Classic Creamy Mac and Cheese

updated Jul 17, 2023
Classic Creamy Mac and Cheese

This decadent macaroni and cheese features four types of cheese and a buttery breadcrumb topping.

Serves8 to 10

Prep30 minutes

Cook45 minutes

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Credit: Brittany Conerly

Take one look at the photo above and it’s easy to see why this mac and cheese recipe has been the most popular recipe from Angela Davis, aka The Kitchenista. It has everything you want: several kinds of melty cheese, a proper bechamel, and breadcrumbs. Plus, a lot of subtle seasoning notes (hello there, dry mustard; nice to see you, Worcestershire sauce) to really bring it all home.

Credit: Brittany Conerly

Classic Creamy Mac and Cheese

This decadent macaroni and cheese features four types of cheese and a buttery breadcrumb topping.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the mac and cheese:

  • 8 ounces

    extra-sharp cheddar cheese

  • 8 ounces

    sharp cheddar cheese

  • 4 ounces

    smoked Gouda cheese

  • 4 ounces

    pepper Jack cheese

  • 4 ounces

    mozzarella, brick, or muenster cheese (optional)

  • 7 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, divided

  • 1/2

    medium yellow onion

  • 1

    bay leaf

  • 5 1/2 cups

    whole milk

  • 1/2 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 pound

    dried elbow macaroni or other short pasta

  • 2 teaspoons

    dry mustard

  • 1 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly grated nutmeg

  • 2 teaspoons

    Worcestershire sauce

For the breadcrumb topping (optional):

  • 1 tablespoon

    unsalted butter

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1/4 cup

    panko breadcrumbs

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Meanwhile, coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the unsalted butter. Prepare the macaroni and sauce.

  2. Shred the following cheeses, placing them all in the same bowl: 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, 8 ounces sharp cheddar, 4 ounces smoked Gouda, and 4 ounces pepper Jack. Toss with your hands to combine. If using, cut 4 ounces mozzarella cheese into small cubes and set aside for topping.

  3. Peel and halve 1/2 medium yellow onion and place in a small saucepan. Add 5 1/2 cups whole milk and 1 bay leaf. Heat over medium-low heat until steaming but not boiling, 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot or Dutch oven of heavily salted water to a boil.

  4. Add 1 pound macaroni to the boiling water and cook 2 minutes less than package directions for al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain the macaroni and rinse with cold water. (Reserve the pot.)

  5. When the milk is ready, pour through a strainer into a bowl. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in the now-empty pot over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and whisk until combined. Continue whisking for another couple minutes to cook the flour until thickened slightly, bubbly, and light golden brown. This is your roux.

  6. Quickly whisk the milk into the roux a cup or two at a time. It will thicken up considerably before you get a chance to add all of the milk. Just whisk vigorously with each round of milk and whisk until smooth after all of the milk has been added. Add 2 teaspoons dry mustard, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, and whisk to combine.

  7. At this point you'll have a thin white sauce called a béchamel. If despite your best efforts, you still end up with a few lumps in your sauce, the easiest and fastest way to fix this is to blend the lumps away with an immersion (stick) blender. Lumps gone.

  8. Let the béchamel sauce come to a gentle simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer until thick enough to easily coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine.

  9. Remove the pot from the heat. Set aside about 1/3 of the shredded cheeses. Add the remaining shredded cheeses to the sauce and stir until smooth and melted. Taste and season with more salt or spices as needed. Add the macaroni and stir to combine.

Make the breadcrumb topping (optional):

  1. Melt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika and cook until fragrant. Add 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, until golden-brown, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

  2. Transfer half of the macaroni and cheese to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with half of the reserved cheeses. Repeat layering the remaining macaroni and cheese and remaining shredded cheeses. Press the reserved mozzarella cheese cubes into the casserole if using. Sprinkle with the panko breadcrumbs if using.

  3. Bake until bubbly and golden-brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 5 days.

Recipe orginally published on Angela Davis' blog, The Kitchenista Diaries.