Our Favorite Macaroni and Cheese (2024)

This crispy, gooey, creamy macaroni and cheese is the glorious result of fusing our favorite elements from a few of the top-rated baked macaroni and cheese recipes from our archives. It combines a golden brown panko and Parmesan topping with tender (not mushy!) pasta that’s enrobed in a richly flavored, lightly spiced cheese sauce. Here’s how we got there:

The best mac and cheese recipes used a combination of cheeses. We landed on extra-sharp cheddar (yellow or white cheddar are both fine) and Parmesan as our ultimate duo, but you can make adjustments. For a more robust flavor, swap some or all of the cheddar cheese for Gouda or Gruyère. Or use something milder (like mozzarella or Fontina) if you prefer your comfort food more demure. Swap the Parmesan cheese for funkier Pecorino or milkier Grana Padano. The one nonnegotiable is that you grate your cheese yourself—preshredded cheeses often contain anti-clumping agents that keep them from melting properly.

For the creamiest homemade mac and cheese, a béchamel is key (if you’re unfamiliar, start by learning how to make a roux). To avoid clumping and promote even melting, add in the cheese bit by bit (about a handful at a time), whisking after each addition. To cut through the richness, we call for dry mustard and white pepper, a traditional ingredient in white sauce with an earthier flavor than its more common counterpart; feel free to use freshly ground black pepper if you don't mind the specks. If you crave even more heat, add a few dashes of hot sauce or a smidge of cayenne.

Finally, the topping: Plain breadcrumbs just won’t cut it. And while fresh homemade breadcrumbs are an excellent choice, we found panko to be an easier choice that provided just as much crunch. Toasting them first in garlic, olive oil, and melted butter helps them retain that texture while adding a ton of flavor and keeps them from burning in the oven.

Ingredients

12 servings

Topping

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups panko

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 oz. finely grated Parmesan (about ½ cup)

½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. plus ⅛ tsp. Morton kosher salt

Macaroni and sauce

2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp. Morton kosher salt, plus more

1 lb. dried elbow macaroni

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish

6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

4 cups whole milk

¾ cup heavy cream

½ tsp. ground white pepper

1½ Tbsp. mustard powder

16 oz. coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 cups)

2 oz. grated Parmesan (about ½ cup)

Preparation

  1. Topping

    Step 1

    Melt 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter In a large skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Add 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, stirring, until butter foam subsides. Add 2 cups panko and 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped; cook, stirring, until crumbs are golden brown, 4–6 minutes. Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl, stir in 2 oz. finely grated Parmesan (about ½ cup) and ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. plus ⅛ tsp. Morton kosher salt, and set aside.

  2. Macaroni and sauce

    Step 2

    Bring a large pot of salted water, covered, to a boil over high heat. Add 1 lb. dried elbow macaroni and cook, uncovered, until just al dente (avoid overcooking). Drain par-cooked macaroni and set aside (do not rinse).

    Step 3

    Place rack in middle of oven; preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 13x9” baking dish with unsalted butter.

    Step 4

    Melt ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter in a large wide pot over medium-low heat. Sprinkle 6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour over butter, whisking to incorporate and make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until roux is light golden, about 4 minutes. Gradually pour in 4 cups whole milk and ¾ cup heavy cream, whisking constantly to incorporate and make a béchamel sauce. Raise heat to medium-high and bring sauce to a low boil, whisking constantly. Reduce to a simmer, whisking occasionally, and cook until béchamel sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes more.

    Step 5

    Add 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp. Morton kosher salt, ½ tsp. ground white pepper, and 1½ Tbsp. mustard powder. Add 16 oz. coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 cups) and 2 oz. grated Parmesan (about ½ cup) in three batches, whisking until each addition is melted before adding more. Remove from heat.

    Step 6

    Add drained macaroni to pot with cheese sauce and stir well to coat. Transfer macaroni mixture to prepared baking dish and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle panko topping evenly over macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, 18–22 minutes. Let baked mac and cheese cool 15 minutes before serving.

    Editor’s note: This macaroni and cheese recipe was first printed in October 2014. Head this way for more of our best casserole recipes

Our Favorite Macaroni and Cheese (2024)

FAQs

What is a fancy way to say mac and cheese? ›

macaroni au gratin -- a fancy way of saying mac and cheese!

What to add to mac and cheese for flavor? ›

8 Ways to Elevate Your Macaroni and Cheese Dinners
  1. Add extra cheese to your dish.
  2. Mix in some hot sauce and chicken to make buffalo chicken mac n' cheese.
  3. Add in vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and spinach.
  4. Sprinkle some bacon bits or breadcrumbs on the top of your dish.
  5. Add spices and fresh herbs to your dish.
May 21, 2022

Why is mac and cheese your favorite food? ›

Why we can't get enough mac n' cheese. Ever wonder why macaroni and cheese is so dang good? There's a bunch of science behind it – the dish is full of rich ingredients which make our brain think it's won the lottery. There's also the comfort food factor – mac n' cheese brings up fuzzy warm memories of home.

