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