If I was stranded on a desert island and could only eat one food for the rest of my life, I would want macaroni and cheese. It’s the ultimate food: cheese + carbs. I am suspicious of anyone who claims not to like mac and cheese, because how could you not like it? I make mac and cheese more often than I should probably admit, but I hadn’t posted a recipe in such a long time, I thought it was time to share my recipe for creamy cheddar mac and cheese.
This is a classic mac and cheese with a slight twist since it is a stove top recipe that is topped with toasted panko crumbs to mimic the taste and crunch of oven baked mac and cheese, while saving on time. The result is a meal that can be prepared in under 30 minutes!
I have some pretty specific thoughts on how to make macaroni and cheese. First, I think that shells are the superior shape since they hold the sauce so well. I also believe that you really need to select a high quality cheese. I like to use a sharp cheddar that has been aged for 2 years.
Creamy Cheddar Mac and Cheese
- 2 1/2 cups Medium Shells
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Butter
- 2 tablespoons Plain Panko Breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons Flour
- 1 1/4 cup 2% Milk
- 1 1/4 cubed Sharp Cheddar
- about 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- about 1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
- a dash of Dry Mustard
- a dash of Paprika
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta, cooking until al dente according to the directions on the box.
- Then get to work toasting the breadcrumbs. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs, and continue to stir until the break crumbs have reached a golden brown color. Then remove from the heat and set aside.
- Prepare the sauce next. Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Continue whisking until the butter and flour mixture (the roux) is slightly golden in color.
- Whisk the milk into the roux. Whisk frequently until the milk comes to a slow and steady boil. Let the mixture boil and thicken for one minute while whisking constantly.
Add the cheese to the milk and whisk until it melts.
- Season the sauce with the salt and pepper, and a dash of dry mustard and paprika.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Serve with the crispy panko breadcrumbs on top.
*I added some parsley to the toasted panko for the photos