mac 'n cheese

Add Velveeta to your mac ‘n cheese sauce! Here are 3 ways to elevate this classic

Make your mac ‘n cheese chef approved!

Mac and Cheese is a family dinner favorite. Whether yours starts with a powdery cheese packet, or is baked in a casserole dish, there’s something you can do to elevate it.

For this Studio 5 series, we’re taking a basic recipe and telling you how to elevate it—chef’s style. Taking note of the techniques and secret ingredients that make it worthy of a chef’s kiss.

Chef Todd Leonard, from UVU Culinary Arts, shared three fundamental ways to elevate this classic comfort dish.


The Secret is in the Sauce

A good mac starts with a creamy, cheesy sauce. Chef Todd likes to use a variety of cheeses for unique flavors. Grab a block of parmesan, sharp cheddar, and some gruyere to tie it all together.

Chef Todd’s shocking secret ingredient: the tiniest little scoop of Velveeta. “This is really weird. All my chef friends are going to laugh at me,” Todd added. “But if you add just a little bit of Velveeta, you’re going to be a happier person.”

Pick a Good Pasta

Your macaroni noodle will make all the difference. Pick a good quality store-bought brand, or make your own noodles from scratch.

Cook al dente, so the noodles hold your cheese sauce and don’t get too delicate.

Add Mix-Ins for an Elevated Flavor Flair

Want to go above and beyond? Mix in a few toppings to create your own flair. Here are a few of Chef Todd’s recommendations:

  • Pulled BBQ Pork
  • Chili
  • Lobster
  • Vegetables—Peas, Mushrooms, Cauliflower (fold in or puree and add)
  • Chicken and Green Chili


Cheese Sauce

Makes ¼ a gallon.



  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup butter

Melt butter over low to medium heat. Add flour and stir until combined.


  • 1 Tablespoon oil or butter
  • ¼ cup onion, minced
  • 5 cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg


  1. Heat the oil or butter and add the onions. Saute over low to moderate heat, stirring frequently until the onions are tender and translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add the roux to the onions and cook until the mix is very hot, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the milk to the pan gradually, whisking or stirring to work out any lumps. Bring the sauce to a full boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce is smooth and thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir frequently the skim as necessary throughout cooking time.
  4. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Strain through a cheesecloth. The sauce is ready to use, or it can be cooked and stored for later use.
  5. If making Mac and Cheese, add to noodles while warm.


Chef Todd’s Classic Red Chili

Add to your macaroni and cheese for a chili-flavored mashup!


  • 5 pounds Ground beef
  • 5 Yellow onions
  • 5 Green bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons Garlic
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper
  • 1/2 gallon Brown beef stock
  • 2 cups Diced tomatoes from a can
  • 5 cups Tomato puree
  • 1 cup Chili sauce
  • 5 cups Cooked pinto beans
  • 5 tablespoons Chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon Lime juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon Pit seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large stock pot with a double base bottom – brown meat and remove desired grease.
  2. Add in onions, garlic, peppers and jalapeno and sauté with beef.
  3. Add in seasoning to flavor.
  4. Deglaze with the brown stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Add in the tomato puree and diced tomatoes. Simmer for 20 more minutes.
  6. Add in the remaining ingredients taste and adjust seasoning. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes.


Chef Todd’s Perfect Pulled Pork

Add to your macaroni and cheese for the perfect BBQ mashup.


  • 75 pounds Pork butt (Boston butt or shoulder)
  • 1/2 gallon Good, rich chicken or pork stock (brown is best)
  • 1/2 Yellow onion, sliced
  • 5 tablespoons Garlic, crushed
  • 5 tablespoons Chef Todd’s pit seasoning (sprinkled all over the pork)
  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar (rubbed on the pork)


  1. Rub the pork butt with the pit seasoning and sear on char grill or roasting pan, or roast in oven for 25 minutes at 425. This is to just get a medium dark caramelization. Set aside when seared off.
  2. In a deep roasting pan caramelize the onions and garlic.
  3. Deglaze with the stock, and bring to a boil, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
  4. But the seared pork into the stock braising liquid and top with the brown sugar.
  5. Cover tightly and cook for 2 hours at 275, check the roast and baste as needed. Turn the roast over and cook for another 2 hours or until tender and pulls apart.
  6. If covered tightly you will not need to add stock, but if juice is reduced add a little stock to keep liquid in the bottom.
  7. After the roast has cooked for about 4 hours or is tender, place pork on top of stove uncovered to cool.
  8. Pull the pork with forks or tongs to desired size.
  9. Serve plain or with your choice of toppings, sauce or accompaniments.


Lobster Sauce

Add a little seafood into your macaroni and cheese. Pair with this lobster sauce to bring out the best flavors.


  • 1 quart lobster stock (Can use base mixed with veg stock)
  • 75 cups blond Roux (equal parts butter and flour)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and white pepper to taste


  1. In a medium sauce pot, make a blond roux by adding clarified butter and flour together and cooking the mixture slightly.
  2. Add the tomato paste and then the brandy, and light it up!
  3. Stir in the lobster stock and reduce the mixture by half, skimming the top frequently.
  4. Finally, add the cream, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  5. For extra flavor, consider adding lemon juice, Tabasco, or other desired flavorings.

Want to learn to cook like Chef Todd? Sign up for classes at UVU Culinary Arts. Suitable for all ages, you’ll learn cooking techniques from their lineup of professional chefs. Find more information at, or on Instagram, @uvu.cai.

Find Chef Todd on Instagram at @cheftoddleonard.

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