Mac and Cheese

Tested & Perfected Recipes

Mac & Cheese

I find most homemade mac and cheese recipes to be a bit dry, so I developed this version to be ultra-creamy. The crispy panko-Herbes de Provence topping is inspired by a mac and cheese I once had at a little gem of a restaurant called Maple Ave near my hometown in Virginia. It absolutely makes the dish! This recipe serves four as a main dish and six as a side; if you’d like to double the recipe, bake it in a 9×13-inch baking dish and increase the cooking time to 30 to 35 minutes. (Note: this recipe was originally posted on the blog in 2009 and updated in November of 2018. To download the original recipe, click here.)

how to make mac & cheeseBring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, or just slightly underdone. (It will continue to cook in the oven so you don’t want it fully cooked.) how to make mac & cheese Drain well and rinse with cold water. how to make mac & cheese Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium (2-quart) pot over low heat. how to make mac & cheese Add the flour. how to make mac & cheese Cook for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. how to make mac & cheeseWhile whisking, add the hot milk. how to make mac & cheeseBring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for a few minutes more, until thickened and smooth. how to make mac & cheese Off the heat, whisk in the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. how to make mac & cheese Add the cooked pasta. how to make mac & cheese Stir to combine. how to make mac & cheese Pour into the prepared baking dish and set aside. how to make mac & cheeseIn a small sauté pan over medium heat, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter. how to make mac & cheese Add the panko. how to make mac & cheese Cook, stirring often, until golden brown. Stir in the herbes de Provence or thyme. how to make mac & cheese Sprinkle the toasted panko over the pasta and cheese sauce, followed by the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. how to make mac & cheese Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. how to make mac & cheese Serve warm and enjoy. Mac & Cheese

Mac n' Cheese

Servings: 4 as a main course, 6 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces) macaroni, cavatappi or penne pasta
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 6 ounces Gruyere, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 4 ounces extra sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for the pasta water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence or dried thyme

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Grease a 2-qt baking dish with butter.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, or just slightly underdone. (It will continue to cook in the oven so you don't want it fully cooked.) Drain the pasta and rinse it with cold water.
  3. Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium (2-quart) pot over low heat. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, gradually add the milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for a few minutes more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, whisk in the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked pasta and stir well. Pour into the prepared baking dish and set aside.
  4. In a small sauté pan over medium heat, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter. Add the panko and cook, stirring often, until golden brown. Stir in the herbes de Provence or thyme. Sprinkle the toasted panko mixture over the pasta and cheese sauce, followed by the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown.
  5. Note: To reheat leftovers, cover with aluminum foil and warm in a 300°F oven. Do not microwave.
  6. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: This can be frozen unbaked for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to cook it, defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours, then proceed with the baking instructions in the recipe.

Pair with

Reviews & Comments

  • Excellent!!! I’ve been looking for a good macaroni and cheese recipe since losing a great recipe I had years ago. This is just as good as my original recipe. I don’t like parmigiano-reggianno so I just substituted more cheddar and might try Fontina next time.

    • — Eileen on November 17, 2018
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  • I’m excited to make this for tonight’s dinner. Minor quibble: the recipe calls for whisking in “the hot milk”, but nowhere does it say to heat the milk. I like to have my mis-en-place ready before I start cooking, and had I not studied the recipe, I would have gotten to the step of adding the milk and had to stop and heat it.

    Love all your recipes, and I’ll come back and rate this one after we eat it.

    • — Tom on November 9, 2018
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    • Hi Tom, So sorry – that’s a typo. There’s no need to heat the milk, although it’s fine if you do. Thanks for catching that!

      • — Jenn on November 9, 2018
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    • Made this dish tonight. Heating the milk helps. It’s the best Mac and Cheese we ever ate. I can see adding lobster or crab meat to this dish. Truly awesome. Thanks again.

