Infused Macaroni Cheese

There are dishes in life for which everyone has a recipe – this is one such dish. However, as with most, it is eminently possible for one to put in a little more effort and have ones mouth reap the rewards. In my experience, macaroni cheese is best when it isn’t overpowered by the flavour of a catastrophic quantity of mature cheddar; that’s not to say that it shouldn’t contain cheddar, but it needs a little more complexity to become truly exceptional. By far the best way of accomplishing this feat is to infuse the milk used to make the cheese sauce – it adds a surprising depth of flavour which gives the dish a certain gastronomic eloquence.

Don’t let me limit the scope of your mind regarding the flavours with which you ought to infuse your milk. However, the most commonly used ingredients in this process are things like bay leaves, cloves, pepper corns and onions. A pinch of nutmeg also goes down well, particularly in pasta dishes like this or lasagne. It takes a little extra time, but the process of infusing your milk is rather simple and will infinitely improve any milk based sauces you make. Guidance about how to infuse your milk can be found below, though I suspect most of you have some experience of it already.

You’ll be glad to hear that my life in Bristol is going rather well; the estate agent has seen fit to do some work and as a result we now have a flat. The job is also going particularly well and I’m enjoying writing about more important issues than food. Actually, who am I kidding? There’s nothing more important than food. On with the recipe!

Macaroni Cheese

Serves 4-5


• 600ml semi-skimmed milk

• 2 bay leaves

• 2 cloves

• 1 onion, halved

• 5-6 peppercorns

• A pinch of nutmeg

• ½ tsp Dijon mustard

• 200g mature cheddar cheese

• 2 tbsp flour

• 1 tbsp butter

• 350g pasta, macaroni or similar

• 50g parmesan cheese

• Salt and pepper


1. Begin by infusing your milk. To do this simply heat the milk over a low heat along with the bay leaves, the onion studded with the cloves, peppercorns, a pinch of nutmeg and a little Dijon mustard. Heat for up to an hour if possible, but half an hour will do nicely. Make sure not to let it boil.

2. Put the pasta on to boil and preheat the oven to 200C. Sieve the milk to remove the bay leaves et al. Heat the butter in a  saucepan, mix in the flour, cook for a minute or two before whisking in the milk and cheese. It should achieve the consistency of slightly thin custard. Drain the cooked pasta, mix the cheese sauce in and transfer into a casserole dish. Season in necessary.

3. Grate the parmesan over the top of the pasta, sprinkle over some cracked black pepper and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until golden. Serve immediately.

Cost: Macaroni cheese is one of those very basic recipes that seems to always cost very little to prepare. This recipe is no different and should set one back a mere £1.80.

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154 comments on “Infused Macaroni Cheese

  1. Karista
    October 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    I do love a good macaroni and cheese. You are so correct, using a mature cheddar truly matters and infusing the milk, well that’s just brilliant! You’ve made me hungry this morning. 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 9:30 pm

      Oh yes, it must be mature… and be REAL cheddar. Not that orange jack or whatever it’s called in America… You’d better eat!

      • Karista
        October 14, 2012 at 11:58 pm

        Hahaha! Yep, we’ve got some nasty orange cheese over here. Although a few local Washington dairy’s make a lovely aged cheddar, free of the orange color, and we always have a steady supply of fantastic English and Irish Cheddar. One of my fave’s is Coastal. What are your recommendations? I might be able to find it here.

        • frugalfeeding
          October 24, 2012 at 8:23 pm

          I have seen… :D. That’s good. Umm – I doubt it, I tend to buy the locally produced ones that don’t travel very far. If you can find one called Tickler that’s really nice.

  2. acakediva
    October 14, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I’ve never thought of infusing the milk for my mac and cheese. I must give it a try! Also, I noticed your recipe calls for Dijon mustard. I think that’s brilliant!

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 9:29 pm

      Oh yes, you must! A little mustard goes a long way 😀

      • acakediva
        October 15, 2012 at 1:06 am

        Thanks for the head’s up on the mustard. I sometimes forget that you can have too much of a good thing! 🙂

  3. drgaellon
    October 14, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Mixing the flour with water makes a slurry. A roux requires that the flour be cooked in fat until the raw taste is gone. Roux is fast, easy, and much improves the flavor over using raw flour in water.

