Mac & Cheese

We all love the bright orange mac & cheese that comes in a box, but I promise you, the homemade version is well worth the (small amount) of additional effort.  We made this to serve at a mac & cheese bar at our Super Bowl party, complete with mix-ins like crispy bacon, caramelized onions, tomatoes, etc.  If you want to make this a day or 2 in advance, stop after you’ve sprinkled on the bread crumbs, and refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to bake.  Take the pan out of the fridge & allow it to come to room temp (about 30 min), then bake & serve.  

You can use any cheese you like, but since we have small kids coming over, we stuck with the basic cheddar version.  As long as you stick with the recommended amount of cheese, you can really do anything: fontina, gruyere, extra sharp cheddar, etc.  I recommend adding a little bit of freshly grated nutmeg if you’re going with a more sophisticated version.  It really brings out the savory flavor of the upscale cheeses.  To make your life easier, grate the cheese with a food processor like this Cuisinart Food Processor. It’ll save you time & arm pain!

Mac & Cheese
Serves 6
A creamy, flavorful homemade mac & cheese with a crunchy topping
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb cavatappi or other curvy shaped pasta
  2. 1 quart milk, warmed
  3. 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  4. 1/2 cup flour
  5. 20 oz freshly grated cheddar cheese (I used my food processor to grate a mix of medium & sharp)
  6. 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  7. 1 tbsp kosher salt
  8. 1/4 cup plain Panko bread crumbs
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt, if desired. Add the pasta and cook about 1 minute less than the directions on the package say to (it will continue to cook in the oven & you don't want limp, soggy pasta). Drain well.
  2. Melt 6 tbsp of butter in a large pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes to eliminate raw flour taste, stirring with a whisk.
  3. While whisking, add the milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth.
  4. Off the heat, add the cheese, 1 tbsp salt and pepper.
  5. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish.
  6. Sprinkle Panko bread crumbs on top.
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on the top.
Adapted from Ina Garten
Adapted from Ina Garten
Easy Family Meals http://www.easyfamilymeals.org/