A classic and easy baked mac and cheese recipe! This recipe is dangerously easy to make and is topped off with a buttery, crisp toasted panko topping! If you have a cast iron or oven-safe pan handy, you can even bake it in the same pan that you use to make the sauce!
Today I’m sharing one of my favorite comfort foods — baked mac and cheese! This isn’t my first mac and cheese recipe on the blog — I have an easy mac and cheese (that requires no flour, no roux, and no baking), and a buffalo chicken mac and cheese that’s gone crazy viral on my Facebook page, but evidently two mac and cheese recipes just weren’t enough (OK, and if I’m being totally honest, I have plans for another mac and cheese recipe, too 🙈.)
Today I’m sharing a classic homemade mac and cheese, and it’s exactly the sort of comfort food that you and I both need on this gloomy, rainy day.
This mac and cheese is incredibly cheesy and creamy, but what really sets it over the top is the buttery panko topping. I love the texture of the panko (and 100% prefer it to using breadcrumbs), it gives the smooth and creamy mac and cheese that extra something that makes it irresistible.
Before adding it to the top of your (not yet) baked mac and cheese, you’ll add it to a small pan along with some butter and olive oil and then stir it frequently until it becomes lightly golden/toasted.
It’s such an easy extra step and it adds everything to this baked mac and cheese!
Tips for perfect baked mac and cheese:
- If you have a 10″ cast iron or oven-safe skillet, I recommend making your cheese sauce in that and then adding your cooked noodles to the skillet, stirring everything together, topping with your toasted panko, and then just baking everything in the same skillet. Why dirty more dishes if you don’t need to!?
- When cooking your pasta, take care to not overcook the noodles. In fact, just slightly underdone (maybe knock a minute off the cook time) is preferred as they will continue to bake in the sauce. If they’re overdone, the noodles will be mushy just fall apart after baking.
What cheese should I use for my baked mac and cheese:
- I use a mix of sharp cheddar and white cheddar as well as mozzarella for this recipe, but you can substitute your favorite cheese for the cheddar (I recommend leaving the mozzarella alone). Colby, Monterey Jack, and Gruyere are all great options!
Do you cover baked mac and cheese in the oven?
- For this recipe there is no need to!
I made a short and sweet video so you can see exactly how I made this baked mac and cheese. Enjoy (full recipe just below the video)!
How to make Baked Mac and Cheese:
Baked Mac and Cheese
Recipe from SugarSpunRun.com
- 8 oz dry macaroni noodles 230g
- 4 Tablespoons butter 55g
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (31g)
- 3 cups milk I use whole milk (710ml)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard
- 2 cups Sharp shredded cheddar cheese* (226g)
- 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (170g)
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup seasoned panko crumbs (60g)
Preheat oven to 350F (175C)
Begin cooking your pasta according to package instructions. Do not over-cook. Once finished, drain and set aside. You do not want to let your pasta set for too long once it's finished, so I recommend beginning the following steps at the same time that you start boiling water for your pasta.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a 10" cast iron pan** over medium heat. Once it has melted, add flour and whisk until smooth and no lumps remain..
Add milk and spices (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground mustard), stir well and bring to a boil. You may notice that the milk and butter will separate -- continue to heat, stirring frequently, until the milk is heated and they combine
Once mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat, bring to a simmer, and stir frequently until mixture is thickened.
Reduce heat to low and add cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Stir until cheeses are melted and mixture is smooth.
Add cooked, drained pasta noodles and stir until well coated by the sauce.
Set aside while you prepare your Panko topping.
Combine butter and olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until melted.
Add panko and stir well until the butter and oil has been mostly absorbed. Continue to stir until panko is lightly toasted and turns a light-medium brown color
Sprinkle toasted panko evenly over mac and cheese.
Transfer to oven and bake uncovered on 350F (175C) for 15 minutes.
Garnish with parsley, if desired, and serve.
*You may substitute another type of shredded cheese for all or part of this -- Colby, Monterey Jack, and Gruyere, would all work well. I personally use half sharp cheddar and half white cheddar for mine!
**If you don't have a 10" cast iron pot, then prepare your macaroni and cheese according to these instructions and then transfer to a lightly buttered 9x9 square pan or 1.5qt baking dish before topping with panko and baking.