The Best Mac and Cheese (with tortellini)

Mac and Cheese-title

I have a confession,

It’s something only a few people that know me in real life know;

I hardly know anything about pop-culture (well, I do like pre-2006 when I used to watch TMF and theHits… now, I consider it an achievement if I know Rhianna’s latest song).

I don’t do it, I don’t know it, I can’t understand it.

Mac and Cheese-14

You know my Harry Styles / Taylor Swift reference in my deep-dish cookie post? Yeah that one. It’s literally the only celebrity news I know of (and I’m not even sure how I found out about it…)

Because of my complete and utter failure at knowing celebrity couples, rappers, names of songs, the names of the 1D crew (honestly, I don’t even want to know…), remembering actors names or any kind of meme reference to pop culture, any time I manage to use one in any situation I get a ‘ding’ from my friend Bea (a.k.a a point, but saying ‘ding!’ on the rare occasion that it happens is WAY more fun).

Do you know how many I’ve had since we started this a few months ago?



Mhmm, 3 points.

That is it.

1 for the whole Harry Styles thing I mentioned above, and 2 for understanding this.

If you think I’m exaggerating this, you’re in for a hilarious treat (I genuinely laugh SO MUCH whenever I see it probably because I created part of it, so I’m sorry if you don’t find it funny at all)

I’m not even making this up, when Bea was talking about Ryan Gosling, I actually said

“isn’t a gosling a baby swan or something?”

(p.s. I googled it later, its a baby goose)

and it led to a photoshop-off:



(Well, Bea used Paint… guess which one is hers AHAHAHA)  CRYING.

So, to further this whole thing, Bea challenged me to a pop culture quiz.

I did better than I expected! (p.s that’s a full 5 minutes of 3 British accents, you’re about to experience…):

Not too bad right? not until you see how many more I actually failed at:

SO. I think we all learned a little more about me today, didn’t we?

yeah, that was nice, it’s like we’ve bonded more now.


OKAY, to the mac and cheese guys!



.gif-ception!                        (I think I should get a ‘ding’ for that reference…)

wow, so sorry if you just came here for a recipe for cheese-covered carbs and got caught up in an unwanted amount of failure and ducks. I promise, I’m talking about the mac and the cheese from now on.

Well, it isn’t strictly mac and cheese because we didn’t have macaroni… so I used fusilli and penne instead. But that’s just a technicality right? You’ll forgive me once you know that I went and put FREAKIN TORTELLINI IN IT TOO. Uh, yeah.

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I used spinach and ricotta, but it would be bonkers with some kind of pumpkin-filled ravioli, or even…. four cheese ravioli…(? is that pushing it..? Do the cheese police come for you if you have pentuple cheese recipes?)

Regardless of that, I’ve found two other ingredients which will make the cheese sauce of you DREAMS. Ready?

Mac and Cheese-9

Cream cheese and buttermilk. Tangy dairy, in other words. They just makes it 1000% better, more cheesy, more tangy, more flavoury (word?). Just the best, basically.

The Best Mac and Cheese (with tortellini and 2 secret ingredients!)
1 1/2 cups of dry pasta of your choice
1 ( 9 oz/250 g ) package of fresh tortellini or ravioli (small ish one are better)
For the Sauce:
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups of milk (I used 1%)
5 oz of grated Cheddar cheese (mature is best because it gives more flavour. I used a mixture of Gruyère and Cheddar)
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup more milk + 2 tbsp of buttermilk powder)
1/4 cup cream cheese
salt + pepper
For the herby-breadcrumb topping:
2 tsp butter
1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs
~1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
salt + pepper
~1 oz Parmesan or Cheddar cheese, grated

Cook the dry pasta until al dente (usually 2 minutes less than instructed on the packet). (Don't cook the tortellini/ravioli). Drain, and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F (225 degrees C).

To make the sauce: add the butter and garlic to a medium saucepan and stir over a medium heat for a minute or two, just to cook the garlic a little. Add the flour and stir (I like using a whisk) until you get a smooth paste. Cook for a further 2 minutes.

Very gradually, add the first 1/2 cup of milk to the pan, stirring it in as you do. Mix in the cream cheese, then slowly add the rest of the milk. Continue to heat the mixture, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes until you can tell it has thickened. Stir in the buttermilk (or buttermilk powder + milk), and the grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir the pasta into the sauce, then pour into a large,oven proof dish.

Make the breadcrumb topping by melting the butter in a small frying pan, add the breadcrumbs, thyme and salt and pepper. Toast over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until crisped. Scatter the grated Parmesan/Cheddar evenly over the surface of the pasta, followed by the breadcrumbs. Bake for 10 minutes until golden.



  1. says

    You three are you cute! My friends kind of, uhhhh pop-quiz me everytime we see each other and I end up being an idiot hahahaha. anyway, i would seriously try this mac and cheese just because i didn’t have any decent dinner for ages because I am also an idiot-cook hahaha

  2. says

    I recently found my way to your blog and totally love it!. Those videos of your “quiz” are hysterical :) I’m with you in that I’m a pop culture idiot. I love to buy the latest gossip magazines but I have no clue about popular movies, songs, etc. So you’re not alone!

