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. While throwing dog toys into the water, I’ll blast out instructions for how to make a Seafood Marinara Pasta or a Chicken Risotto.
And so to the lady who declared that Mac and Cheese must always have a crunchy top – here is my Baked Macaroni and Cheese, with plenty of crunchy topping!!!
MAC AND CHEESE: the ultimate comfort food!
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.
ABOUT THIS MACARONI AND CHEESE
This is 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 Macaroni and Cheese with perfectly cooked macaroni, plenty of sauce and a crunchy buttery top, this is a Mac and Cheese for you. ❤
WHY YOU NEED THIS MAC AND CHEESE IN YOUR LIFE
There are a couple of things in this recipe that are a bit different to other Macaroni and Cheese 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
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
Baked Mac and Cheese recipe video! Don’t miss the ending when it comes out of the oven….
Recipe VIDEO above. An epic, classic Baked Mac and Cheese! Perfect in every way, this has a glorious cheesy sauce, and a beautiful crunchy, buttery topping. 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.
- 250 g / 8 oz macaroni (elbow pasta)
- 1 tbsp / 15 g unsalted butter (or 2 tsp oil)
- 2/3 cup / 40g panko breadcrumbs (Note 1)
- 2 tbsp / 30 g unsalted butter
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 60 g / 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup / 50g flour , plain / all purpose
- 3 cups / 750 ml milk , warmed (low or full fat)
- 2 cups / 200g shredded cheese (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!
Serve immediately! I sprinkled mine with a bit of fresh parsley.
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. Can sub with normal breadcrumbs.
2. Always grate your own cheese for cheese sauces. Store bought shredded cheese have anti caking agents which don't melt so can give the sauce a slight powdery texture.
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, you can use any melting 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. PREPARE 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 LEFTOVERS: Best way is to microwave to make warm then spray top with oil (or butter) and crisp under grill/broiler.
6. Baked Mac and Cheese nutrition per serving (6 BIG servings!).
First published July 2017, post refreshed May 2018 - no changes to recipe.
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