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      I did make a roux, I completely forgot having cooked this over a week ago! Forgive me, recipe shall be altered! 😀

  4. Juls
    October 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Just like my Granny made! She was an old cow, but she made a decent Macaroni Cheese – cheers for the nostalgia! Glad to hear things are good down in Bristol!

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 9:29 pm

      Fantastic! Oh no… I loved my Gran. Still do, even though she’s popped her proverbial clogs… 😀 Thanks, Juls!

  5. Shira
    October 14, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    I agree Nick – nothing is more important than food – however it is lovely to focus the mind on other matters as well! Love this and have never thought to infuse the cheese sauce – this is fabulous!

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      Food is rather good isn’t it? :D. Give it a pop 😀

      • Shira
        October 14, 2012 at 10:16 pm

        Mac n Cheese on the menu for tomorrow night…. 🙂

        • frugalfeeding
          October 14, 2012 at 10:20 pm


  6. ldhankey
    October 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    I have to agree with drgaellon about the roux. And depending how long you cook the butter and flour before adding the milk, you will get a nice nutty flavour coming through. But great looking macaroni cheese. Can’t beat the basics, and it’s just the dish for the autumn evenings that are beginning to roll in. My own macaroni cheese has got a bit out of hand, with additions of tinned tuna, red pepper, sauted onion and mushrooms, frozen peas, carrot etc. In fact, what I do is saute the veg, then if necessary add a little more fat and the flour, and then add the milk.

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      You prompted me, I did make a proper roux for this – am changing the recipe now! I just completely forgot!

  7. veryhungrypiglet
    October 14, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    I adore mac and cheese and agree re Cheddar. I also add in a dash of horseradish!

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 9:39 pm

      Sounds like a great idea, I’d imagine it does something similar to the mustard.

  8. Our Growing Paynes
    October 14, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    We do a similar mac n cheese. It is a traditional holiday dish for us.

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      Oh fantastic! It works well, doesn’t it?

      • Our Growing Paynes
        October 15, 2012 at 6:46 pm

        It really does. My Grammy used to make it so we’ve kept that tradition alive.

  9. Somer
    October 14, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Infused milk! Fabulous idea Nick! I did a smoked coconut gouda (homemade) mac & cheez last night, with dijon of course! Next time I’ll try the bay leaves and peppercorns in the cashew milk.

    • Somer
      October 14, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      P.S. Last call for the Virtual Vegan Potluck, it’s nearly full. I’d really like to see you there. Pretty please? 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • frugalfeeding
        October 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm

        I want to, but I have no idea when I’ll be up and running for blogging in Bristol! I need new equipment and perhaps even a new table, or at least some planks I can customise! I don’t want to let it down!

        • Somer
          October 14, 2012 at 6:35 pm

          Oh come on, you could do a lentil stew and it would be smashing. Nothing would be a let down. Everything you make is fabulous…. Surely you’ve got something up your sleeve. I’m sick and tired of everyone’s “fancy planks” and your old table is simply lovely! 😉 I’ll stop harassing you now 🙂 Promise!

          • frugalfeeding
            October 14, 2012 at 6:37 pm

            But I won’t have that table in Bristol, it’s my mother’s! I’d rather have a plank than a not-so-nice pine table… we’ll have to see once I’m settled. I know it would taste good, but I want it to look good to – I’m a perfectionist :D. Ok, look, I’ll sign up!

          • Somer
            October 14, 2012 at 6:41 pm

            Loud Cheering and Whooping!!! WOOHOO! p.s. as if I couldn’t tell you’re a perfectionist! 😉 THANK YOU!!!

          • Somer
            October 14, 2012 at 6:47 pm

            p.s. Shira photographs a lot of her food outside on the ground on her deck, I’m sure you’ll come up with something, but yes, it’s a shame to be losing your mother’s table.

          • frugalfeeding
            October 14, 2012 at 6:48 pm

            I’d rather shoot inside. But I’ll come up with something. No worries!

          • frugalfeeding
            October 14, 2012 at 6:39 pm

            What section do I do?! Soup?! That would be good I suppose.

          • Somer
            October 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm

            Here’s a hint, look at the course list on the site, the earlier the course, the more hits you’ll get. 🙂 But yes, your soups are incredible.

          • frugalfeeding
            October 14, 2012 at 6:45 pm

            Right! I’m signed up… I don’t really understand what happens next, but I’ll sit tight…

          • Somer
            October 14, 2012 at 6:50 pm

            It’s basically a pre-scheduled post, nothing tricky the only thing you really need to do is provide links in your post to the site before and after yours in the line up. I’ll email you deets soon.

