Sometimes it’s fun to make a kicked up versions of mac and cheese, this this or this or this. But sometimes simpler, classic versions are better for a reason. They are comforting and satisfying – without being distracting.
When deciding to make this recipe – I debated making only half – but ultimately decided to make the full batch and freeze half of it before baking. This worked out perfectly – we didn’t end up with too many leftovers I our fridge and I have an easy meal in the freezer for a night when I don’t feel like cooking. Although – I made the full recipe for the breadcrumbs and ended up putting all of them on the half that I made for dinner. So I’ll have to whip up a new batch for when I cook the rest of this.
I love how cheesy this recipe is – and its not at all grainy like some homemade macaroni and cheeses are. It’s actually pretty perfect – Enjoy!
Toasted Bread Crumb Topping (double if making the full recipe)
- 4 slices white sandwich bread, quartered
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
- salt and pepper
Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 pound pasta shapes (shells, elbows, etc.)
- 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. dry mustard
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 1 pound (16-oz.) colby jack cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
- 1/2 pound (8-oz.) extra-sharp cheddar, shredded (about 2 cups)
- ground black pepper
1. For the breadcrumb topping: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Pulse the bread and butter in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 6 pulses. Spread the crumbs out over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden and dry, 20-30 minutes. Let the crumbs cool, then toss with parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. To make the macaroni and cheese: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
3. Bring water to a large post of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes (do not cook all the way through!). Drain the pasta and leave in the colander.
4. Wipe the pot dry, and add the butter, and set it over medium heat until melted. Stir in the garlic, mustard, and cayenne, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk, and bring to a simmer. Whisking often, cook until large bubbles form on the surface and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.
5. Remove pot from heat and stir in the cheeses until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Stir the drained pasta into the cheese sauce, breaking up any clumps, until well combined. Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish and sprinkle with crumb topping.
7. Bake uncovered, until the sauce is bubbling and the crumbs are crisp, 25-35 minutes.
To make-ahead: Wrap the dish tightly with foil, and refrigerate for up to 2 days or place in freezer for up to 1 month. To serve, bake in a 400 degree oven until the filling is hot throughout, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to cook until the crumbs are crisp, 15-20 minutes.