Baked Macaroni and Cheese With Bread Crumbs Recipe

This baked macaroni and cheese with bread crumbs recipe is homemade, easy, and perhaps the best we’ve had. Here’s how to make it.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese With Bread Crumbs Recipe

This baked macaroni and cheese boasts all the cheesy goodness of the usual American classic but with the spectacular addition of crunchy, buttery crumbs on top as well as the bonus points that it can be prepared in advance. What’s not to love?!–Angie Zoobkoff

Baked Macaroni and Cheese With Bread Crumbs Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 8 to 9 tablespoons (4 to 4 1/2 ounces or 113 to 128 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup panko (56 g) or dried bread crumbs (about 100 g)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound (454 g) elbow macaroni or small shells
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (about 5 g)
  • 1 teaspoon (2 g) dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 tablespoons (45 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 cups (830 ml) whole milk
  • 2 1/4 cups (533 ml) store-bought chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
  • 1 pound (454 g) Colby cheese, shredded (about 4 1/2 cups)
  • 8 ounces (227 g) extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 1/4 cups)

Directions

  • 1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  • 2. If using bread crumbs, in a medium saucepan over low heat, melt 2 to 3 tablespoons butter. Add the bread crumbs and stir well. Season with salt and pepper and stir again. Spread the bread crumbs on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a plate to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C). If using panko, in a medium saucepan over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Toss in the panko and stir well. Season with salt and pepper and stir again. Spread the panko on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden, 7 to 13 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a plate to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C).
  • 3. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts (3.8 liters) water to a boil in a large pot. Add the macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt and cook according to the package directions, stirring often, until nearly al dente. (This will take about 6 minutes.) Drain the pasta.
  • 4. Dry the now-empty pot in which you cooked the pasta, place it over medium heat, add the butter and wait until it melts. Add the garlic, dry mustard, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the flour and cook, still stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and broth or stock until the mixture is smooth. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking often, and let simmer until thickened, 10 to 12 minutes more. Remove the pot from the heat.
  • 5. Gradually whisk in the Colby and Cheddar cheeses, adding them slowly and by the handful, until they melt, 2 to 3 minutes. Your sauce should be smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cooked pasta, breaking up any clumps with a spoon. Dump the whole shebang into a 13-by-9-inch (33-by-23-cm) baking dish. (You can cover and refrigerate the macaroni and cheese and bake it later. See our make-ahead instructions below.) Sprinkle with the toasted panko mixture. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips and bake until golden and bubbling around edges, 20 to 30 minutes.
  • 6. Let the baked macaroni and cheese casserole cool for 10 minutes before you bring it to the table amid a chorus of oohs and aahs and scoop it straight from the baking dish.

MAKE-AHEAD BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE WITH BREAD CRUMBS

  • Prepare the macaroni and cheese as instructed above, keeping the panko or bread crumbs separate until ready to bake. The assembled, unbaked casserole without the topping can be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. When ready to cook, sprinkle the macaroni and cheese with the panko or bread crumbs, cover with buttered aluminum foil, and bake in 400°F (200°C) oven until warm throughout, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until the crumbs are crisp, 10 to 20 minutes more.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Recipe Testers Reviews
Testers Choice
Pat Francis

Feb 14, 2017

I rarely deviate from my tried and true mac and cheese recipe, but this baked macaroni and cheese was worth the detour. Very crusty with good flavor and spiciness from the cayenne and mustard. I don’t usually put bread crumbs on the top of my baked macaroni and cheese, but the buttered and toasted panko was quite effective here. It really does require that cooling off period before serving as it came out of the oven bubbling hot. I’m glad I had a sheet pan underneath as this casserole was full to the top as well. The recipe is a bit long and complicated to make but not difficult. Just make sure you’ve allotted plenty of kitchen time before tackling this project, and then enjoy the results.

Testers Choice
Sandy Owen

Feb 14, 2017

This baked macaroni and cheese with bread crumbs is a great dish that’s very worthy of any holiday meal. I used Mueller's small shell pasta, Cabot's Seriously Sharp Cheddar, and Cabot Colby. The buttered panko bread crumbs toasted perfectly in 10 minutes and smelled delicious. This makes a huge batch that would be absolutely perfect for a family gathering or holiday meal.

Testers Choice
Adrienne Lee

Feb 14, 2017

Weʻre big fans of mac and cheese and so it would have to be a pretty awful combination to make us dislike one. This version had a lot of flavor. I loved the combination of cheeses and the crunch from the panko crumbs. I used whole wheat elbow macaroni. I also used homemade vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth. This made the dish vegetarian but not vegan. Would I make this again? I did make it again. The second time I used bread crumbs. I used 4 tablespoons butter with the bread crumbs and I think there's just enough. I bet it could use a touch more but I think it's ok as it is. I used small pasta shells the second time. I'd say it makes more like 12 servings although we usually eat mac & cheese with a vegetable side dish like greens. The blend of flavors makes this a classic. I can see this macaroni and cheese as a base for add-ins like vegetables, bacon, tuna, chicken or other protein, or a mix up of other cheeses.

Testers Choice
Barb P.

Feb 14, 2017

This is the time of year when having a nice baked macaroni and cheese around fills that gap that only comfort food can fill. This is a decent macaroni and cheese, relatively easy to make and attractive enough to serve to company or on a special occasion.

Comments
Comments
  1. larry rouch says:

    The list of ingredients includes dry mustard however the text mentions adding “mustard and cayenne.” I realize both would suit some tastes and either would suit others but wonder what you recommend. I’m prepping the M&C for dinner and will probably opt for cayenne.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Larry, thanks for your interest in the recipe. We made the recipe as it reads above, which is with both mustard and cayenne. These ingredients have different sorts of heat, as you know, so it’s really a matter of personal preference. We find them to complement one another quite nicely. But if I had to choose? I personally don’t care for mustard so I, like you, prefer the slightly sharper, warmer spike that cayenne brings to things. Kindly let us know what you choose and what you think!

  2. Aaron Spatz says:

    Great recipe! To spice things up a little bit I added a white onion and smoked paprika with the garlic. I also added New Mexico green chilis to the béchamel sauce prior to adding the cheese and then topped the Panko with bacon. Let’s just say my marriage will last another year because the wife loved it so much!!

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