          • frugalfeeding
            October 14, 2012 at 6:51 pm


          • Somer
            October 14, 2012 at 6:56 pm

            Thanks again. Grinning ear to ear!

          • frugalfeeding
            October 14, 2012 at 6:57 pm

            Well, I’m flattered to be THAT wanted… devoted meat-eater that I am.

          • Somer
            October 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm

            You’ve got some of the best vegan recipes in our “little sphere” give yourself a bit more credit!

          • frugalfeeding
            October 14, 2012 at 7:13 pm

            It’s probably best left to others :D. But thanks!

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      I didn’t reply to this bit. Thanks! That sounds delicious! Yes, give them a go – it works very well!

      • Somer
        October 14, 2012 at 9:32 pm

        No worries Nick! It’s crazy the stuff I’ve come up with to get around dairy, but I enjoy a good challenge!

        • frugalfeeding
          October 14, 2012 at 9:34 pm

          You know, I’ve started to feel slightly bad whenever I drink milk – I love it too much to stop though. Things like butter are fine though, they tend to be less likely to set these things off right?

          • Somer
            October 14, 2012 at 9:51 pm

            Exactly, butter, cheeses and yogurt are at least slightly fermented which aids in digestion. It’s likely you have a mild lactose intolerance. I know that taking a natural enzyme like the ones found in papaya can help aid in the digestion of dairy products. 🙂

          • frugalfeeding
            October 14, 2012 at 9:52 pm

            Thanks for the tip 😀

          • Somer
            October 14, 2012 at 10:00 pm

            No worries, mate 😉

  10. otownmommy
    October 14, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    looks fantastic. i will have to infuse next time i make a mac – thanks again for the dinner inspiration

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      Thanks! Yes, give it a go – you won’t regret it 😀

  11. Alex
    October 14, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    What a great idea!

  12. TheSurvivalGuy
    October 14, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Reblogged this on thesurvivalplaceblog.

  13. recipeshappen
    October 14, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Looks pretty fabulous!!!


  14. Patch
    October 14, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    The infused milk bit is exactly what my mum and now me do when we make bread sauce…. Mmmmm love bread sauce….. And it sounds like a fantastic addition to macaroni cheese. Will try it next time.

  15. narf77
    October 14, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Lol looks like Somer REALLY wants you there! Love the Macaron and cheese ideal. I have to say its not HUGE in Australia…but it is comfort food of the highest degree. I tend to bypass it thanks to my newfound desire to be able to see my shoes (that’s both dairy AND non dairy Somer ;)) but its comfort food of the highest degree and infusing your milk is a fantastic idea. Cheers for another great recipe…good luck resisting Somer! 😉

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 9:25 pm

      I know! I’m a meat eater too :D. It’s not that big here either, but this is delicious :). To be honest, this one doesn’t use loads of cheese and uses semi-skimmed milk so it’s not THAT bad. But, yes, I only very rarely eat it! I like my feet.

      • narf77
        October 15, 2012 at 6:33 pm


  16. mixitupandmakeitnice
    October 14, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Mmm macaroni cheese! Has to be mature cheddar too – I’m living in France at the moment, supposedly the land of cheese, and yet, they just don’t have a good hard cheese to rival the wonder that is cheddar 😉 Katie x

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      Oh yes, it HAS TO BE. It’s difficult to beat a good cheddar in my opinion. I feel French cooking is overrated anyway…

      • mixitupandmakeitnice
        October 14, 2012 at 10:05 pm

        I love a bit of French food every now and then, but I just can’t stand French people claiming that English food is horrible…

        • frugalfeeding
          October 14, 2012 at 10:05 pm

          Exactly! That;s exactly it!

  17. Bernadine Phenna (@Ffena)
    October 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    I like using wholegrain mustard in my sauce – and mix the topping cheese with breadcrumbs for a bit of contrasting crunch. Brilliant shots on this entry – making my stomach growl. Nos Da.

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 9:36 pm

      I’m not the biggest fan of wholegrain… for me it would overpower the dish. But that’s a personal preference. I was toying with breadcrumbs, but I thought I;d just crisp the cheese up. Thanks! You too!