    This mac and cheese looks amazing! I love the idea of adding some tangy cheese to offset the richness of the cream sauce. Can’t wait to try it :)

  3. says

    Also, that video totally killed me. I got to hear what your voice sounds like ! 😛 Also I totally see the dilemma with the concept of understanding pop culture. My friends do the same thing to me. They are always like “seriously Josh, come on josh you gotta know.” and they never tell me they just make me sit there wondering like I’m going to figure out eventually or something.

  4. says

    Macaroni cheese has to be one of my top three comfort foods, beaten only just by chocolate. I just love how creamy and cheesy it is, yum! I’ve tried so many variations of it, but I’ve never thought of adding buttermilk, so I think I’ll be doing this recipe next :)

  5. says

    Another person who fails at pop culture too! I feel so validated. I think my biggest blunder is when someone ask me about the Harlem shake and i responded back with “Is that the way you are meant to greet people in Harlem?”
    Your video kills me ( with laughter of course). I think i first saw the cream cheese addition when I was watching Heston’s TV show (for his cheese sauce, but i was skeptical). After this blog post i think i might try it.

    • says

      awww yeah! Failure together, right? :)
      AHAHA, I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t have friends who are youtubers so know all the internet happenings.
      Dayumm, Heston beat me to it? That sciencey genius!

  6. says

    This looks so good, I had half a tub of buttermilk lingering in my fridge for a while after making red velvet valentines day cakes, I wish I had thought to put it in a cheese sauce! In he end it went off sadly.
    I had no idea you were English, that video was so funny because to me your blog “voice” sounds so American (eg using “package” instead of packet and measuring in ounces). Do you do this intentionally to appeal to the bigger US audience or is it just a by-product of reading lots of US blogs and recipe books? (I definitely start thinking in American terms after too long on the Internet !!)
    I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts as a fellow British food blogger :)

    • says

      It’s literally not even intentional, it just seems to…happen. My mum’s American, plus I watch 90% American TV and read 75% American blogs, hahah, so it’s how may brain works now! My friends are constantly making fun of the way I say oregano, apricot, tube and duvet :/

  7. says

    I think I probably know even less about pop culture than you do. Life still goes on…we’re not missing that much are we? 😀
    Mac and cheese looks AMAZING!

  8. says

    Um you are hilarious. But quick recipe question: I use milk + yogurt as a sub for buttermilk in my pancakes. Would using that substitute here (since it’s being backed) be ick, do you think? Or can I use that sub instead of buttermilk powder?

    • says

      haha thanks 😉 Erm, I don’t think it’ll work for this recipe, yogurt likes to curdle like a mad man once it hits hot food :/

  9. says

    Seeeeeriously, Izy?! This is ridiculous. (In the best way possible.) Here I am, munching on carrot sticks and scooping up avo in prep for prom, and you taunt me with gorgeous plate of cheesy, carb-y goodness. Def, def, def going to make on my cheat day(s). xo, nicole

  10. Kim C. says

    That looks Phenomenal!!! I LOVE tortellini & homemade mac & cheese so you get A TON of points for that combination!! I loved the videos, they were so funny and don’t worry about not being up to date with celebrity news because I’m sure I would’ve gotten half of those questions wrong as well. 😀 I recently discovered your blog through a post on Joy The Baker’s blog and I’m so glad that I did because I’m LOVING EVERYTHING!!! Your photography and food styling is Fantastic and your food and recipes are really great!!!

    • says

      thanks Kim! YAY I love points, DING! Aww thank you :) I was so freaked by that link from Joy’s blog, it’s brought me such lovely readers 😀

  11. says

    Oh my god, I don’t know what to talk about first — the genius of putting ravioli and tortellini in mac & cheese, or how awesome your glasses are!!! Also, how have I never made mac & cheese with buttermilk?? And LOOK at that super crispy, breadcrumb-y topping. Ahhh!!!

    Also, this makes me feel a lot better about how little I know about pop culture. There have been several times when I’ve been out at a bar/party and people around me will start talking about something I’ve never even heard of, but I know I should have. I’ll casually step away and pretend I’m writing a text message so I can google what they’re talking about. :$

    • says

      oh man, I know, Idon’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to do this before, but know it’s just like ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES. Wooh, thanks! They’re my fav glasses so far (totally trying to start a cat-eye trend, no bigs). The topping is totally like the icing on the awesome cake :)

      That’s incredible. I should totally get on this googleing-on-the-phone idea. Yes.

  12. Andrea says

    This recipe sounds so yummy..looking forward to trying it.

    As for the pop-culture mis-understnading, it happens as you get older and culture becomes less important. At 56 I can tell you I know. I used to be a disc jockey and an ordained minister, as well as running an early version of a site (a bulletin board) and due to that I thought I knewand understood popular culture. Little did I know that as grew older it just wouldn’t matter anymore.

    So, stop “shoulding”on yourself and keep sharing your discoveries with us.

