The ultimate classic Baked Mac and Cheese, with an insane cheesy sauce and topped with an irresistible golden, buttery breadcrumb topping. Prepare yourself for the heart-stopping moment in the recipe video when I pull this bubbling beauty out of the oven…..and the stretchy cheese shot!
“Mac and Cheese should always have a crunchy top!” she declared, as explanation for why she wouldn’t be trying my Stove-Top Mac and Cheese.
I grinned, and retorted “Geez, you can never please everyone!!!” Then promised that I’d share a crunchy topped Mac and Cheese as soon as an “acceptable” period of time had passed!
These kind of conversations are how many of the recipes land on this site. I’ll be asked for a recipe by a friend or more often nowadays, while out exercising Dozer at the end of the day when everyone’s thinking about what to have for dinner. While throwing dog toys into the water or walking around the park, I’ll blast out instructions for how to make a Seafood Marinara Pasta or a Chicken Risotto. Or how to make a ripper Laksa using a jar of store bought paste, or even how to make a Chicken Noodle Soup using a whole chicken! (This one’s not on my site yet, it’s coming soon!)
And so to the lady who declared that Mac and Cheese must always have a crunchy top – here is my Baked Mac and Cheese, with plenty of crunchy topping!!!
I don’t want to be morbid, but if I had to choose a Last Meal, this Baked Mac and Cheese may possibly be it. I know, I know, it’s not very Japanese or Aussie of me to say that. I should probably say sushi or sausage rolls or roast lamb.
Put me in a room with Mac and Cheese, and neither of us stand a chance. Said Mac and Cheese would be ravaged.
And of all the Mac and Cheeses in the world, this is my very favourite.
It’s not an insanely fully loaded Mac and Cheese. I know you’ll see some with many types of cheeses and made really rich with cream. Topped with bacon, with lobster and crab.
This is not one of those versions. But if you want a buttery, cheesy, creamy Mac and Cheese with perfectly cooked macaroni, and a crunchy buttery top, this is a Mac and Cheese for you. ❤️
There are only a couple of things that I specifically do that may be a bit different to other recipes. Firstly, being of Asian background, I have a huge hang up about soggy, overcooked rice. And this snobbery extends to pasta.
So what I do is toss the cooked macaroni in butter so it’s coated lightly, just enough to help stop it from absorbing more liquid as it bakes, resulting in bloated overcooked pasta. I also cool the macaroni down before mixing with the sauce for this same reason (hot pasta absorbs liquid far more easily).
And secondly, I am pretty sure the amount of sauce I make is more than most recipes. Simply because I don’t like Mac and Cheese where there’s basically no sauce left once it comes out of the oven.
I need that cheesy sauce. If I’m going to blow my calorie count with this Baked Mac and Cheese, give me cheesy sauce worth blowing it on! – Nagi xx
PS Don’t forget the recipe video. Because if these photos haven’t convinced you, the video will!
An epic, classic Baked Mac and Cheese! Perfect in every way, this has a glorious cheesy sauce, perfectly cooked pasta and a beautiful crunchy, buttery topping. This is a great one for serving at gatherings because it won't dry out and go stodgy because of the extra step of tossing the macaroni in butter (stops it from bloating) and because it's extra saucy out of the oven = perfect sauce amount when serving. While Mac and Cheese is always best served fresh, because of the way this is made, this will reheat far better than the usual - see Note 4 & 5 for make ahead / reheating. SCALE RECIPE by putting your cursor over the Servings and slide for the pasta amount you want to use. Recipe VIDEO below.
- 250 g / 8 oz macaroni (elbow pasta)
- 1 tbsp / 15 g butter (or 2 tsp oil)
- 2/3 cup / 40g panko breadcrumbs (Note 1)
- 2 tbsp / 30 g butter
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 60 g / 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup / 50g plain flour (all purpose flour)
- 3 cups / 750 ml milk, warmed
- 2 cups / 200g shredded cheese (my favourite is gruyere, next is cheddar and Colby) (Note 2)
- 1 cup / 100g shredded mozzarella cheese, or more other cheese of choice (Note 2)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp mustard powder
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add macaroni and cook per packet directions MINUS 1 minute.
Drain, return pasta to pot, add butter and toss until melted. Set aside to cool while making the Sauce (Optional - Note 3).
Mix together Topping. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
In a large saucepan or in an ovenproof skillet (I use my 26cm/9" Lodge cast iron skillet), melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
Add about 1 cup of the milk and mix to dissolve the paste into the milk. Then add remaining milk and mix until lump free (use whisk if required).
Mix in salt and Seasonings if using.
Cook, stirring/whisking regularly, for 5 - 8 minutes until thickened to a cream consistency. When the Sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon, you should be able to draw a path with your finger.
Remove from stove, add cheese and stir - cheese doesn't need to melt.
Adjust salt to taste.
Pour Sauce into pot with Macaroni. Stir quickly, then pour back into the skillet (I did this) or a baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumb topping.
Bake for 25 minutes or until top is light golden. Don't bake too long otherwise you'll bake away the Sauce!
1. Panko breadcrumbs are larger pieces than normal breadcrumbs which creates a really nice extra crunchy topping. It can be found in the Asian section of supermarkets here in Australia.
If using normal breadcrumbs, use cup measures not weights (because they weigh more).
2. The Main Cheese (2 cups) should be a flavoured cheese. My favorites are: cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby, provolone and Gruyere (I used this in the video). Gruyere is my favourite - it's not cheap here, so it's a treat!
You can actually use any cheese you want, just make sure that it's a melting cheese (e.g. don't use feta, cream cheese, processed cheeses. I also don't recommend Swiss or Masdaam cheese, doesn't melt that well into sauces). AUSTRALIA: Do not use Tasty Cheese! I have found that some brands can result in the sauce being a bit floury. Some are ok, some are not - safer to say don't use Tasty Cheese.
I like to use mozzarella for the 2nd cheese (1 cup). It melts really well into the sauce, has that nice stretch, and isn't as oily like other cheese can tend to be. However, you can just use more of the Main Cheese.
3. Tossing the cooked pasta with butter provides a light coating that helps prevent it from bloating while baking in the sauce. This is also the reason why I let the pasta cool before mixing in with the sauce. You could just make the sauce while the pasta is cooking.
4. MAKE AHEAD: Mac and Cheese is best made fresh but if you need to make ahead, this is the best way. Cook pasta and toss in butter, cool. Make cheese sauce per recipe, then cool with LID ON (important, to avoid evaporation). Make topping. Store all components separately in the fridge until required. Mix sauce and pasta, top with topping then bake per recipe.
5. REHEATING: Mac and Cheese if best served fresh, and the best way to make ahead is in Note 4. But if you can't do that, then take it out of the oven as soon as the top is light golden at about 20 minutes. Then it will be saucier than cooking for the full time which is fine. Cool completely uncovered, then cover in cling wrap and refrigerate. Then remove from fridge 30 minutes before reheating. Best way to reheat is in the microwave, covered in cling wrap, on medium for 8 - 10 minutes or until the centre is hot (stick knife in to check). Then grill/broil just for a few minutes to get that top crisp again - add a few dabs of butter or even spray with oil if you think it needs the encouragement to perk up again!
6. Baked Mac and Cheese nutrition per serving.
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
Baked Mac and Cheese recipe video! Don’t miss the ending when it comes out of the oven….
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