I made Ina Garten's easy overnight mac and cheese, and it was one of the best dishes I've ever made for Thanksgiving

I made Ina Garten's overnight mac and cheese, and it was everyone's favorite dish at Friendsgiving.
  • I made Ina Garten's new recipe for overnight mac and cheese.
  • The dish includes Gruyère and white cheddar, and the simple recipe barely takes any prep.
  • I made the pasta for Friendsgiving, and it was the dish everyone couldn't stop talking about.
I've been cooking my way through Ina Garten's pasta recipes for more than a year.
I love trying out Garten's pasta recipes.

Ever since I was inspired to live like Garten for a day at the start of the pandemic, the "Barefoot Contessa" star has been my biggest source of inspiration in the kitchen.

From her five-cheese penne (perfect for winter nights) to her easy (but satisfying) weeknight Bolognese , a Garten pasta has never let me down .

So, I figured, why should I stop just because it's the holidays?

I knew Garten's overnight mac-and-cheese gratin would be the perfect pasta dish for Thanksgiving.
Garten's overnight mac and cheese appears in the reissue of her first cookbook.

Garten's overnight mac and cheese is a bonus recipe in the reissue of her first cookbook, "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook," which originally came out in 1999 .

I got my hands on the republished cookbook last month and immediately knew I wanted to test the mac-and-cheese recipe for Thanksgiving dinner.

Garten calls her new mac and cheese the "perfect make-ahead dish," which sounded great for the holidays. Plus, she said it was the "creamiest, crustiest, most delicious mac and cheese" that she ever made — how could I not try it?

Garten's overnight mac and cheese requires only a few ingredients.
Garten's overnight mac and cheese has both Gruyère and sharp white cheddar.

To make Garten's dish for four, you'll need:

  • 8 ounces cavatappi or elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
  • 1 cup grated sharp white cheddar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups fine fresh white breadcrumbs

I have to be honest: I doubled this recipe to make enough pasta for six people. I should also note that I didn't make my own breadcrumbs, as I was cooking two additional "Barefoot Contessa" dishes at the same time for Friendsgiving. As Garten herself says, sometimes store-bought is fine.

But if you do want to make your own breadcrumbs, Garten's instructions are as follows: Remove the crusts from five slices of white bread and dice them. Put the bread into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until you have fine crumbs.

My prep started the day before Friendsgiving, and the first step was (briefly) cooking the pasta.
I cooked my pasta for four minutes.

I brought a large pot of water to a boil and added 2 tablespoons of salt.

I let the pasta cook for four minutes, per Garten's instructions, then drained the pot and set it aside. Garten also notes not to rinse the pasta during this step.

Then, it was time to do a little prep.
First, I grated the Gruyère and sharp white cheddar.

While the pasta was partially cooking, I grated both the Gruyère and sharp white cheddar so they'd be ready for the sauce. If you're making this dish for four, you'll want to grate 1 cup of your Gruyère and 1/2 cup of the cheddar.

Then, I got to work on the creamy sauce.
To make the sauce, I first added my two cheeses to a bowl.

Garten notes that unlike most mac-and-cheese pastas, you don't need to make a roux for her overnight mac and cheese.

And her sauce is incredibly simple. First, I added my two cheeses to a medium-size bowl.

After adding the cheeses, I threw in the heavy cream.
Then, I poured in the heavy cream.

Six cups of heavy cream sounded like too much, so I added a full 32-ounce bottle (the equivalent of 4 cups) to the sauce. The end result was still wonderfully creamy — trust me.

Then, I added the seasoning.
I added the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

I added the nutmeg to the bowl, along with salt and pepper. You'll want to add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper if you're making this for four.

After the creamy sauce was ready, I threw in the cavatappi pasta.
I stirred my hot pasta into the creamy sauce.

I stirred the hot pasta into the creamy mixture, then covered the bowl with plastic wrap and threw it in the fridge for 24 hours, per Garten's instructions.

The next day, I took my pasta out of the fridge and buttered my baking dish.
The next day, I buttered my baking dish.

Garten recommends letting your creamy mixture sit at room temperature for about an hour before baking it.

If you don't have that kind of time, she says you can microwave it for four minutes.

I added the pasta mixture to my baking dish, along with the cheeses.
I spread the pasta evenly over the dish and added more cheese on top.

If you're making this for four, you'll want to combine 1 cup of Gruyère with 1/2 cup of cheddar.

I topped everything off with the breadcrumbs.
Don't forget the breadcrumbs.

If you made your own breadcrumbs (major props to you), Garten recommends combining them with 2 tablespoons of melted butter before sprinkling them on top.

I cooked my mac and cheese for 25 minutes, making sure to rotate the dish halfway through.
I rotated my pasta halfway through the baking time.

I baked the mac and cheese at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the mac and cheese came out of the oven, it had a beautiful golden-brown color.
I made Ina Garten's overnight mac and cheese, and it was everyone's favorite dish at Friendsgiving.

The dish looked extremely appetizing, and I loved that it needed less than 30 minutes to finish on the night of my Friendsgiving. Since there was barely any additional work necessary, I was able to bake it just as my friends started arriving so I could serve it straight out of the oven.

And the mac and cheese was easily the star of my Friendsgiving dinner table.
The pasta was the biggest hit at my Friendsgiving.

Among a delicious spread that had cornbread, mashed potatoes, brisket, roast chicken, and the wildest Thanksgiving cake you'd ever seen, it was this mac and cheese that everyone couldn't stop talking about.

The breadcrumb crust gave each bite a nice crunch, and the sauce was decadent without overpowering the dish.

My boyfriend, who was my sous-chef for the night, said the pasta was "exceptionally creamy" and the "perfect mix of salt and breadcrumbs."

"I love how all the pasta just hugs the cheese and breadcrumbs," our friend Jeff added. "It's like a hug in your mouth."

Garten's overnight mac and cheese was so simple and so delicious. I know I'll be making it for parties long after Thanksgiving has come and gone.
The pasta was creamy and decadent.

Since you can make it a day or two ahead, it's a great pasta for a dinner party where you'll be juggling quite a few things — or a quick but easy dish to delight everyone at a potluck.

Since it's so cheesy and comforting, I'll definitely make this pasta for a busy and chilly week in winter. And I won't lie: We loved this mac and cheese so much that we nibbled on it the next day without even bothering to warm it up. It's that delicious.

So whether you're looking to impress at the next holiday party, or just want a soothing bowl of ooey-gooey pasta , this overnight mac and cheese has definitely got you covered.

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