    Take Care

    (aka the rokin rev)

    • says

      Thanks Andrea! Took me a minute to figure out disk jockey = DJ :/ Pop culture changes to fast for me to catch on properly, but I’m totally okay with just using my time for FOOD knowledge, am I right!? :)

  13. says

    It’s all right–I found out who Honey Boo Boo was for the first time last week (although ding! to you if you know who she is way over in England!), which I was a bit embarrassed about. I’m that girl in my department who just sits around reading Dr. Seuss (for research though, I swear!!) and taking reallllly close-up pictures of food. Or something. I’m the department eccentric, but oh well. Those gifs look mighty fiiiine.

    • says

      Oh man, yeah, her. Jeez, I can’t deal with that show, or the ‘cooking’ that goes on in it… :/
      That sounds like a perfectly legit thing to be doing :)

  14. says

    You are too cute!! And this looks toooooo goood. I love the idea of tortellini in there, and I bet the cream cheese makes it so cream… cheesy. If that makes sense. You are awesome sauce. Cheesy creamy awesome sauce.

  15. says

    I can so relate with not knowing anything about pop-culture. I mean, the only reason I knew the Oscars were going on was because it was on my homepage and I wanted to look at the dresses.

    And can we say ohmygoodness about that mac and cheese. It looks heavenly. I could eat three helpings of it right now if only it would pop out of the computer and into my hands. Yummm.

  16. says

    OMG Izy – You are so talented! I am so amazed and impressed. I am SO happy I found your blog. It is filled with amazingly delicious food and photography! This mac & cheese right here makes my mouth drool (especially with the cream cheese ah!). I’m definitely going to make your Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie – I’ve had my eye on that one.

    PS. I am happy to say I’m your #100 follower on bloglovin! Yay!

  17. says

    Hahaha, loved the videos. Ryan Gosling aside (do you really not know him? Oh, Izy, what rock have you been hiding under? :P) I’m kind of glad I know next to nothing about pop culture. Like I’ll be in the line at the drugstore, and my eyes will wander over to the magazine rack and be immediately bombarded with the most ridiculous headlines ever. Especially since reality show stars are now considered bona fide celebrities—WHY that is the case I have no idea. But I suspect food news has replaced tabloids/magazines for a lot of us (although I’m clearly out of the loop, not knowing who Alice Medrich was until only recently, haha.)

    Anyway, long tangent aside, I have been craving mac and cheese something fierce! Buttermilk and cream cheese, GREAT ideas. And that breadcrumb topping makes me weak in the knees. Great photos as usual. :)

    • says

      (I don’t even know Linda, I just can’t put names and faces together, and I’d only seen him in – what else – the Notebook which I watched half of, hahah). Yes, I know, the reality tv star/celebrity thing has just increased the amount of slang words, names and faces to know exponentially, it’s worrying. (You have to get on the Alice Medrich Train, her recipes are FAB).

      Thank youuu :)

  18. says

    Mmmm, this sounds amazing! I’m a mac and cheese fiend, and your version sounds absolutely heavenly. Those secret ingredients are perfect, and the addition of tortellini is just genius. I love your GIFs too :) Pinned!

  19. says

    If I recall correctly, you can also make buttermilk by adding lemon juice to normal milk. right? Anyway, looks great. It’s definitely on the list for a “Jesus, I need comfort food, stat” weekend. Or tonight. Whichever comes first.

  20. emily owens says

    I actually made this, and it was SO AMAZING ^^ I was so happy it wasn’t difficult, because I am a complete amateur at cooking (I’m alright when it comes to baking, but the only thing I can really cook are dorayaki [at least that sounds slightly impressive ~]). Also, your blog is generally brilliant, so thank you! ^^

  21. Ally says

    Absolutely lovin’ your blog! I recently discovered it and have added it to my regular viewings. All your photos and .gifs are amazing; and keep the videos coming-too funny! I too am pop culture oblivious, which is quite alright if you ask me! Thank you for the inspiration, laughs, and good reading over my morning coffee 😀

  22. says

    haha, love the pictures. i think that he is referred to as baby goose sometimes ha by the press. i first heard it from my fiance though, which made me do a double take, ha.

    the mac & cheese sounds delicious!

  23. says

    What a gorgeous mac n’ cheese Izy!! Haha, I love the fact that you know very little about pop culture. That’s definitely not a bad thing (I know very little myself… you know that whole Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke thing in the media recently? I had no idea who he was. Now I wish that I still remained ignorant!). Anyway, I definitely want to make this soon. My husband loves mac n’ cheese so I think he’d be in cheesy heaven! x

    • says

      As the tortellini are made with fresh pasta they have a much shorter cooking time and absorb a lot less water than the dry pasta. You cook the dry pasta so it’s kind of at the same softness as the tortellini. That way when you bake the whole thing both pastas end up perfectly cooked with neither being too mushy or too dry.

  24. Patricia says

    I make this so often that I thought I just had to comment here to thank you. This is the best mac n cheese ever, I can’t have any other now. Whenever I cook it, people are impressed. You’re a genius and I love your recipes <3 and your photos, gifs, texts… you crack me up!


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