What is the best cheese to use for macaroni and cheese? ›

What Is the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese? Sharp cheddar is the overwhelming popular choice, but for extra-creamy results, we think medium cheddar is even better. Other delicious options include Gruyère, smoked Gouda, and Monterey Jack.

How do you use macaroni and cheese in a sentence? ›

How to Use macaroni and cheese in a Sentence
  1. The patty of fried macaroni and cheese over the half-pound of ground beef? ...
  2. And, of course, my mom makes baked macaroni and cheese. ...
  3. Boxed macaroni and cheese in a wine glass with a Dino nugget garnish. ...
  4. Comforting macaroni and cheese that just needs a speedy salad on the side.
Jun 27, 2024

How would you describe good mac and cheese? ›

Taste: Cheesy, nutty, buttery, and all around just oozing with savory flavors. Texture: This is the best part of mac & cheese, right? The cheese sauce is oh-so rich, thick, silky, and creamy, the pasta is al dente, and the breadcrumb topping is crisp and crunchy.

How can I make my mac and cheese better? ›

10 ways to take mac 'n' cheese to the next level:
  1. Make the sauce with brown butter.
  2. Add evaporated milk.
  3. Choose the right cheese.
  4. Choose the perfect pasta.
  5. Double up on breadcrumbs.
  6. Boost the flavour with Marmite.
  7. A hit of heat.
  8. Extra seasoning.

How do you make mac and cheese not boring? ›

Bake It Like A Fancy Restaurant

Make the cheese sauce, then dump the cheesy noodles into a casserole dish. Top with breadcrumbs and a handful of cheese and broil until the top is golden brown. You've got a fancy-looking, oven-baked dish of mac and cheese.

What can you add to mac and cheese to make it thicker? ›

Use cornstarch or all-purpose flour.

You can thicken cheese sauce further by adding more flour or even using a couple of teaspoons of cornstarch. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch or flour with a cup of water. The cold water will create a slurry.

Should you eat mac and cheese with a fork or a spoon? ›

The preferred mac-and-cheese utensil among adults was a fork – by a wide margin. Seventy-one percent of adults said they preferred to eat their macaroni and cheese with a fork, whereas only 28 percent said they favor a spoon. (Not sure what the remaining one percent used: A spork? Their fingers?)

Is it OK to eat mac and cheese everyday? ›

Are mac and cheese healthy, yes or no? Unfortunately, traditional mac and cheese tends to be unhealthy because it contains high amounts of saturated fats and sodium from butter, cheese, and milk. Additionally, it is calorie-dense and not ideal for those trying to lose weight.

Who eats the most mac and cheese? ›

It was introduced under the Kraft Dinner name simultaneously in both Canada and the U.S. in 1937. The brand is particularly popular with Canadians, who consume 55% more boxes per capita than Americans. There are now many similar products, including private label, of nonperishable boxed macaroni and cheese.

How does Gordon Ramsay make the best mac and cheese? ›

Gordon Ramsay's mac and cheese is a simplified recipe. Just boil pasta in milk and then, add butter, cheese, salt, and pepper to it. Merge all the elements and Gordon Ramsay's mac and cheese will be ready in no time.

How to keep macaroni and cheese creamy? ›

Butter and flour: The combination of butter and flour thickens our creamy cheese sauce. You'll cook them together on the stove and then add the milk. The mixture thickens, and you can add your cheese. Easy!

What US president invented mac and cheese? ›

James Hemings: The Enslaved Chef of Thomas Jefferson Who Created Mac and Cheese.

What is the new name of macaroni and cheese? ›

The change from “macaroni and cheese” to “mac & cheese”, is meant to reflect the way fans organically talk about the brand.

What do people call mac and cheese? ›

Macaroni and cheese (also known as mac and cheese in Canada and the United States and macaroni cheese in the United Kingdom) is a dish of macaroni and a cheese sauce, most commonly cheddar sauce. Its origins trace back to cheese and pasta casseroles dating to the 14th century in Italy and medieval England.

How do you say cheesy formally? ›

Synonyms of cheesy
  1. inappropriate.
  2. tacky.
  3. unsuitable.
  4. trashy.
  5. incorrect.
  6. wrong.
  7. tasteless.
  8. unfashionable.

What do the French call mac and cheese? ›

macaroni au gratin [ex.]

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