It is halfway through September and fall has officially arrived. So bring on the hearty comfort foods!! When I think of comfort foods, classic baked macaroni and cheese comes to mind. On a cold, crisp fall day, nothing warms you up more than a bowl of this creamy, cheesy goodness.
Yes, I know this isn’t particularly the most healthy dish, but at least it is made from scratch. If you have grown accustomed to those boxes of mac and cheese, you don’t know what you are missing!! Throw away that orange, powdered cheese and try fresh, grated cheeses. Trust me, once you try the real stuff, you will never go back!!
Plus, this recipe is actually quite simple to make so it makes a perfect weeknight dinner option. There are basically 4 main steps, and at each step, you will smell that amazing buttery aroma. This part is the only downside because your stomach will be growling from the first moment you start cooking — the moment your panko breadcrumbs hit the melted butter, until the moment you can finally take a bite of your mac and cheese.
The basic steps are:
- Boil and drain the macaroni pasta
- Make your panko breadcrumb topping
- Make the cheese sauce
- Put the mac and cheese together and bake!
I like to maximize my time in the kitchen, so I tend to overlap these steps. First, I turn on my oven and let it preheat. I then start boiling my pasta. While that is cooking, I make my breadcrumb topping. That takes about 5 minutes, so my pasta will still be cooking at that time. I then move on to making the cheese sauce. Halfway into making the sauce, my pasta will be done. I quickly drain it and set it aside and get back to the sauce. Once it is ready, I add the pasta and transfer everything to my casserole dish. I add the breadcrumb toppings and pop it in the oven.
No Bake Option
If you really cannot wait the extra 30 minutes it takes to bake, you can skip the baking part entirely. But I highly recommend it!! The baking process makes the top extra crunchy, while locking the flavour inside and thickens the sauce to make it extra creamy.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ⅛ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 and ½ cups uncooked elbow macaroni
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter
- 4 and ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 and ½ cups milk
- ½ tablespoon mustard powder
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- ⅓ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
- ¼ cup mozzarella cheese, grated
- In a large skillet, melt the butter on medium heat.
- Add the panko breadcrumbs and garlic. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown.
- Transfer into a small bowl and mix in the paprika and salt. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat.
- Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Stir constantly for about 3-4 minutes until roux is light and golden.
- Gradually add in the milk, whisking constantly to incorporate. The sauce will thicken and clump in the beginning but once you add in more milk, it will smoothen out again.
- Add in the cheddar, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and reduce heat to low. Add in the mustard powder and stir until cheese has melted.
- Add in the macaroni and stir together to fully coat with the cheese sauce.
- Transfer the macaroni into a 8” by 8” casserole dish.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumb topping evenly on top of the macaroni.
- Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.