Crispy Sheet Pan Mac and Cheese

published Feb 18, 2020
Crispy Sheet Pan Mac and Cheese

Baking mac and cheese on a sheet pan tastes just like classic mac and cheese, but requires half the effort, which means you can fix any day of the week.

Serves4 to 6

Prep15 minutes

Cook25 minutes

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Credit: Olive & Mango

Is there anything better than creamy, crispy baked mac and cheese? It’s the ultimate comfort food, but it’s certainly not short on steps. Classic mac and cheese casseroles require cooking pasta, making a roux, turning that roux into a cheese sauce, and then combining it all and baking until bubbly. It’s a project, which is why it’s often reserved for special occasions or weekend cooking.

This sheet pan mac and cheese changes that. It uses a smart shortcut of cooking the noodles directly in the cheese sauce, then cuts down the cook time by baking everything in a single layer in a hot oven. Even better, it boasts the best ratio of creamy noodles to crispy topping. Just wait until you dig into those ultra-crispy corners! Here’s how to satisfy your comfort food craving any day of the week.

Credit: Olive & Mango

3 Tips for the Best Sheet Pan Mac and Cheese

This fun twist on mac and cheese is an absolute game changer for weeknights, busting you out of your boxed mac and cheese rut with minimal effort and maximum flavor. Plus, you can make this cheesy sheet pan dinner from kitchen staples, and you can serve it as either a cozy main dish or superb side. These tips will set you up for success.

1. Use a hearty, tubular pasta. A sturdy pasta shape, such as cavatappi (my personal favorite) or elbows, will hold up best in this dish. Skip mini shells and other small, delicate shapes.

2. Don’t drain the pasta! Cooking the pasta for just six minutes in a combination of dairy and water — a trick we learned from our shortcut stovetop mac and cheese — releases the pasta’s starches into the cooking liquid and thickens it right up. This is your sauce, so don’t drain it! All you have to do is fold in the cheese.

3. Pair sharp cheddar and Parmesan for maximum cheesy flavor. Speaking of cheese, a sharp cheddar for the cheese sauce and Parmesan for the crisp topping yields the the best cheesy flavor.

This sheet pan mac and cheese bakes for just 15 minutes, which is the perfect amount of time to steam some broccoli in the microwave and call dinner done (and delicious!).

Crispy Sheet Pan Mac and Cheese

Baking mac and cheese on a sheet pan tastes just like classic mac and cheese, but requires half the effort, which means you can fix any day of the week.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray

  • 2 cups

    half-and-half

  • 1 cup

    water

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 pound

    sharp cheddar cheese

  • 1 ounce

    Parmesan cheese

  • 1 cup

    dry, fine breadcrumbs

  • 1 pound

    dried cavatappi or tube pasta

  • 1 tablespoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon

    onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375ºF. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

  2. Place 2 cups half-and-half, 1 cup water, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, shred 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese (you'll need about 4 cups total) and grate 1 ounce Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup). Combine the Parmesan with 1 cup breadcrumbs in a small bowl and set aside.

  3. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and add 1 pound dried cavatappi or tube pasta. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes.

  4. Remove the pot from the heat. Add the cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon onion powder, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and stir until the cheese is melted. Pour the pasta mixture onto the rimmed baking sheet and spread into a thin, even layer. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture.

  5. Bake until the edges are browned and the sauce is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.