Thursday, April 5, 2012

Baked Mac and Cheese

I am shocked to find that I have never posted my favorite mac and cheese recipe! Lucky for you, I made it tonight so it's fresh in my mind. Unluckily, I didn't take any pictures of it. :( Perhaps the leftovers will be photogenic tomorrow?

The recipe in question comes from here, brought to us by epicurious. I will reproduce it below with my added comments and modifications.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese


- 3/4 pound elbow macaroni (I use 3 cups)

For topping:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or coarse dry bread crumbs (It originally calls for 2, but that's way too much for my taste. Even 1 cup is pushing it. I normally use regular bread crumbs though; panko might be better.)
- 1 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 4 ounces) (I usually use a preshredded mix of cheeses from Costco; feel free to substitute your own favorite blend if you so prefer.)

For cheese sauce:
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes (can be adjusted to your personal tastes - this amount gives a hint of a kick without being super noticeable)
- 2 3/4 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cups heavy cream (or you can reduce to 2 c. milk and use 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk if you don't have cream)
- 4 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 1 pound)
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400°F and butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish. (I use a 9x13 Pyrex pan.)

Make topping:
2. Melt butter and in a bowl stir together with panko or regular bread crumbs and Cheddar until combined well. Topping may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

3. Fill a 6-quart kettle three fourths full with salted water and bring to a boil for macaroni.

Make sauce:
4. In a 5-quart heavy saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat and stir in flour and red pepper flakes. Cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes and whisk in milk. 

5. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. 

6. Sometime in here, when the macaroni water begins to boil, dump in the macaroni. Cook as directed on the package. Be sure to stir occasionally. 

7. Back to the sauce. Stir in cream, Cheddar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Remove pan from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper if the macaroni is not yet ready.

8. Cook macaroni in boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain macaroni in colander. 

9. In a large bowl stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce. Transfer mixture to baking dish.

10. Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake in middle of oven 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Serves 6-8.

It does take a bit of doing to get the sauce and pasta done at the same time, but I have found the sauce to be pretty forgiving. Tonight I added in evaporated milk (instead of cream) right after the regular milk began boiling - no waiting 3 minutes, and everything else followed soon thereafter. (That's because the pasta I was using cooked in 7 minutes, and the sauce can take much longer if you let it.) As long as you give the cheese enough time to fully melt at the end, you'll be fine skimping a bit on the middle steps. It can be served as a main dish (if you're not in the mood for meat) or paired with chicken. I find it's well worth the effort to put it together, and it tastes good leftover too! 

Do you have a favorite made-from-scratch mac and cheese recipe? I'd love to see it!


  1. Yum! I love everyday food storage's squash Mac and cheese recipe. I dream about that dish!

  2. This looks delicious! I think I might try it. Except maybe a quarter-of-the-recipe version.