Close up of Baked Mac and Cheese fresh out of the oven
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4.99 from 207 votes

Baked Mac and Cheese

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. 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Side
Cuisine: Western
Keyword: Baked Mac and Cheese, Macaroni and Cheese
Servings: 6 - 8 people
Calories: 551kcal
Author: Nagi

Ingredients

Macaroni:

  • 250g / 8 oz macaroni (elbow pasta)
  • 1 tbsp / 15g unsalted butter (or 2 tsp oil)

Topping:

  • 2/3 cup (40g) panko breadcrumbs (Note 1)
  • 2 tbsp (30g) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp (60g) 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

Seasonings (optional):

  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder

Instructions

Pasta:

  • 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).

Topping:

  • Mix together Topping. Set aside.

Sauce (video is helpful):

  • Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
  • 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.

Assembling:

  • 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.

Notes

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. Cheese
  • Main Cheese (2 cups) - my favourite is gruyere (used in video), for flavour and melting quality. Can use any flavoured melting cheese. Other cheeses I like for this include: cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby, provolone. (Australia/NZ: Tasty cheese works & super tasty but sauce is not quite as smooth);
  • 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. 
  • 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.
3. Tossing 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. Optional step - can skip it.
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. Nutrition per serving. 6 servings as a generous side - you will be surprised how far 250g/8oz stretches with a load of cheese sauce! Will serve 4 generously as a main.

Nutrition

Calories: 551kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 89mg | Sodium: 847mg | Potassium: 326mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 915IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 449mg | Iron: 1.4mg