  18. wee eats
    October 14, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    that mac looks like magic… and now i’m craving it SO BAD!!! just think of all the different flavors you could infuse! my brain is going to explode…

  19. N
    October 14, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Looks & sounds delicious!

  20. egg me on
    October 14, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Infused milk! What a brilliant idea. I wish I could like the post more than once. I’m trying this with my next mac & cheese.

    • frugalfeeding
      October 14, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      Thanks! I wish people could too :D. I know you’ll love it!

  21. The Sassy Swan
    October 14, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Oh my goodness yes…I want this now.

    • frugalfeeding
      October 24, 2012 at 8:24 pm

      You’d better get on and make it then 😀

  22. thekalechronicles
    October 14, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    That’s a lovely smear of cheese stuff in the photo, Nick — beautiful color.

    • frugalfeeding
      October 24, 2012 at 8:23 pm

      That’s mustard, not cheese. If cheese looked like that I’d never use it 😀

  23. Stephanie
    October 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Oooh, the milk infusion sounds delightful. I like to eat my mac and cheese out of a bowl with a spoon… pure comfort food!

  24. petit4chocolatier
    October 15, 2012 at 12:02 am

    How did you know that I have been craving macaroni and cheese today? I love the infusion of milk and the flavors! Looks delicious!

  25. harmonypeterson
    October 15, 2012 at 12:53 am

    You have set me on a challenge for gluten free Mac and Cheese… I’ll get back to you when I make my version! Your wording masks me want to cook. Thank you.

    • frugalfeeding
      October 28, 2012 at 11:18 pm

      Yes! Let me know – I’m sure you’ll work it out. thank you too.

  26. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen
    October 15, 2012 at 1:28 am

    And now my brain is “infused” with new ways to make one of my favorite meals! What a great idea, unique and one-of-a-kind.. that’s you!! Congrats on your new flat, your new job.. everything:)

    • frugalfeeding
      October 24, 2012 at 8:21 pm

      Haha – nice! Thanks – everything seems to be going so well!

  27. Willow
    October 15, 2012 at 2:21 am

    You, sir, are a genius. I will be doing this next time I make mac and cheese. I agree that it usually lacks depth and character, but the possibilities are endless with a technique like this. Love it! And might I add – your photos are looking lovely!

    • frugalfeeding
      October 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm

      Thanks, Willow :). Not as good as your photos yet though.

  28. naimavanswol
    October 15, 2012 at 3:48 am

    Yummy! I love Mac and cheese. It’s my favorite! I use Vermont cheddar and yellow american. It’s pretty awesome, but I’d love to try your infused milk recipe.

  29. naimavanswol
    October 15, 2012 at 3:48 am

    And I also, love lots of pepper!

  30. Korena in the Kitchen
    October 15, 2012 at 4:17 am

    The ultimate comfort food! Looks delicious, as always Nick!

  31. cookinginsens
    October 15, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Nice bay leaf, mustard photo.

  32. candidsbyjo
    October 15, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Mmm macaroni & cheese, the ultimate comfort food. Thanks for this & hope you’re enjoying Bristol!

  33. Susan
    October 15, 2012 at 9:17 am

    I usually use a mix of cheeses — cheddar, fontina, sometimes parmesan — and I always do a homemade bread or panko crumb topping. And sometimes I’ll infuse my milk with … bacon. 😉

    • frugalfeeding
      October 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      I thought about using breadcrumbs but decided against it. I didn’t want it too cheesy either, it gets a little heavy I find.

  34. thelittleloaf
    October 15, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Nutmeg and bay are a must in my book. I also always add little bits of crispy bacon and halved cherry tomatoes to roast on top – it’s a throwback to my Mum’s macaroni cheese when I was little and it’s hard to beat! Although this does look delicious too 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      October 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      Absolutely! Not a bad idea! I tend to like it a little more simple – though tomatoes on the top are always nice.

  35. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide
    October 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Good to hear about the flat. I like your spice mix. Can’t beat nutmeg.

  36. allythebell
    October 15, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    In Newfoundland we call it cheese ‘n’ ‘do, for the “scoobi doo” (cavatappi) pasta that they use instead of macaroni. It’s definitely a go-to recipe for us, though I never thought of using mustard, mostly because the Pie hates it. But this is a sneaky way of getting it in there …

    • frugalfeeding
      October 24, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      Really? That’s funny :P. I’m not a big fan of mustard – it adds a little more interest, nothing more.

  37. mredible
    October 15, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Thanks for the infused milk tip, sounds a winner.