This is our ultimate macaroni and cheese recipe! We've tried many recipes over the years, some good, some ok and some meh. So we decided to combine aspects from several of our favorite recipes into this one ultimate recipe. It is the most flavorful and cheesiest recipe you will find. It is sure to be a family favorite that is requested over and over!
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: Makes 12 servings
For pasta and sauce:
- 1 pound uncooked pasta (we recommend cavatappi, but shells or rigatoni will do)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups milk
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 1/2 cups coarsely shredded cheddar cheese (white, yellow or a mix of both)
- 2 cups coarsely shredded colby cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons ground mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground white pepper
For crumb topping:
- 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 cups Panko Japanese bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon paprika
Make the crumb topping:
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and paprika, stirring to combine. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until toasted slightly. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Make the pasta and sauce:
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Add olive oil to a medium heated skillet and add the finely chopped onion. Sauté onion until translucent (about 3-4 minutes). Remove onions from skillet and set aside.
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of water until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Butter a 13x9-inch shallow baking dish.
- In a large, heavy saucepot (such as a Dutch oven), melt 1 stick butter over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour unto a thin paste (this is called a roux). Cook the roux, stirring constantly, for approximately 3 minutes until golden. Slowly whisk in the milk and then the cream. Mix in the sautéed onions, paprika, garlic powder, ground mustard and white pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce it to a simmer and let it cook for 3 minutes.
- Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese, colby cheese, and parmesan cheese, stirring until well combined and melted.
- Add the pasta and the reserved 1/2 cup of pasta water to the pot, stirring to combine. (It will be soupy.) Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the buttered baking dish. Sprinkle it with the reserved crumb topping and place it on a sheet tray (in the event it bubbles over while baking). Bake the macaroni and cheese for 20 to 25 minutes until it's golden brown and bubbling.
You may want to put a large tray or cookie sheet on a rack below the macaroni and cheese in case it bubbles over.
Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
The macaroni and cheese can be baked in a large baking dish or several smaller ramekins for individual servings.