Creamy Baked Mac & Cheese
Mac and cheese is comfort food 101. This creamy, cheese version is an elevated take on a classic, with shells swimming in a homemade cheese sauce and topped with a crunchy garlic-y bread crumb topping. Get cozy and pop open a bottle of wine while it’s in the oven.
- 8 oz pasta (shells or elbows recommended)
- 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp AP flour
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 tsp dried mustard
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp hot sauce*
- Fine sea salt
*I prefer Crystal hot sauce or sambal chili paste when it comes to cheese sauce but it’s a personal preference. You can use whatever you have on hand – I’ve used packets of Taco Bell hot sauce (lol) on more than one occasion.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta to package directions for al dente, minus 2 minutes. This will keep the pasta from getting mushy (since we’re cooking it twice). Drain and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt 3 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk continuously for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the milk while whisking constantly. I typically add about 1/4 cup of milk at a time to avoid lumps.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the hot sauce, dried mustard, all of the jack cheese, all of the cheddar cheese, and 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese. Add a big pinch of salt. Whisk to incorporate until the cheese is fully melted. Taste and add additional salt as needed. The cheese sauce should taste GOOD.
- Add the cooked pasta into the cheese sauce (in the same pan or in a large bowl if your pan isn’t big enough).
- In a separate microwave-safe bowl, melt the remaining 1 tbsp butter. Add the breadcrumbs, 2 tbsp parmesan cheese, and the garlic powder and toss to incorporate.
- Grease a large casserole dish. Empty the pasta into the dish and top with the breadcrumb mixture.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve.