Brandon’s creamy crunchy baked Macaroni & Cheese
I use real fresh ingredients, with a few boxed shortcuts to save time. I’ve never made it this way, and kind of winged it, and it came out perfect. If you like your Mac creamy (like Panera’s) and not stringy or oily, check out my recipe:
Ingredients for Macaroni & Cheese:
- 1 lb box of shell noodles (you can use elbows, penne, or spiral but I find shells holds the cheese the best)
- 8 oz block of sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (this is the most important for flavor. Don’t substitute this with any other cheese. I like Cracker Barrel brand.)
- 1 pouch of the powdered cheese mix from a box of Kraft or Store brand Mac & Cheese (regular flavor)
- 1 pouch of the powdered cheese mix from a box of Kraft or Store brand white Mac & Cheese (I like Kraft’s Herb Alfredo the best, if not White Cheddar) *Discard the noodles from the boxed mac & cheese. I don’t like to be wasteful (There are starving people!) So I save them to use in other recipes, or for my nephew’s craft projects)
- 1/2 cup butter or spread (Country crock, etc)
- Roughly 1 and 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- Roughly 1 cup milk (Preferably 2% but whatever you have as long as its not skim)
- About 1/2 tsp dijon or yellow mustard (to your liking, add slowly it can overpower very quickly)
- 3/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Garlic salt to taste
- Garlic powder to taste
- Salt to taste if you don’t have Garlic salt
- 2 tsp of salt for boiling pasta water
Ingredients for breadcrumb topping:
- 2 heaping tablespoons of butter or spread
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (or homemade)
- 1/2 tsp parsley and/or basil chopped fresh or dried
- dash of salt
- dash of garlic powder
- Boil salted water and cook pasta per box directions, drain
- Return pasta to pot, set flame on medium
- Stir in butter or spread til melted through
- Stir in milk, cream, and powder cheese mix pouches. You don’t want it too soupy so start with a reasonable ammount of cream and milk; you can add more later if it’s too thick.
- Stir in grated cheese slowly, a small handful at a time while stirring
- Stir in Garlic powder/Garlic Salt/Salt to your taste
- Stir in mustard and Worcestershire and taste to your liking (a little mustard goes a long way, and it’s easy to ruin this dish with too much!)
- Set heat to high and keep stirring, and let come to a low boil until everything is incorporated, and it looks thick yet creamy enough. This is your chance to add a little more milk and cream if it seems too thick. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of your spoon, but not so thick that it doesn’t drip off.
- Remove from heat, and transfer your Macaroni mixture into a over-proof baking/casserole dish
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Melt 2 tbs butter in pan or microwave
- Toss panko breadcrumbs with the salt, herbs, garlic powder, and melted butter
- Pour breadcrumb mixture over Macaroni mixture evenly
- Bake in oven on 350°F for 20 minutes
- Put oven on broil (low broil if you have the setting) for a couple minutes until the breadcrumbs get golden brown. WARNING: Do not walk away, leave oven cracked open and watch it while it broils. The breadcrumbs will go from golden to black in less than a minute, ruining your dish!
- Remove from oven, let sit for a couple minutes, and enjoy! Serve as side dish or main course!
This dish was very affordable, and aside from the household pantry ingredients I already had like garlic salt, milk, Worcestershire, and mustard, everything else cost me about $15. The most pricey ingredients are the White Cheddar and Heavy Cream. It feeds about 6+ people as a main dish and 8+ if you’re just having it as a small side.
Feel free to make it an even more substantial meal by adding bacon, chicken, or brocolli. Remember though: If you add more ingredients, either use less pasta noodles, or make more sauce! If you double the ingredients, double the sauce, so it stays creamy and not dry.