Macaroni and cheese is a timeless classic that brings back memories of childhood and provides a comforting and satisfying meal for all ages.
While the stovetop version is delicious in its own right, taking the extra step to bake mac and cheese elevates it to a whole new level.
In this recipe, we will walk you through a step-by-step guide on how to make the ultimate baked mac and cheese, with a rich and creamy sauce and a crispy golden topping.
For the macaroni and cheese:
- 8 ounces (225g) elbow macaroni
- 4 tablespoons (56g) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup (30g) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (480ml) milk
- 2 cups (200g) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup (100g) shredded Gruyere cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
For the crispy topping:
- 1 cup (100g) breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley (optional)
- Preheat the oven: Start by preheating your oven to 350°F (175°C). This will ensure the oven is ready when you are finished preparing the mac and cheese.
- Cook the macaroni: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the elbow macaroni according to the package instructions. Cook the pasta until it is al dente, as it will continue to cook in the oven. Drain the macaroni and set it aside.
- Prepare the cheese sauce: In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk continuously for about 2 minutes to create a roux. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking constantly to avoid any lumps. Continue cooking the sauce until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon, typically about 5 minutes.
- Add the cheese: Reduce the heat to low and add the shredded cheddar and Gruyere cheese to the sauce. Stir until the cheese has melted completely and the sauce is smooth and creamy. If desired, add the salt, black pepper, paprika, and garlic powder, adjusting the seasonings to your taste.
- Combine the sauce and macaroni: Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked macaroni, stirring gently to ensure every noodle is coated with the rich cheese sauce.
- Prepare the crispy topping: In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, melted butter, and dried parsley (if using). This will create a crispy and flavorful topping for your mac and cheese.
- Bake the mac and cheese: Transfer the macaroni and cheese mixture into a greased baking dish or individual ramekins. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top. Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and crispy.
- Serve and enjoy: Remove the baked mac and cheese from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Serve it hot, and savor the creamy, cheesy goodness. This dish pairs well with a side salad or steamed vegetables for a complete meal.
Tips for Success:
- Experiment with different cheese combinations to create your own unique flavor profile.
- For extra indulgence, crumble cooked bacon or caramelized onions into the mac and cheese before baking.
- If you prefer a more gooey texture, reduce the baking time slightly. Conversely, if you desire a crispier topping, broil the dish for a minute or two at the end.
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Reheat individual portions in the microwave or oven for a quick and satisfying meal.