carefully and don’t let it get too dark; it should be golden brown.

Serve the macaroni and cheese while it’s hot! Also, learn how to make this soul-warming chicken soup.

Here’s What I Thought

Ina Garten Overnight Mac and Cheese Finished in Square Dish with Serving SpoonNancy Mock for Taste of Home

I thought the flavor of Ina Garten’s Overnight Mac and Cheese was excellent.

The blend of Gruyere and cheddar with a hint of nutmeg was really delicious. The dish was also very creamy and velvety. Partially cooking the pasta and then letting it soak overnight gave it the perfect, soft (but not mushy) texture once baked.

I’d make only one change to this recipe. 3 cups of cream made this already-rich dish too heavy for me. Next time, I’ll swap out some of the heavy cream with half-and-half or milk. But trust me, there will be a next time!

Want to try more classic recipes from Ina’s kitchen? Learn how to make weeknight bolognese, pomegranate spritzer and lasagna.

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Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.