Enjoy this creamy macaroni and cheese dish for dinner. With a winning cheese combination and delicious breadcrumbs baked on top for a great crunch, dinner will be enjoyed by everyone in the family or set out at a potluck gathering.
Original recipe posted: October 2011 | Recipe updated: December 2019
Fall is in the air! I love this time of year. Skydiving season is winding down, which means more time with my husband, Dan. The cool crispness in the air makes me want to be inside with my family, snuggling on the couch and watching Despicable Me or Tangled for the 900th time. The only bad thing about fall is that we know what’s coming. Winter. The time when we are forced to be inside. There’s a big difference between wanting to be inside and being forced to be inside. For now I’m glad that I still want to be inside.
With the windows cracked just a bit, I love the mixed smell of a crisp October day and something delicious baking in the oven. Or bubbling on the stove. Or all of the above. I was enjoying looking for the supreme comfort meal when I came across this recipe on the NY Times website. It was everything I hoped it would be. Each perfect creamy bite brought me comfort, cheese, a teeny bit of kick, crunchiness, gooey-ness. But beware! Don’t eat a large helping unless you have time to sleep.
HOW TO MAKE PERFECT BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE
Comfort food is always good but enjoy having a perfect go-to- mac for dinner!
STEP 1 – MAKE THE BREADCRUMBS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 3-quart casserole dish with cooking spray; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and pour it into bowl with the bread; toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.
STEP 2 – PREPARE THE ROUX
In a medium saucepan, heat milk over medium heat. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
STEP 3 – CHEESE SAUCE
Remove the pan of white sauce from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar and 1 ½ cups Gruyere or 1 cup Pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.
STEP 4 – COOK THE PASTA AL DENTE
Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer’s directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. Transfer the macaroni to a colander and rinse under cold water; drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
STEP 5 – ASSEMBLE THE CASSEROLE
Pour the creamy sauce into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 ½ cups cheddar and ½ cup Gruyere or ¼ cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.
You can add some veggies or protein to this dish to make it a meal in itself! Leftover rotisserie chicken is a simple addition. Slice some zucchini and mushrooms or chop some spinach and stir them into the casserole so the veggies bake to perfection without being soggy.
WHAT IS A ROUX
A roux is a simple way to mix flour and fat, like butter, together until it’s smooth and creamy and added to thicken a sauce. It’s often used in creating mac and cheese or in soups and gravies.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO FREEZE CASSEROLES
If you want to freeze a casserole for later use, you have a couple options:
Freeze unbaked – Assemble the layers as directed in an aluminum baking pan and wrap tightly in foil. Place into resealable freezer bags and freeze for 3-4 months. When you are ready to enjoy the casserole, let it thaw completely (preferably in the fridge overnight) and bake as directed on the recipe.
Freeze baked – Assemble the layers and bake as directed in an aluminum baking pan. Let the casserole cool completely and wrap tightly in foil. Place into resealable freezer bags and freeze for 3-4 months. When you are ready to enjoy the casserole, let it thaw completely (preferably in the fridge overnight). Reheat in a 250 degree F oven uncovered for 10-15 minutes or until heated through.
DO I NEED TO COVER A CASSEROLE IN THE OVEN?
There is no hard and fast rule for whether or not a casserole should be covered with foil during baking. All recipes differ, but here are some things to consider when deciding whether or not to cover your baking dish.
Covering a dish during the baking process traps in moisture and keeps ingredients from getting crispy or burnt. If the dish contains exposed noodles or bread or something that may burn or dry out easily, then it should be covered for a majority of the cook time. Also, if the recipe contains uncooked rice, pasta or grains, it is important to cover the pan in order to trap steam inside which help it to cook more quickly and evenly.
Leaving a dish uncovered during baking will ensure that the top layer gets browned and it also aids in reducing liquids inside the dish. If all of the ingredients in the dish are pre-cooked, baking uncovered is recommended.
10 EASY COMFORT FOODS TO WARM YOU UP AND FILL YOU UP
The Best Meatloaf – You need to make this classic meal. It is my mother’s delicious recipe with an added touch of delicious sauce. This dinner recipe will quickly become a favorite family meal!
Easy Chicken Pot Pie Casserole – Creamy vegetables and chicken baked into a buttery crispy crust that is comfort food perfection especially during the fall and winter months.
Homestyle Ground Beef Casserole – this dinner boasts flavor and creaminess over a bed of steaming egg noodles. This casserole is just like your mom’s recipe but so much more! This is a perfect hearty weeknight meal to put on the table.
Instant Pot White Turkey Chili – Packed with turkey meat, white beans and veggies, this comfort food is super flavorful and delicious.
Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole – This is a delicious combination of the tastiest flavors you will ever eat in a single bite. Bacon, chicken, creamy alfredo sauce and pasta all make dinner a hit in less than 30 minutes!
Best Baked Ziti – Packed with flavorful meat sauce and layers of cheesy goodness, you will enjoy each flavorful bite. This delicious dinner feeds a lot of people and is super filling and hearty. It is a great meal to freeze and bake at a later time, too!
Best Instant Pot Chili – This recipe is the absolute perfect comfort food, packed with flavor, texture, color and a tiny bit of spice. Perfect dinner or party food!
Slow Cooker Crack Chicken – You need to try this mixture on a bun because it’s an addicting and delicious lunch or dinner option that everyone will enjoy. Great weeknight meal AND the perfect party food!
One-Pan Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole – Dinner has never been easier! NO PREP is required for this quick and delicious Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole. Simplify those busy weeknights by adding this hearty meal to the dinner rotation!
Easy Classic Chicken Alfredo – Easy, creamy Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo is the perfect dinner recipe for busy nights. Done in 30 minutes and made in a single pan, everyone at the table will love this comforting dish!
If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and tag it @pipandebby + hashtag it #PIPANDEBBY I’d love to see what you create!