This creamy baked mac and cheese is the ultimate classic comfort food. It combines some of my favorite things: pasta, lots of cheese, and golden brown breadcrumbs to top it off! It’s sure to be the most popular recipe at your Easter dinner table.
I’ve always loved any kind of mac and cheese. I remember when I would come home from school, I would always warm up those little packages of Easy-Mac. You know, the ones that you put in the microwave and mixed in that terribly processed but delicious cheese powder? Oh yes. My love from there transferred over to boxed mac and cheese when I learned to cook things on a stove-top.
Now that i’m 24, I can finally say that I make my OWN mac and cheese. No more of that boxed stuff. Except a box of Annie’s Organic every once in a while. Now that stuff is good.
Anyway, as you all know, Easter is coming up..and I really wanted to up my game for my side dishes this year. So, instead of just your usual creamy homemade mac and cheese – I had to add some golden crunchy breadcrumbs on top. Why does it seem like adding breadcrumbs and baking things always makes them better? I guess there is no harm in adding more carbs to anything. Hehe.
So, let’s get started! First, you make the creamy mac and cheese. And when I say creamy, I mean creamy! You start out with regular elbow macaroni noodles and cook them in salted water. Cook them al dente according to the directions on the back of the box. When they’re almost done, begin making the sauce! The sauce requires lots of dairy. Main ingredients are: whole milk, salted butter and cheese. So, to begin, you want to melt the butter and make a roux! Which is a fancy word for mixing flour in with butter and cooking until it’s fragrant. Next, slowly add in the milk a little at a time and whisk until thickened.
You’ll probably whisk it for about 10 minutes – and it’s totally worth it! I’ve been impatient with homemade mac and cheese before and the sauce always turned out grainy and gross because I didn’t allow the sauce to thicken.
Once it’s thickened, turn the heat down to low and add in your cheese! I used a combination of cheddar, pepper jack and gouda. Let the cheese melt and stir to combine. Try not to eat it all with a spoon. Add in your drained noodles. Stir it all together. Once again, try not to eat it all right then and there.
Add it to a buttered dish! Here’s a picture for reference because I KNOW you want to see how creamy it is.
Next, add on the breadcrumbs! With the crust on top, it makes it so spectacular. You have pockets of creamy cheese sauce waiting to be exposed underneath this buttery golden glowing crust that provides the most delectable bite!
After I made this for the first time, by the end of the day, more than half of the dish was gone. My husband and I just kept sneaking bites throughout the day. It’s a little bit dangerous it’s so good!
At the end, I sprinkled some fresh parsley on top. It adds a nice pop of color and seeing something green on my plate makes me feel good about myself. That cancels out the rest of the mac, right? Right. I’m glad we are on the same page.
So, why not try and step up your mac and cheese game? I promise you won’t be disappointed with this recipe!
Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
This creamy baked mac and cheese is the ultimate classic comfort food. It combines some of my favorite things: pasta, lots of cheese, and golden brown breadcrumbs to top it off!
- 12 oz elbow macaroni noodles
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups shredded cheese (i used gouda, pepper jack and cheddar)
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne powder
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Begin making your noodles. Liberally salt your water, bring it to a boil and add in the noodles. Cook al dente, using the directions on the box.
Strain your noodles when done. Set aside. Begin making your sauce in a large pot. Add in your butter. Let it melt on medium heat. Once melted, add in your flour and stir to make a roux. Cook for 1 minute.
Whisk ⅓ of the milk in until thick (about 2-3 minutes) whisk in another 1/3 of the milk and whisk until thick (another 2-3 minutes), slowly whisk in last 1/3 bit of milk. Total whisking time should be 10 minutes of constantly whisking. This will provide you with the creamiest sauce ever!
Once the sauce is thickened, turn the heat to low and add in the cheese. Slowly stir it with a large spoon until melted. Add in your noodles, stir to combine and season with salt, pepper and cayenne if you would like.
Grease a baking dish and add in your finished macaroni and cheese. Mix breadcrumbs with salt, pepper, garlic and cayenne. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the baking dish to cover the mac. Bake for 25 minutes. Broil for an additional 2-3 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately!