Baked Mac and Cheese is comfort food at its best. The key is making a creamy roux and using both cheddar and pepper jack cheese. There is nothing better!
Since the boys are almost fully grown, our pasta consumption is considerably down. Mainly because most of us are watching our carb and calorie intake, but also due to our desire to try other foods. Hello quinoa and zoodles! But every now and then, you just gotta. (Make pasta.)
Growing up, our “homemade” mac and cheese consisted of noodles, butter, milk, and Velveeta cheese. I NEVER buy that processed block of cheese anymore. There are far better ways to make a good creamy version of this dish.
THIS one. It’s all..
- with a little crunch on the outsides of the pan
- along with the ZING of the pepper jack cheese (but not too much, I promise)
- and a surprise crumb on top (i.e. breadcrumbs)
Your family will love you for this one!
Tips for an epic Baked Mac and Cheese
- Make a creamy roux (or béchamel sauce). It’s the magic sauce that holds everything together in many dishes. With a few extra ingredients, it becomes the base for Mac and cheese, gravy, and so many other recipes. The basic ratio for a classic béchamel is equal parts of fat to flour, and then milk (amount depends on desired consistency). For this recipe, I used 1/4 cup of butter and flour, plus 2.5 cups of milk.
- Use some cheese with some ZING. In other words, use a little bit of spice. I used a combination of sharp cheddar and pepper jack cheese and it had just the right kick without being too much. I promise. (Zach’s girlfriend liked it so there is that.)
- Use a cast iron skillet for baking. It makes the edges nice and crunchy – the best part!
- Top with breadcrumbs (any kind) and a little olive oil.
Perfection. You should REALLY make this. 🙂
Make this pasta dish next: Broccoli Pasta with Bacon
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Baked Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound macaroni noodles – any kind you prefer
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups 1% milk – warmed
- 6 oz. shredded pepper jack cheese
- 6 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 teaspoons ground mustard
- 1 teaspoons paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs – I used combo of Panko and seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large pot of boiling water, cook macaroni noodles (with a dash of salt) until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In a cast iron skillet (or similar), make a roux. Turn heat to medium and melt butter. Add flour, and stir for a minute, making sure the flour is absorbed into the butter. Add warmed milk, and continue stirring for several minutes, or until sauce starts to thicken. This may take approximately 5 – 10 minutes.
- Remove skillet, and add the shredded cheese, ground mustard, paprika, onion powder, and salt & pepper. Stir until cheese is melted.
- Add macaroni noodles, and stir until well combined. Add bread crumbs and then drizzle the top with olive oil.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is nice and browned.
- Remove from oven, sprinkle with parsley or cilantro, and serve.
- The basic ratio for a classic béchamel is equal parts of fat to flour, and then milk (depending on desired consistency)
- Using a cast iron skillet makes the edges slightly crunchy. But you could use any baking dish.
- You can substitute the cheese for different kinds, depending on your preference.