This baked mac and cheese recipe has everything you need-- creamy cheese base, crispy breadcrumb topping, and packed with flavor. It is perfect for making ahead to serve guests the ultimate comfort food.
If you are feeling impatient, skip the crispy top and baking, and eat straight from the pot. I don't blame you.
How can I make this ahead?
This mac and cheese recipe can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Just go through all the steps through adding the panko topping then store. When you are ready to enjoy it, pop it in the oven (it may take a couple of extra minutes since it will be cold).
You can also freeze this mac and cheese! Just let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight when you are ready to enjoy. For best results, wait to add the panko topping until you are ready to pop it into the oven.
What type of cheese should I use for mac and cheese?
One of the most important things when making homemade mac and cheese, is using freshly grated cheese. I like using three of my favorite cheeses from Trader Joe's: 2 cups of 6-month aged gruyere, 2 cups of extra sharp white cheddar cheese, and 2 cups of "unexpected cheddar cheese" (think sharp cheddar meets parmesan). You can use any of your favorite cheeses, but ideally, it is a hard cheese (soft cheeses like mozzarella can give off too much liquid).
I'd love to know what you think of this baked mac and cheese in the comments below! And if you take photos don't forget to tag @ccs_table so that I can see your creation!
Baked Mac and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese
- 1 lb short pasta such as macaroni
- 6 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic minced
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 qt milk
- 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 4 dash cayenne pepper
- 2 pinch salt
- 2 pinch pepper
- 6 cup freshly shredded cheese I use a mixture of gruyere and sharp cheddar
Crispy panko topping
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon salted butter melted
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a large baking dish (such as 9x13) with cooking spray.
- In a large pot, boil water and cook pasta 2 minutes less than directions, or until al dente. Drain.
- In a small pot, heat milk on low heat until warm, being careful not to boil.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a large pot or dutch oven. Add shallots, garlic, and a pinch of salt and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Whisk in flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, creating a roux (thick mixture), about 1 minute. One cup at a time, whisk in 1 quart of warm milk to the roux and stir until creamy and lump-free.
- Whisk in the Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and cayenne (if using). One cup at a time, add in the shredded cheese and whisk until the cheese is completely melted. Fold in the cooked pasta. Transfer the mac and cheese to the prepared baking dish.
- To make the crispy topping, melt butter with olive oil in the microwave using a microwave-safe bowl (about 30 seconds). Stir in panko breadcrumbs, parmesan, and a dash of salt and pepper each with the melted butter and oil. Distribute evenly on top of mac and cheese.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly and top is golden brown.
Best mac ever! I added a few slices of chopped bacon and the result was to die for. This was supposed to be a side dish but it ended up taking over my plate. I wasn’t mad about it...
Caitlin from CC's Table
I'm so glad you loved it, Alison! Great idea adding bacon!