Classic Baked Mac & Cheese – I’m in full-on Thanksgiving recipe testing mode and it’s very exciting. It seems like every year our side dishes are just a variation on a theme: mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, repeat.
I guess that’s a quintessential Thanksgiving but I don’t want it to be boring so I’m hunting for new dishes to incorporate into our meal this year. This mac & cheese would be a great addition to your menu with its creamy richness and it can be made ahead and popped it the oven while your turkey is resting.
A couple of notes: Definitely only cook the noodles partially unless you really like mushy noodles. The sauce will soak into the noodles and they will finish cooking in the oven. Also, it’s going to seem like there is a lot of extra sauce when you pour it into the casserole dish but it’s the perfect amount. Enjoy!!
Classic Baked Mac & Cheese
For the bread crumb topping:
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pasta:
- 1 lb. pasta shapes
- 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. dry mustard
- 6 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 2¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 3½ cups milk
- 1 lb. colby jack cheese, shredded
- 8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- Freshly ground black pepper
1. To make the bread crumb topping, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add in the panko and cook, stirring frequently, until the bread crumbs are a light golden brown. Remove from the heat and add in Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta to the water and cook just until it begins to soften, 4-5 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave in the colander.
3. Return the pot to the heat and add in the butter and melt over medium-high heat. Whisk in the garlic and dry mustard, cooking just until fragrant, 30-60 seconds.
4. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken broth and milk and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles and thickens slightly, 10-15 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat and stir in both cheeses, whisking until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir the drained pasta into the cheese sauce.
6. Pour the pasta and cheese mixture into a lightly greased 9 x 13″ baking dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumb topping.* Set filled casserole dish on top of prepared baking sheet. Bake 30-35 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the bread crumbs are golden brown.
*At this point, the dish can be wrapped tightly with foil and refrigerated for up to 2 days. To serve, bake covered at 400˚ F until the filling is hot throughout, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the breadcrumbs are crisp, 15-20 minutes.