BAKED MAC AND CHEESE

The ultimate classic Baked Mac and Cheese, with an insane cheesy sauce and topped with an irresistible golden, buttery breadcrumb topping. Prepare yourself for the heart-stopping moment in the recipe video when I pull this bubbling beauty out of the oven…..and the stretchy cheese shot!

BAKED MAC AND CHEESE

INGREDIENTS:
Macaroni :
  • 250 g / 8 oz macaroni (elbow pasta)
  • 1 tbsp / 15 g unsalted butter (or 2 tsp oil)
  • Topping:
  • 2/3 cup / 40g panko breadcrumbs (Note 1)
  • 2 tbsp / 30 g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Sauce :
  • 60 g / 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup / 50g plain flour (all purpose flour)
  • 3 cups / 750 ml milk, warmed (low or full fat)
  • 2 cups / 200g shredded cheese (favourite is gruyere, next is cheddar and Colby) (Note 2)
  • 1 cup / 100g shredded mozzarella cheese, or more other cheese of choice (Note 2)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
Seasonings (optional) :
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp mustard powder
INSTRUCTIONS:
Pasta :
  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add macaroni and cook per packet directions MINUS 1 minute.
  2. Drain, return pasta to pot, add butter and toss until melted. Set aside to cool while making the Sauce (Optional - Note 3).
Topping :
  1. Mix together Topping. Set aside.
Sauce :
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
  2. In a large saucepan or in an ovenproof skillet (I use my 26cm/9" Lodge cast iron skillet), melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  3. Add about 1 cup of the milk and mix to dissolve the paste into the milk. Then add remaining milk and mix until lump free (use whisk if required).
  4. Mix in salt and Seasonings if using.
  5. Cook, stirring/whisking regularly, for 5 - 8 minutes until thickened to a cream consistency. When the Sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon, you should be able to draw a path with your finger.
  6. Remove from stove, add cheese and stir - cheese doesn't need to melt.
  7. Adjust salt to taste.
Assembling :
  1. Pour Sauce into pot with Macaroni. Stir quickly, then pour back into the skillet (I did this) or a baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumb topping.

  2. Bake for 25 minutes or until top is light golden. Don't bake too long otherwise you'll bake away the Sauce!
  3. Serve immediately! I sprinkled mine with a bit of fresh parsley.
Recipe Notes
  1. Panko breadcrumbs are larger pieces than normal breadcrumbs which creates a really nice extra crunchy topping. It can be found in the Asian section of supermarkets here in Australia.
  2. If using normal breadcrumbs, use cup measures not weights (because they weigh more).
  3. The Main Cheese (2 cups) should be a flavoured cheese. My favorites are: cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby, provolone and Gruyere (I used this in the video). Gruyere is my favourite - it's not cheap here, so it's a treat!
  4. You can actually use any cheese you want, just make sure that it's a melting cheese (e.g. don't use feta, cream cheese, processed cheeses. I also don't recommend Swiss or Masdaam cheese, doesn't melt that well into sauces). AUSTRALIA: Do not use Tasty Cheese! I have found that some brands can result in the sauce being a bit floury. Some are ok, some are not - safer to say don't use Tasty Cheese.
  5. I like to use mozzarella for the 2nd cheese (1 cup). It melts really well into the sauce, has that nice stretch, and isn't as oily like other cheese can tend to be. However, you can just use more of the Main Cheese. 
  6. Tossing the cooked pasta with butter provides a light coating that helps prevent it from bloating while baking in the sauce. This is also the reason why I let the pasta cool before mixing in with the sauce. You could just make the sauce while the pasta is cooking.
  7. MAKE AHEAD: Mac and Cheese is best made fresh but if you need to make ahead, this is the best way. Cook pasta and toss in butter, cool. Make cheese sauce per recipe, then cool with LID ON (important, to avoid evaporation). Make topping. Store all components separately in the fridge until required. Mix sauce and pasta, top with topping then bake per recipe.
  8. REHEATING: Mac and Cheese if best served fresh, and the best way to make ahead is in Note 4. But if you can't do that, then take it out of the oven as soon as the top is light golden at about 20 minutes. Then it will be saucier than cooking for the full time which is fine. Cool completely uncovered, then cover in cling wrap and refrigerate. Then remove from fridge 30 minutes before reheating. Best way to reheat is in the microwave, covered in cling wrap, on medium for 8 - 10 minutes or until the centre is hot (stick knife in to check). Then grill/broil just for a few minutes to get that top crisp again - add a few dabs of butter or even spray with oil if you think it needs the encouragement to perk up again!   
  9. Baked Mac and Cheese nutrition per serving.

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