How to Make Baked Mac and Cheese

When it comes to down-home cooking, nothing compares to macaroni and cheese, crisp on top with melted cheesy goodness on the inside. This classic recipe for how to make baked mac and cheese is wonderful on its own, but even better with some suggested add-ins.
Hey, everyone! I'm Judith with recipe.com and today I'm gonna be showing you how to make a Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese, the quintessential comfort food. So, what you're gonna need is 1 quart of whole milk which we've heated. We have in here 2 cups of sharp white cheddar cheese mixed with 1 cup of Monterey Jack Cheese. We have 1 pound of elbow macaroni pasta, uncooked. We have 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. We have 1 medium onion which we've diced, 2 cups of bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon of Tabasco sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, 6 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, some kosher salt and black pepper, 1 bay leaf, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 sprig of fresh thyme, and 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves which we've chopped. Behind me, I have a large pot of boiling salted water going now getting ready for our macaroni and right here, I have a large skillet. If you want, you can use a large pot or a Dutch oven and this is where we're gonna make our cheesy concoction. So, first of all I'm gonna get that to a medium heat and I'm gonna put in my butter. Let that melt and I'm gonna add in my onion and a pinch of salt. So, as our onions softening about, we're gonna add our macaroni into our boiling salted water. We wanna nice and al dente about 8 to 9 minutes. So, our onions are about done now, so it's time to add in our flour. So, we're just gonna mix this in with a wooden spoon till the mixture gets slightly darker, thickens up a little bit like so about 1 to 2 minutes. And now, we can stir in our mustard as well. So, we're gonna get our whisk out because now it's time to get our milk and add that in. So, we wanna try to avoid getting it lumpy, so at the beginning try and go slow when you whisk it and we're just gonna add the milk in a little bit at a time, whisk that in there. So, once all the milk is in, it's time to add in our herbs. So, in goes our bay leaf, our thyme sprig, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. We'll switch back to our wooden spoon. We'll give that a good stir. Now, we wanna reduce that to a simmer and let that simmer there for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. So, it's about 15 minutes, we've let that mixture simmer nicely and all we wanna do is remove our thyme sprig now and our bay leaf. So, you can discard that. You don't wanna be eating those ones. So, now it's time to add in our cheese. So, we're gonna be adding in our sharp cheddar cheese and our Monterey Jack. So, we'll add that in until it all melts, so give it a good stir in the mixture and that's gonna produce a lovely cheesy thick mixture for our macaroni, delicious. So, let's stir that all in there until it melts. So, as that cheese is melting, let's add in our dash of Tabasco, to give it a good little kick and Worcestershire sauce and we can stir that in and that's gonna give some great flavor to our sauce. So, our macaroni pasta is now ready, we've drained it in the colander, we put it in our large pot again and all we'll gonna do now is add in our cheese mixture to our macaroni, so we're gonna stir that all together. So, once all of that is melted which is just about as now, take it off the heat and we'll put that in there. So, we are stirring that beautiful cheesy mixture and with the pasta. That's looking amazing, smelling gorgeous as well. Oh, [unk], really, really indulgent. So, we have our baking dish right here which we've lightly sprayed with cooking spray and now we're just gonna add this beautiful macaroni-cheese mixture. So, we'll pour all of that into there-- and Mac and Cheese is such a great recipe because it's economical. It's not expensive to get these ingredients and it goes a long way. Look at all these, you can make with just those little ingredients that you need. Fantastic, spread it around a little into our baking dish. Great, that's looking fantastic. We'll just set that aside one moment and we're gonna create now our lovely bread crumb-cheesy mixture to put on top of our Macaroni and Cheese, so it's nice and golden brown. So, we're gonna add in our bread crumbs, our cheese goes in there to, nice Parmesan cheese there. Half a teaspoon of salt in there, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and our fresh thyme, really lovely aromatic flavor as well as our olive oil and we're gonna mix all of that together. That's ready now to put on top, just sprinkle on top of our Macaroni and Cheese. Okay, so for the fun part, let's just sprinkle that over and that's gonna make our Macaroni and Cheese nice and crisp golden brown. Everyone's gonna want a bite of this. It's a great one to serve at parties or at a buffet. So, this is now ready to put in our oven. We've pre-heated our oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and we're gonna bake that now for about 15 minutes until the top gets a nice golden brown. So, we've taken our Macaroni and Cheese out of the oven, it was in there for about 15 minutes. As you can see, the topping is a lovely golden brown and that is just waiting to be eaten. Invite your friends around, get a good movie on and took in to this Mac and Cheese. It's really, really simple and quite fast to make. That's how you make your Classic baked Macaroni and Cheese. Well, thanks for watching everyone. For more great recipes and savings, go to the recipe.com.

What You'll Need

  •  Kosher salt

  • 6   tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1   medium onion, finely diced

  • 6   tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1   tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1   quart whole milk, heated

  • 1   large sprig fresh thyme, plus 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves

  • 1   bay leaf

  • 8   ounces (2 packed cups) grated extra-sharp white Cheddar (the sharpest you can find; I like Cabot's Seriously Sharp Hunter's Cheddar)

  • 4   ounces (1 packed cup) grated Monterey Jack

  • 1/2  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1/2  teaspoon Tabasco sauce

  •  Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1   pound elbow macaroni or other small pasta, such as pipette or small shells

  • 2   tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; more for the baking dish

  • 2   cups fresh breadcrumbs

  • 1 1/2  ounces (1/2 lightly packed cup) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Step By Step

1
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F and put a large pot of well-salted water on to boil over high heat.
2
Meanwhile, in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until slightly darker, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the mustard.
3
Switch to a whisk and gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. To avoid lumps, go slowly at first, whisking until the mixture is smooth before adding more milk. Once about half the milk is in and the mixture still isn't very thick, you can add the rest more quickly.
4
When all the milk is in, switch back to the spoon and stir in the thyme sprig, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let come to a bare simmer, and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes to meld the flavors (reduce the heat to medium low or low as needed to maintain the bare simmer).
5
Discard the thyme sprig and bay leaf. Add the Cheddar and Jack cheeses, stirring until melted, and then add the Worcestershire and Tabasco. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm, stirring occasionally.
6
Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Pour into a colander and shake it a few times to drain really well. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce, and stir until well combined. Generously season to taste with salt and pepper. Lightly oil a 9x13-inch baking dish and spread the pasta in the dish.
7
In a medium bowl, toss the bread crumbs, Parmigiano, olive oil, chopped thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Scatter the crumbs evenly over the pasta.
8
Bake in the center of the oven until the crumb topping is golden, about 15 minutes. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


Tip
  • Add flavor or heat with these add-ins:
Variation
  • Pancetta or bacon Saute 14 pound pancetta or bacon (finely chopped if using pancetta) until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels, leaving the fat in the pan. Crumble the bacon. Substitute the fat for part of the butter so that you have about 6 tablespoons total, and proceed with the recipe. Add the pancetta or bacon to the sauce along with the pasta.
Variation
  • Ham Ham: rown 2 cups of small-diced smoked ham in the butter over medium-high heat. Drain on paper towels and proceed with the recipe, reducing the heat to medium to cook the onion. Add the ham to the sauce along with the pasta.
Variation
  • Hot chiles Cook 2 tablespoons minced fresh serrano chiles along with the onions. Or add 14 to 12 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes with the mustard.
How to cook baked mac and cheese is skill worth mastering for family reunions cookouts, or any occasion when you want to indulge in a little comfort food.
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