      • — Tom on November 9, 2018
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  • I would like to make this recipe for Thanksgiving, as a side dish. Would you simply double your recipe?
    I’m excited to try this 5 star recipe
    Thank you
    Rita

    • — Rita on November 8, 2018
    • Reply
    • Yep and cook in a 9×13-inch dish; be sure to increase the cooking time to 30-35 min, too.

      • — Jenn on November 8, 2018
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  • Hi Jen! I’m a super-fan of your website and I have your book, in addition to the binder full of all your recipes that I’ve printed! So you see, I had made my own version of your new book before you even had it published!! : – ) Your recipes are a real blessing — they never fail! The photos are compelling, the instructions are clear, and the results are excellent! The only downside is that I spend way too much time reading them over, trying to figure out which one to try next.
    I have a question regarding your Mac n’ Cheese recipe — it has Freezer-Friendly Instructions indicating it can be frozen for up to 3 months, but in the review section you responded to a reader’s question about freezing with the comment that you wouldn’t recommend freezing this dish because of all the dairy it contains. So which is it…??
    Thank you for your answer and for making our meals so enjoyable!

    • — Toni on November 8, 2018
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    • Hi Toni, So glad you’re enjoying the site and the cookbook! Sorry for the confusion — the dish can be frozen unbaked but not after it’s cooked. 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 8, 2018
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  • Jenn, hello. Can you make the mac and cheese recipe ahead of time? If I made it early a.m. put in the frig then cooked it around 12:30 would that be ok?
    Thanks.
    Barb

    • — Barb on September 24, 2018
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    • Sure, Barb, that will work – just add breadcrumbs just before putting it in the oven. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 25, 2018
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  • How would I make this in a large crockpot.

    • — Janice Coble on August 10, 2018
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    • Hi Janice, I don’t have any experience using a slow cooker, so I’m not sure how well it would convert. Here are some tips that may help. I’d love to hear if you try it and how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on August 10, 2018
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  • I made this last night for dinner. Another winner! I didn’t have Gruyere, so I used Parmigiana-Reggiano per recommended in a previous review. I altered the amount of cheese by adding 1 less of the PR and 1 more of the cheddar. It was delicious! Thanks again Jenn! My son had been requesting Mac and cheese and he thoroughly enjoyed this one.

    ~ your cookbook is supposed to arrive today and I’m super excited!!!

    • — Anita J. on April 24, 2018
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  • Even my fussy eaters loved it!

    • — Susan Micflikier on September 13, 2017
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  • Hi Jenn, Love so many of your recipes.
    Just tried the mac and cheese. It was excellent. Just wondering if you could recommend another cheese instead if Gruyere. Thanks, Nicole from Canada

    • — Nicole on September 1, 2017
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    • Nicole, so glad you’re enjoying the recipes! If you’d prefer a different cheese, you could use Swiss, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Cheddar.

      • — Jenn on September 1, 2017
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  • Is there any other cheese that can be used instead of the gruyere? It’s a tad bit expensive for a small slice everywhere I look.

    • — Gloria on August 28, 2017
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    • Hi Gloria, you could use grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Swiss or Cheddar. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 28, 2017
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  • Hi Jenn,
    I love your site, I have been working my way through many different recipes and am pleased with the results! This mac and cheese tasted a little bland to me, but I think I didn’t have the ideal gruyere and extra sharp cheddar. Do you have particular brands you recommend?

    • — Alexis Kenney on July 6, 2017
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    • Hi Alexis, I’m sorry you found this to be a bit bland! I don’t have any particular brands of cheese that I’d recommend, but I’d definitely go with something that’s good quality. (Also, rather than the cheese, it could’ve been that this just needed a bit more salt.)

      • — Jenn on July 7, 2017
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  • Hi Jenn,
    For the bread crumbs, should they be toasted first? I’ve never used bread crumbs that were toasted (even when baking in the oven).

    Thanks!
    Katy

    • — Katy on May 29, 2017
    • Reply
    • No Katy, they don’t need to be toasted first. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 29, 2017
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  • Outstanding recipe! I used medium shell pasta and followed every thing else exactly as written! Best Mac n Cheese I’ve ever made!

