Monday, April 28

Baked Mac & Cheese

Creamy mac and cheese with a crunchy panko crust, inspired by the Barefoot Contessa

Baked Mac and Cheese Barefoot Contessa

Mac and cheese can be a divisive food: everyone loves it but there are many different versions out there and each person has their own definition of what's best. I'm partial to this adaptation of a Barefoot Contessa recipe, which has been my family's go-to mac and cheese for many years now. Apologies for waiting 3 1/2 years on KSD to finally post it! It's a little nontraditional (some might say "fancy") compared to basic recipes from the combination of gruyere and cheddar cheeses and the coating of buttery panko breadcrumbs on top. This is not one of those mac and cheeses where the macaroni is swimming in cheese sauce; instead, each noodle is perfectly coated with a layer of cheesy, creamy sauce and gets a nice crunch from the golden panko. I've even had friends call this mac and cheese "light" before, because it doesn't seem to weigh you down after eating it like some other versions do. It's a must-serve at any tailgate, barbecue, or potluck we host.

Note: This recipe will feed an army. I like to divide some of it into disposable baking pans and store it in the freezer.

Related Recipes:
- Tex-Mex Mac and Cheese
- Creamy Truffle Pappardelle
- Fettuccine with Peas and Garlic Alfredo Sauce

Baked Mac & Cheese with Panko Crust:
  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook 1 lb. of cavatappi* until al dente.
  • Simmer 1 quart of whole milk in a pot over the stove.
  • In another large pot, melt 6 tbsp. butter and whisk in 1/2 c. all-purpose flour over low heat.
  • Cook for about 2 minutes, then gradually whisk in the hot milk until lump-free. Continue whisking for a minute or two, until thickened.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in 4 c. grated gruyere cheese, 2 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg.
  • Drain the noodles, then stir into the sauce.
  • Transfer the mac and cheese to a large baking dish.
  • Stir together 3 tbsp. melted butter and 1 c. panko breadcrumbs, then sprinkle the mixture evenly over the mac and cheese.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbling and golden brown.

Serves eight or more
*Or elbow macaroni or similar pasta.