Poole’s Mac and Cheese Recipe: The Ultimate Comfort Food

If you’re on the hunt for the ultimate comfort food, look no further than Poole’s Mac and Cheese Recipe. This creamy, cheesy delight has a way of making any day better, whether you’re cooking for yourself, your family, or a gathering of friends. Poole’s Mac and Cheese is not just any mac and cheese—it’s a gourmet experience that elevates this classic dish to new heights. Ready to dive in? Let’s get cooking!

What Makes Poole’s Mac and Cheese Special?

Poole’s Mac and Cheese is renowned for its luxurious texture and rich, cheesy flavor. Originating from Poole’s Diner, a beloved eatery in Raleigh, North Carolina, this recipe combines traditional comfort with a touch of culinary sophistication. The secret lies in its perfect blend of cheeses, creamy sauce, and the use of high-quality ingredients. Whether you’re a mac and cheese enthusiast or trying it for the first time, Poole’s Mac and Cheese is sure to impress.

Ingredients for Poole’s Mac and Cheese

The Essentials

To recreate this iconic dish, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • For the Mac and Cheese:
    • 1 pound elbow macaroni
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 4 cups whole milk, warmed
    • 2 cups heavy cream
    • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
    • 2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese
    • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • A pinch of nutmeg (optional)
  • For the Topping:
    • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
    • 2 tablespoons melted butter
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Poole’s Mac and Cheese

Preparing the Pasta

  1. Cook the Macaroni: Begin by cooking the elbow macaroni according to the package instructions. Aim for al dente, as the pasta will continue to cook in the oven. Once done, drain and set aside.

Making the Cheese Sauce

  1. Create the Roux: In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk continuously to form a roux. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until the mixture turns a light golden color.
  2. Add the Milk and Cream: Gradually whisk in the warm milk and heavy cream, ensuring no lumps form. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to a creamy consistency.
  3. Incorporate the Cheeses: Reduce the heat to low and slowly add the shredded cheddar, Gruyère, and grated Parmesan cheese. Stir until all the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg if desired.

Combining Pasta and Sauce

  1. Mix Pasta and Sauce: In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked macaroni with the cheese sauce. Stir until the pasta is thoroughly coated with the luscious sauce.

Preparing the Topping

  1. Make the Breadcrumb Topping: In a small bowl, mix the panko breadcrumbs with melted butter and grated Parmesan cheese. This will give the mac and cheese a delightful crispy top.

Baking the Mac and Cheese

  1. Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Assemble the Dish: Transfer the mac and cheese mixture to a greased baking dish. Evenly spread the breadcrumb topping over the mac and cheese.
  3. Bake: Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges.
  4. Garnish: If desired, garnish with freshly chopped parsley for a pop of color and added flavor.

Serving and Enjoying

  1. Cool Slightly: Allow the mac and cheese to cool for a few minutes before serving. This helps the sauce set and makes it easier to dish out.
  2. Serve: Serve warm, straight from the baking dish. Pair it with a simple green salad or roasted vegetables for a complete meal.

Tips for Perfect Poole’s Mac and Cheese

Choosing the Right Cheese

  • Cheddar: Sharp cheddar is essential for its robust flavor.
  • Gruyère: This cheese melts beautifully and adds a nutty complexity.
  • Parmesan: Adds a salty kick and enhances the overall flavor profile.

Perfecting the Sauce

  • Consistency: The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it’s too thick, add a bit more warm milk.
  • Whisking: Continuously whisking while adding milk ensures a smooth, lump-free sauce.

Baking Tips

  • Crispy Topping: For an extra crispy topping, broil the mac and cheese for the last 2-3 minutes of baking. Keep a close eye to prevent burning.
  • Resting Time: Letting the dish rest for a few minutes after baking helps the sauce thicken and enhances the overall flavor.

Serving and Storing Poole’s Mac and Cheese

How to Serve

Poole’s Mac and Cheese is a versatile dish that can be served as a main course or a side dish. It pairs well with:

  • Proteins: Grilled chicken, steak, or fish.
  • Vegetables: Roasted broccoli, asparagus, or a fresh green salad.
  • Bread: A crusty baguette or garlic bread.

Storing Leftovers

  • Refrigeration: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently on the stovetop or in the microwave, adding a splash of milk if needed to loosen the sauce.
  • Freezing: While fresh is best, you can freeze mac and cheese. Allow it to cool completely, then transfer to a freezer-safe container. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.


Poole’s Mac and Cheese is more than just a dish—it’s an experience of pure comfort and indulgence. With its creamy, cheesy goodness and crunchy topping, it’s no wonder this recipe has captured the hearts of many. Perfect for any occasion, it’s a surefire way to bring smiles to the table. So, gather your ingredients, follow the steps, and enjoy every creamy bite. Happy cooking!

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FAQs About Poole’s Mac and Cheese Recipe

Can I use different types of cheese?

Absolutely! While the classic recipe uses cheddar, Gruyère, and Parmesan, you can experiment with other cheeses like mozzarella, fontina, or gouda to suit your taste.

How do I prevent the sauce from becoming grainy?

To avoid a grainy sauce, make sure to add the cheese gradually and reduce the heat to low when melting it. High heat can cause the cheese to separate and become grainy.

Can I make this dish ahead of time?

Yes, you can prepare the mac and cheese ahead of time. Assemble the dish, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, remove from the refrigerator and bake as directed, adding a few extra minutes to the baking time.

Is it possible to make this recipe gluten-free?

Yes, you can make Poole’s Mac and Cheese gluten-free by using gluten-free elbow macaroni and substituting the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend in the sauce. Ensure your panko breadcrumbs are also gluten-free.

What can I add to make the dish more flavorful?

You can enhance the flavor by adding ingredients such as cooked bacon bits, caramelized onions, or roasted garlic to the cheese sauce. A dash of hot sauce or mustard can also add a subtle kick.