    • — PAM on April 27, 2017
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  • I tried and it is VERY creamy. My kids like it less so (I actually make them Cooking Light’s version which they love). That being said, for them it made a perfect side. I’d also adjust a tad less for the sauce if you don’t like to super saucy. It worked for me because the kids dipped their haricot verts into it.

    • — Betsy D. on March 16, 2017
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  • Hi Jenn!

    I made this twice and my family loves it. Just wondering what your thoughts on adding a little cream cheese to this dish?

    • — Lily Zaccaro on February 4, 2017
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    • Hi Lily, Glad your family likes it! I’ve never tried adding cream cheese to this, so I can’t say for sure, but I think you could get away with adding a little; maybe 1/4 cup at the most. I’d love to hear how it turns out this way!

      • — Jenn on February 5, 2017
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  • Should this be like soup when I pour it into the baking dish? It looks like I should have another 8 ounces of pasta!

    • — Jenn on January 9, 2017
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    • Hi Jenn, hmmm, this should be saucy but not soupy- are you sure you measured everything correctly?

      • — Jenn on January 11, 2017
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      • Yes I checked and rechecked. Oh well—it came out good and reheated well too! Thanks for another great recipe!

        • — Jenn on January 11, 2017
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        • Glad to hear it turned out well– all’s well that ends well :)!

          • — Jenn on January 11, 2017
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  • I made this for Thanksgiving this year and everyone at the table loved it (toddler and 1st grader through grandparents)! I used cavatappi pasta. I made the dish the day before Thanksgiving and just put it in the oven to heat it up before the meal. I actually think it tasted better the day after!

    • — Leslie on December 2, 2016
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  • Incredible! I made it for my friends and they would not stop complimenting it. I did not add the bread topping (personal preference) and it goes great with broccoli.

    • — Benjamin E Deonovic on December 1, 2016
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  • how large is the container that this goes in? ie how big is the baking dish supposed to be?

    • — seema on October 2, 2016
    • Reply
    • This should be baked in a 2-quart baking dish. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on October 2, 2016
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  • Can this be made ahead of time?

    • — Sue on July 25, 2016
    • Reply
    • Sure Sue, Feel free to make it ahead. If you’re baking it right before serving, add breadcrumbs just before putting it in the oven.

      • — Jenn on July 26, 2016
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      • Hi!

        How long in advance can I assemble this before adding the breadcrumbs and putting it in the oven?

        Thanks!

        • — Lily on December 30, 2016
        • Reply
        • Hi Lily, I’d say it’s fine to prep it up to two days ahead of time.

          • — Jenn on December 31, 2016
          • Reply
  • Yes, someone that really knows how to cook proper mac n’ cheese. I appreciate your take as I also do the rue method, but have only used sharp cheddar. This may seem a bit odd, but I like to add garlic and some Texas Pete sauce and it turns into a yummy different take…

    • — Alex D. on July 8, 2016
    • Reply
  • Jen,
    Follow up,
    It cooked up nicely! My husband loved! So I guess I did this correctly. Another five stars! Thank you, Susie

    • — Susie on April 12, 2016
    • Reply
  • I must have done something wrong because when I poured it into the dish it was very liquidity.. I must have not have had hot enough milk when I poured it into the melted butter and flour mixture?.. I stirred for 10 minutes and it never got thick…im baking it now.. Ha hopefully we can still eat it. I love your recipes! Susie

    • — Susie on April 12, 2016
    • Reply
  • I have a question. . . If I wanted to make this for a dinner with french people 🙂 How could I dress up the flavor? I think the recipe is awesome the way it is. . . Just wanted to add an awe factor.

    Hug

    Sara

    • — Sara MacMillan on April 5, 2016
    • Reply
    • Hi Sara, Not sure you need to any additional ingredients to the dish, but you could serve it with this traditional French Carrot Salad on the side.

