President Reagan's Favorite Macaroni and Cheese Recipe on Food52 (2024)

Make Ahead

by: Sarah Jampel



9 Ratings

  • Serves 6 to 8

Jump to Recipe

Author Notes

Reagan's choice macaroni and cheese is more sliceable than spoonable. It's defining feature is its inches-thick cheese comforter, where the noodles are suspended in (rather than swimming in) a layer of crisped cheddar. There are some softer, freer noodles below, too, with a barely-there sauce; these serve as relief from the crunch and chew. But if you're looking for lusciously creamy, look elsewhere. I'm not ashamed that President Reagan's mac and cheese is also my own. —Sarah Jampel

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • 1/2 pounddried macaroni
  • 1 teaspoonbutter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoondried mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoonsalt
  • 1 cupmilk
  • 3 cupssharp grated cheddar cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F. Boil macaroni in water until tender and drain thoroughly. Stir in butter and egg. Mix mustard and salt with 1 tablespoon hot water and add to milk. Add cheese, reserving enough to sprinkle on top.
  2. Pour macaroni into buttered 8-inch-square casserole dish, add milk mixture, and sprinkle with remaining cheese (and a little extra!!).
  3. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until custard is set and top is crusty.


  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Pasta
  • American
  • Mustard
  • Milk/Cream
  • Cheese
  • Make Ahead
  • Serves a Crowd
  • Weeknight Cooking
  • Vegetarian
  • Entree

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Valerie Cruz

  • James G Nagler

  • Catherine

  • Winness

  • Janice Grzywacz

Popular on Food52

24 Reviews

angelitakarmalita May 8, 2023

I’m from the South and remember our m&c always being the custard based dish, not the roux type.. i have tried many recipes and the best I thought was Patti LaBelle’s recipe, but it’s got so many steps and ingredients… well, not anymore! this is the one i’ve been looking for! I believe in finding the “perfect” recipe for a dish and sticking with it and this recipe is it! it’s so simple and it’s “perfect”

Valerie C. March 23, 2021

This has been our “family recipe” for years and it’s so delicious... I stopped by for a little refresher and wanted to add that I sometimes add cut stewed tomato’s to this recipe and it is delicious!! Gives it a slightly different texture but so much flavor! Thanks for the recipe refresher!

Alidogo January 31, 2021 far the BEST mac&cheese. I didn’t grow up with m&c so I don’t have memories of Mom making it. However, I know what I DON’T like . Soupy goopy M&C 😝. That’s what makes this perfect. Has anyone tried a tsp of leaf Thyme in the mix?? This is how Thomas Jefferson ate it. Yes, the very same TJ. He is actually credited with “inventing “ M&C based on a dish he tried and loved in France. It was his favorite fo to comfort food. So along with the paper clip and swivel chair we can love him for this yummy dish too!!

James G. April 12, 2020

Outstanding, period.

Martha August 31, 2018

Has anyone tried this with condensed canned milk? Sounds good, I hate to mess with perfection...

angelitakarmalita February 19, 2024

Martha, I think (hope) that you mean “evaporated” milk, in which case, it would be fine, Condensed milk on the other hand will not work.

Martha August 31, 2018

Hi Sarah, This is how my mom always made macaroni and cheese, and it is delicious. Mom originally got the recipe from a cookbook that had contributed recipes from well-known people, included the lovely Nancy Reagan. She contributed this recipe, along with a couple of others. Sorry, I can't remember the name of the cookbook (even though I still have it, somewhere!), but I think it contained the word Centennial or Bi-Centennial. I much prefer the macaroni and cheese cooked with stringy cheese, rather than a cheese sauce. This is so good, and just like mom's recipe (via Nancy Reagan)!

piggledy June 27, 2017

This is my long time favorite, too, same ingredients, different technique. I cook the Mac, then layer it with the cheese, reserving some of the cheese to top after I mix and pour over the milk, eggs, etc. If you love the chewy cheese crust, you an bake the Mac and cheese in a shallower dish. My mother made her Mac and cheese this way, and I've never found one I like better. Whole wheat Mac is good, too!

Joanne S. February 28, 2017

This is the recipe I've been waiting for. No roux to make. And, exactly the way my mother used to make it!!!! I love my mac & cheese crunchy. I can't tell you how happy i am. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RG February 5, 2017

Is the cheese added to the macaroni/butter/egg mixture, or the milk/mustard/salt/water mixture?

Sarah J. February 5, 2017

It gets added to the milk mixture. Then that's poured over top of the pasta-butter-egg mix. Hope that helps!

Catherine February 5, 2017

This recipe was in my newspaper in the 1980's! Vintage recipe that is so good!

rlsalvati December 2, 2016

I've made this twice now and it is hands down the closest I've come at home to my guilty favorite freezer mac & cheese. My husband loves it as well. I used packaged finely shredded extra sharp cheddar. I left out the hot water step, put the noodles in the casserole with the butter, sprinkled on the mustard & salt, mixed, added the cheddar, mixed, then poured the egg-milk mixture over the top. This will be a great winter dinner in our house.

Scott N. October 22, 2016

Been making this recipe from a newspaper clipping for 27 years. Thanks for posting.

Winness October 19, 2016

Is there any reason why the egg couldn't be incorporated with the milk, mustard, cheese, salt, and water and then poured over the pasta? It would seem to me (haven't made this recipe yet) that the egg would cook before the custard mix is added. If the buttered pasta is put into the baking pan, and then the custard is poured over, it should result in a smoother, creamier dish. I'll try it and let you know. What I love is the simplicity of this dish. By the way, I'll use a four cheese Mexican blend since I love the flavors.

m October 21, 2018

This is my childhood mac-n-cheese and my family has always mixed the egg with milk, mustard, etc. Then you just pour over the top.

Janice G. October 18, 2016

Can I use almond milk?

angela November 22, 2016


TikiLust July 4, 2019

Yes! It’s better with almond milk!

angelitakarmalita February 19, 2024


Nancy A. February 19, 2024

That’s funny

jonathan E. October 17, 2016

There is no milk in the ingredient list

Sarah J. October 17, 2016

Fixed that—thanks!

President Reagan's Favorite Macaroni and Cheese  Recipe on Food52 (2024)


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