Instant Pot Mac & Cheese

October 12, 2018

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Making macaroni and cheese in an Instant Pot seemed, to me, counterintuitive at first thought. Wouldn't the noodles get all mushy, instead of remaining beautifully al dente? No, it turns out—not if you cook them for the perfect amount of time. Plus, after some testing, I realized I could infuse the actual pasta with way more flavor by cooking it directly in broth, cream, and Pecorino. Seriously: way more. A quick, stovetop-toasted panko topping keeps things nice and crispy-edged over on the textural front—feel free to dial up the cayenne if you like even more of kick!Ella Quittner

Serves: 6 or more
Cook time: 20 min


  • 1 tablespoon butter, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 5 ounces pancetta, thickly sliced and roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 small or 2 medium shallots, finely minced (about 1/3 cup minced)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (you can substitute vegetable)
  • 1 1/2 ounces Pecorino Romano, finely grated (about 1/2 cup, packed) (you can substitute Parmesan)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 pound fusilli (or other similar twisty shape), uncooked
  • 1 large pinch powdered cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup plain panko
  • 12 ounces ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • Finely chopped chives, for garnish (if using)
In This Recipe


  1. Turn your multi-cooker on to its sauté setting (if your cooker has a timer component, set it to 15 minutes just to be safe, then hit cancel when you switch to pressure cooking mode) and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the pancetta, and sauté for a few minutes, until it crisps up on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, remove about a third of the crisped pancetta and set aside. Add the shallots to the cooker, and sauté in the rendered pancetta fat until they begin to turn translucent.
  2. Add the milk, heavy cream, broth, Pecorino, salt, pepper, and pasta, and stir to combine well, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot as you mix. (The noodles won’t be fully submerged—that’s fine.) Put the lid on the cooker and turn to pressure cook mode on high for 5 minutes. (If you like your pasta less al dente, set it for 6 minutes.)
  3. Meanwhile, on the stovetop, melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a 10-inch or larger skillet (either cast iron or non-stick works), and add the cayenne. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the panko and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook all together over medium heat, constantly moving the panko around, until it’s midway between the color of graham crackers and the color of caramel. Set aside, off heat.
  4. Once the pressure cooking is completed, let the multi-cooker naturally release pressure for 1 minute before carefully turning it to instant release. When the pressure has been fully released, open the lid, and immediately stir in the cheddar cheese, stirring until it fully melts. (If you need extra heat, turn it back to sauté mode for another few minutes. If you need additional moisture, add another splash of milk.) Adjust seasoning to taste, then serve in individual bowls topped with a few heaping spoonfuls of toasted panko, the reserved pancetta crisps, and the chives (if using).

More Great Recipes:
Pasta|Macaroni and Cheese|American|Milk/Cream|Parmesan|Shallot|Bacon|Cheddar|Cheese|Sauté|Pressure Cook|Instant Pot

Reviews (12) Questions (0)

12 Reviews

shari November 21, 2018
Can you do this in a crock pot?
Author Comment
Ella Q. November 21, 2018
Hi Shari, <br /><br />I haven't tested it that way, but I'd be curious to know. Let me know how it goes if you try it!<br /><br />Ella
Robyn G. November 19, 2018
Can this be made ahead of time?
Author Comment
Ella Q. November 19, 2018
Yes, I'd just add some additional cream/milk and cheese when reheating to get it back to its melty state. And add the panko right before serving so it doesn't get too soggy.
What W. October 24, 2018
Hey Ella! Do you think using GF pasta would alter the cooking time? My gut says yes but just wanted to see if you'd ever tried it.
Author Comment
Ella Q. October 24, 2018
In general, my experience with GF pastas is that they cook WAY more quickly—with the actual cooking time varying by ingredients. If I were testing this recipe with a particular GF pasta, I might start by setting the Instant Pot to pressure cook for as little as 2 minutes, and assessing from there (you can always turn it back on for longer). Let me know if you try it!
Mad R. October 18, 2018
My boyfriend wears khakis
Mad R. October 18, 2018
Wow! I know what I'm making next time I have my girlfriend over on a date!
Adri October 18, 2018
How can I make this without pancetta?
Author Comment
Ella Q. October 18, 2018
Hi Adri,<br /><br />You can just skip the pancetta, and sauté the shallots in the butter. Then, just top with the breadcrumbs.<br /><br />Thanks,<br />Ella
Stephanie October 17, 2018
Could this recipe be altered for stovetop?
Author Comment
Ella Q. October 17, 2018
Hi Stephanie,<br /><br />I haven't tried adjusting this specific recipe for stovetop yet, but if you wanted to do a similar version, I suspect the following would work: Make the spicy breadcrumbs according to the recipe. Separately, cook the pasta (to 2-3 minutes before it's ready, so it's super al dente) in one pot (of salted water). Meanwhile, in another pot, crisp the pancetta, and set aside about a third. In the same pot you browned the pancetta in in, sauté the shallots until translucent and fragrant in the rendered pancetta fat, and deglaze with about a cup of milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream, then bring to a light simmer and add in the two cheeses and salt/pepper. Whisk to combine until cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. (I think you can probably skip the chicken broth—if it seems thicker than a classic creamy, cheesy sauce, add a splash.) Then toss in the al dente pasta with a splash of its salted cooking water, stir to combine, and adjust seasoning. Serve mac and cheese topped with the reserved crispy pancetta and spicy breadcrumbs.