Mac and Cheese

Tested & Perfected Recipes

Ultra-creamy and topped with crispy panko and herbs, this my favorite version of homemade mac and cheese.

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 and herb topping was inspired by the mac and cheese served at Maple Ave, a little gem of a restaurant near my hometown. 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.

What you’ll need to make mac and cheese

how to make mac & cheese

I use three different kinds of cheese in this recipe: Gruyère, extra-sharp Cheddar, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Using more than one type of cheese adds dimension to the dish. Be sure to use an authentic Swiss-made Gruyère that bears the AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) seal, which shows that the cheese is made according to strict government-mandated quality standards.

Similarly, it’s important to use authentic Parmigiano Reggiano. You can always tell if it’s the real deal by looking at the rind, which is embossed with the name over and over. (If the cheese is already grated, it should be labeled “Parmigiano Reggiano,” not “Parmesan.”)

I go the traditional route with the pasta and use macaroni, but any pasta that has lots of nooks and crannies will work nicely.  Your goal is to use a shape that catches and holds onto as much of the cheesy sauce as possible.

How to make mac and cheese

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.) 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 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. This step of browning the panko may seem unnecessary — you’d think it would brown in the oven — but I find it needs a head start on the stove to get really golden and crispy.

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. (Note: this recipe was originally posted on the blog in 2009 and updated in November of 2018. To download the original recipe, click here.)Mac & Cheese

You may also like

Mac and Cheese

Ultra-creamy and topped with crispy panko and herbs, this my favorite version of homemade mac and 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 finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 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

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Calories: 807
  • Fat: 45 g
  • Saturated fat: 26 g
  • Carbohydrates: 62 g
  • Sugar: 10 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 38 g
  • Sodium: 760 mg
  • Cholesterol: 130 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

See more recipes:

Comments

  • Jenn,
    What size pan does this recipe use? What size pan is the Emile Henry?
    Thank you!
    CJ

    • — CJ on December 26, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi CJ, that’s an 11 x 7-inch pan.

      • — Jenn on December 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi. I am a huge fan! I have both of your cookbooks and your website is my favorite resource for recipes and learning how to cook.
    I have a question. Can this recipe be doubled and baked in one pan to feed a large crowd?
    Thanks.

    • — Kelly Harrison on December 26, 2021
    • Reply
    • Yep, the bake time may be a bit longer…and so glad you enjoy the recipes! 🙂

      • — Jenn on December 26, 2021
      • Reply
  • I am serving a vegetarian meal. Would you serve mac and cheese with garlic bread made with your recipe?

    Thanks

    • — Elizabeth on December 20, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth, The mac and cheese and garlic bread sound really carb-heavy, so I would probably go with a salad instead. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on December 20, 2021
      • Reply
  • Looks delicious! Curious if you can make it without the panko? Feel like the panko may make it too heavy with everything else I plan to serve for Christmas!

    • — Valerie on December 17, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, it would be fine to omit the panko. Keep in mind that the top of the pasta will get a little crispy.

      • — Jenn on December 17, 2021
      • Reply
  • Thanks Jenn!
    I’m sure it will be another Once Upon A Chef recipe the family will love!
    Lynda

    • — Lynda on December 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    The mac and cheese recipe calls for 6 ounces of Gruyere cheese (about 2 cups) but 6 ounces equals approximately 3/4 of a cup. Also calls for 4 ounces of Cheddar (about 1 cup) but 4 ounces equals 1/2 a cup. Wondering which measurements I should use? Thanks, Lynda

    • — Lynda on December 13, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Lynda, the ounces you see in the recipe refer to weigh,t not volume. So if you were to weigh the Gruyere, it would come out to 6 ounces. Same goes for the cheddar – if you were to weigh what you needed, it would come out to 4 ounces. Hope that clarifies and that you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 13, 2021
      • Reply
    • Maybe this will help also……This is an excerpt from the Wisconsin Cheese website on measuring CHEESE accurately: “Weight vs. Volume -If you love cheese as much as we do, you’ll want the most accurate measurements possible. For cheese, that measurement is weight (ounces, grams). But what if your recipe only gives a volumetric measurement like cups, or if you don’t have a food scale? In that case we have some useful rules of thumb for you to follow, depending on the type of cheese you’re using. When it comes to measuring cheeses accurately, it’s all about the type of cheese.
      Soft cheeses are heavier per cup, while hard cheeses are lighter. Here’s what we recommend:
      • Soft or crumbly cheeses (e.g. feta or blue) 1 cup = 6 ounces
      • Semi-hard cheeses (e.g. cheddar or Havarti) 1 cup = 4 ounces
      • Hard cheeses (e.g. parmesan or asiago) 1 cup = 3 ounces

      • — MWB on January 2, 2022
      • Reply

Add a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.