      • — Jenn on April 5, 2016
      • Reply
  • Finally! After so many years trying to find a good mac and cheese recipe. . . yours is delicious and not as messy if even messy.

    Everyone loved it. I added peas for my girls . . . and used penne as you suggested, so yummy.

    I am making it again for a playdate! Yeah! So happy.

    A big hug from a huge fan.

    Sara

    • — Sara MacMillan on April 5, 2016
    • Reply
  • Oh, my. A six-star recipe. I followed this recipe exactly and in return received a combination of flavors that were beyond delightful.

    For the next make I am going to add lobster — I believe it will make this a perfect over-the-top tailgate recipe. Thanks, Jenn!

    • — Mike S. on January 19, 2016
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  • I was wondering about the bread crumbs…can I use grated? If not, do I need to only use white bread? Thank you.

    • — Joann on December 4, 2015
    • Reply
    • Sure Joann, you could use grated bread crumbs if you prefer and it really can be any type of bread. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 5, 2015
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  • Hi Jenn,

    Do you have the measurements in metric? =x

    • — G on December 1, 2015
    • Reply
    • Hi, I’ve started to have metric conversions for recipes on the site, but just haven’t updated that one yet. I will update that it within the next few days. Thanks!

      • — Jenn on December 1, 2015
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      • The Mac and Cheese recipe now has metric conversions. (Look for the metric/cup measure toggle slightly above the ingredients in the recipe.)

        • — Jenn on December 1, 2015
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        • Thanks Jenn! 😀

          • — G on December 2, 2015
          • Reply
  • Another winner! Quick question — what changes would you suggest if I wanted to add broccoli? Would I add chopped broccoli when I add the cooked pasta? Are there any pitfalls that I should be aware of if adding a vegetable?

    • — Amy G. on November 28, 2015
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  • I made this tonight and it was a big hit! Be careful when doubling the recipe…..I screwed up some things but it came out GREAT! Thanks, Jenn, for another wonderful recipe.

    • — ccwallace on October 18, 2015
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  • Adults loved it, kids not so much.

    • — Julie on October 8, 2015
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  • Unlike many people, mac ‘n cheese was not a staple in our family when I was growing up. Therefore, I cannot recite my mom’s “from scratch” recipe from memory and, quite frankly, thought of mac ‘n cheese as an emergency meal that was made from a boxed mix when it was necessary to get food on the table quickly and there wasn’t time to prepare a real meal. This recipe changed my ideas about mac ‘n cheese. I first made it to appease the appetite of our 6 year old granddaughter and another picky eater in our family. It not only satisfied this need, but it also received rave reviews from the carnivores who enjoyed it as a side dish. I will make this again and again – if you make it you will only resort to a boxed mix in an extreme emergency. Enjoy!

    • — Mary Kirk on September 1, 2015
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  • Best mac n cheese I have ever made!!!! This one IS a family favorite and will make many times over. Very easy and flavorful and WAY better than the store bought junk!

    • — Irene on August 27, 2015
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  • This is a great recipe. I made it exactly as written. Everyone loved it. Great for leftovers. Truly. This will be in my go-to rotation from now on.

    • — Pam on August 11, 2015
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  • Absolutely delicious! This recipe was incredibly easy to put together and the results are a bit beyond belief. The hardest part of the process was waiting for it to bake; I was so ready to just dive right into it and sweated out minute after minute until it came out golden brown and near restaurant quality. This is officially going in my short list of fave recipes.

    • — Neal on July 15, 2015
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  • Love this recipe!!! Perfect mac n cheese no matter what cheese you use. Thank you!

    • — Irene on December 15, 2014
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  • Great mac& cheese ! Iam new to your site
    And looking forward to try other great recipes. Thank you for sharing! !

    • — Catherine on July 21, 2014
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  • I didn’t have nutmeg on hand when I made this recipe but thought the dish was delicious without it.

    • — Alicia on July 19, 2014
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  • What would be the issue with using salted butter instead of unsalted? Thanks!

