This is the baked Mac and cheese recipe I used in my Radnor High School kitchen, and once again if the freshman boys could make it, you definitely can. It had been literal ages since I’d used the recipe, always sort of cobbling recipes together from the internet or memory, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. My kids absolutely loved it and I’m happy to be re-posting it because I’ll undoubtedly be using it again soon.
I grew up with homemade baked Mac and cheese in the dinner rotation. Instead of breadcrumbs my mom would top it with squares of buttered toast. It’s still her favorite, though it wasn’t mine (I swear I always had the burnt bites). Regardless, I love the buttery Panko topping. Perfectly crunchy. The flavor in the sauce is balanced just right and the sauce to noodle ratio is ideal. This makes an 8×8 inch pan which is all I usually need, but you’d just need to double every amount to make a 9×13. Bake it for the same amount of time.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Makes 8×8 pan
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup Panko style breadcrumbs
2 tsp. salt
8 oz. elbow macaroni (half of a box)
1 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1/2 teaspoon water
pinch cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole milk
¾ c. plus 2 tbsp. chicken broth
3 c. shredded Colby cheese
- Make sure the oven rack is in the middle and preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter and mix with the breadcrumbs.
- Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in 2 tsp. salt and add the macaroni. Cook until almost tender, but still firm to the bite (about 7 minutes).
- Drain the macaroni, leave in the colander, and set aside.
- Dry the pot, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and melt on medium heat. Stir in the garlic, mustard mixture, and cayenne pepper. Cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Careful not to let the garlic burn (or turn brown).
- Stir in the flour and cook until golden brown, about 1 minute. Stir in the milk and broth gradually and simmer, whisking often, until the mixture is slightly thickened. This should take about 6 minutes.
- Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cheeses until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the macaroni until well mixed. Be sure to break up any clumps.
- Pour into an 8×8 baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the macaroni and cheese.
- Bake until golden brown and bubbling around the edges, 15 minutes.
- Cool 10 minutes before serving.