A quick and easy Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe that you can throw together and enjoy in about 25 minutes. This restaurant quality recipe features the perfect combination of cheeses to make the most delicious, rich and creamy cheese sauce to go with our cavatappi pasta which is cooked to perfection in your Instant Pot pressure cooker.
Let’s face it, mac and cheese is a comfort food that seems to always put a smile on our faces. Most of us grew up eating it as kids, weather from the box or from grandma’s oven, and we still love that creamy, cheesy goodness today. Some of my favorite mac and cheese recipes have come from BBQ restaurants. Mac and cheese always goes so amazingly well with bbq food. Can we make a delicious restaurant style mac and cheese recipe at home in our Instant Pot? You bet we can!
Cavatappi Pasta is Perfect for Mac and Cheese
There’s all sorts of pasta that’s great for mac and cheese, with elbow pasta, naturally being one of the most popular. But what’s one of the things that makes the restaurant style mac and cheese so good? Well, many use cavatappi pasta, which means “corkscrew” pasta. Basically, it’s the round, hollow tube pasta that is in a corkscrew shape and has ridges. Everything about cavatappi is ideal for mac and cheese… the size, shape, and those ridges all hold the cheese sauce perfectly, creating a thick, rich and creamy dish. Cavatappi pasta is also perfect for Instant Pot cooking as it doesn’t tend to get stuck together like other pastas can.
Easy Cooking In the Instant Pot
One of the things I love so much about this recipe is that it all takes place right in the Instant Pot. No need for an extra pot for the sauce and no need to even strain the pasta! We’ll add the cavatappi pasta to the Instant Pot with 4 cups of chicken broth. Chicken broth adds a richness that can’t be duplicated by using water alone. Then toss in 3 tablespoons of butter. Mix it well so all the pasta is wet, then secure the lid and pressure cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Then do a quick release of the pressure before removing the lid. Add all the spices, the milk, then add the cheese in batches, stirring until it’s melted.
Using the Perfect Blend of Cheeses
It’s not just one kind of cheese that makes a good mac and cheese, but rather a good cheese blend. To achieve that restaurant quality, we’ll blend together extra sharp cheddar cheese, swiss cheese and Parmesan cheese. The cheddar will be the primary cheese, the swiss will add extra creaminess and the Parmesan cheese, know for its rich, almost nutty flavor, will expertly fill out the flavor profile for our cheese sauce blend. It’s best to grate the cheddar and swiss cheese directly from the block if possible for best results. Grated Parmesan cheese from the round containers is just fine to use.
Add Just the Right Amount of Spices
While our cheese blend has its own wonderful flavors, we’ll need a few basic spices to punch up our cheese sauce. To achieve this, we’ll use a little onion powder, garlic powder, ground white pepper and just a hint of cayenne. White pepper is one of the best ingredients for cheese sauce recipes. For one thing, the color blends perfectly with the cheese, and white pepper gives the sauce that extra bit of “bite” that makes it so savory. The pinch of cayenne works not by bringing heat to the dish, but rather by accentuating the flavors of the cheese. Along with the white pepper, it brings the flavors more to life!
This restaurant quality Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe features the perfect combination of cheeses to make the most delicious, rich and creamy cheese sauce to go with our cavatappi pasta which is cooked to perfection in an Instant Pot pressure cooker.
- 16oz Cavatappi pasta
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 3 tbs butter
- 2 cups (8oz) extra sharp cheddar cheese (grated or cut into small blocks)
- ½ cup (2oz) swiss cheese (grated or cut into small blocks)
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
- ½ cup milk
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp white pepper
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
- Add chicken broth to Instant Pot and stir in the pasta. Add butter on top.
- Secure lid and pressure cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. When cooking time in complete, quick release the pressure and carefully remove lid when pin has dropped.
- Add milk and spices and stir.
- Add cheese in batches, constantly stirring until cheese is melted. Repeat until all the cheese is used.
There’s so many great things you can add in at the end to really add a lot of great flavors! Some of my personal favs are: seasoned breadcrumbs, cooked mild or spicy ground sausage, chili powder, thyme and rosemary, cooked bacon crumbles, steamed broccoli or peas, canned tuna.
Recipe Developed by: Heather Wright