    • — Sylina on November 30, 2013
    • Reply
    • Hi Sylina, Just allows you to control the salt level.

      • — Jenn on November 30, 2013
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  • My go-to mac ‘n cheese recipe! I cut corners a little and sometimes use already grated cheese, and panko for the bread crumbs and it comes out just fine.

    • — Ponyo on November 7, 2013
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  • Excellent! I loved the penne in it! I even used low fat milk & cheese in it & it was great! I also omitted the bread crumbs & just topped with a little cheese. Another keeper!

    • — Esther on November 5, 2013
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  • This is a great recipe! I skipped the fancy cheese and just used cheddar and it was still divine. I found that this was enough sauce for almost an entire box (16 ounces) of pasta. I will definitely be making this again and again in the upcoming colder months.

    • — Natalie on October 22, 2013
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  • This is great. I like to sprinkle some paprika in it to add a little new flavor. Love this!

    • — Amanda S. on March 11, 2013
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  • Made thia last night for guests as a side dish to the beef brisket – it was a huge hit! Creamy and rich, but not too heavy (and gave me an excuse to finally buy a grater). Thanks for another winner. 🙂

    • — Cynthia on December 23, 2012
    • Reply
  • If I double the recipe, do I also double the cooking time?

    • — Erin on November 13, 2012
    • Reply
    • Hi Erin, It will take longer to cook but not double…just check it every five minutes or so after the recommended cooking time.

      • — Jenn on November 14, 2012
      • Reply
  • Comfort food doesn’t get better than this! Kids love it!

  • Makes yummy mac and cheese. I mix up the cheeses based on what’s in the fridge.

    • — Sri on June 26, 2012
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  • Hi Jen, I am planning on making this as a side dish with for some company. Do you know if I can make most of the recipe ahead of time (morning) and leave it in the fridge, and then add breadcrumbs and bake at the last minute?

    • — Rachel Bridgeman on June 23, 2012
    • Reply
    • Hi Rachel! Should be fine to make most of the recipe ahead, then add breadcrumbs and bake at last minute. 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 24, 2012
      • Reply
  • I like the combination of cheeses.

    • — Amy Flick on May 21, 2012
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  • Never made it from scratch, but this might make me start trying!

    • — Adrienne on May 16, 2012
    • Reply
  • Adore Mac & Cheese and Ina Garten!

    • — Rebecca on March 6, 2012
    • Reply
  • Mac and cheese is the best when the sauce is made from a roux. I started doing this last year and haven’t looked back since. Adding a little bit of dijon mustard to the sauce gives it a nice kick too!

    • — Michele Mathis Lavell on March 1, 2012
    • Reply
  • The BEST mac & cheese…..always a comfort food….this one is gourmet comfort!!!! Yummy, yummy, yummy!!!!

    • — debbie on March 1, 2012
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  • This was REALLY good, but I did feel like this needed a bit more seasoning. We added more black pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes at serving. Loved the consistency and base flavors. Might try mixing up the cheese blend next time. Keep the great recipes coming! I’m trying out your pancakes tomorrow morning. yum!

  • soo good. reheating leftovers tonight with some barbeque. josh gets sooo excited when he hears I am trying one of your recipes – so cute!

  • A definite keeper! There’s a restaurant here in LA that makes a wonderful mac & cheese w/ truffles on occasion. Amazing.

    http://mydinnerswithrichard.blogspot.com/

  • your blog is absolutely fantastic! i’ve made this recipe, the pumpkin bread and the supernatural brownies (it’s officially now my go-to brownie recipe). just wanted to say that you are doing a fantastic job! the blog is beautiful and your photos are gorgeous and incredibly helpful. i can’t wait to try more of your recipes.

    • — kat on October 24, 2009
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  • Brandy – You can use olive oil in the pasta water but definitely still use unsalted butter for the cheese sauce. Enjoy!

    • — Jenn on October 15, 2009
    • Reply
  • could the vegetable oil be substituted with olive oil?

    • — Brandy on October 15, 2009
    • Reply

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