A creamy, comforting macaroni and cheese recipe with a crunchy topping is a family friendly favorite meal that will not only leave them satisfied, but clamoring for more. The recipe is scaled to provide two meals—one for now, and one to freeze for later.
As a mother of four active boys, I learned early on that consistently planning our menus and having a well stocked freezer were necessary for the survival of my sanity. As homeschooling moms, we are all busy with school, church, our homes, and extra curricular activities. Having a few “slam dunk” meals ready in the freezer makes what can be a hectic transition from school time to dinner time much less likely to end with take out food or cereal for dinner…again.
Oh, come on! I know I can’t be the only one to hang my head in defeat as I drop boxes of cereal on the table because the day got away from me, and I no longer have the time nor inclination to cook a proper dinner because everyone is hungry right now.
Macaroni and cheese is always a favorite in our house, so I’ve developed a recipe that can either feed a crowd or feed a family of six at least twice. I like the peace of mind that comes with having a little back up in the freezer for a busy night in the future. The recipe is also great for toting warm to pot lucks or blessing a family in need with a meal.
Now I’m a mise en place kind of gal, so I like to get all of my ingredients measured and ready to go before I begin cooking.
My reality is that I can count on getting interrupted a few times while I’m cooking, so having everything ready helps ensure that I don’t forget something important.
Cook the macaroni according to package directions for an al dente texture and drain it in a large colander. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and then butter two 9 x 13″ baking dishes.
Prepare the sauce by melting the butter in a large saucepan set over medium heat until it begins to froth and sizzle. Sauté the garlic briefly before sprinkling the dry ingredients over the foaming butter. Cook and stir the mixture continuously until it becomes smooth and almost paste-like in texture.
Remove one half cup of the thickened roux from the pan, and then slowly stir it into the beaten eggs to temper them. Tempering the eggs now will prevent scrambled eggs in the cheese sauce later. While scrambled eggs are tasty, they have no business in a cheese sauce.
Pour in the milk and continue to cook the sauce base while whisking it smooth, until it thickens to the point that it will coat a spoon. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese until completely melted. Fold the cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce to thoroughly coat. Divide the macaroni and cheese evenly between the prepared baking dishes.
Pour melted butter over breadcrumbs and a little more cheese, tossing until it begins to clump together.
Divide the topping in half, and then sprinkle it evenly over each pan.
Once the topping has been applied, bake at 350 for about 20 minutes and serve immediately. If you aren’t going to eat the second pan right away, simply allow it to cool completely, cover it with heavy duty foil, pop it in the freezer, and keep it on hand for later. (This will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.)
Make Ahead Macaroni and Cheese is a comforting recipe that makes a ton so that there is plenty for multiple meals or to share with others.
- 2 lbs. (32 oz.) elbow macaroni
- 6 tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp kosher salt (plus more for salting pasta water if desired)
- 1 tsp seasoned salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced (optional)
- 5½ cups 2% milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3½ cups cheddar cheese, freshly grated
- 2 cups Italian cheese, freshly grated (Asiago Fresco, Parmesan, Romano, or blend is preferred)
- 1½ cups Panko style breadcrumbs
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter two 9X13" baking dishes.
- Prepare the macaroni according to package directions for an al dente texture.While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. Once the pasta is al denta, drain and set aside.
- Measure the flour, dry mustard, salt, seasoned salt, and pepper into a small bowl; stir together with a fork to combine.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan set over medium heat until it becomes frothy.
- Add the garlic to the butter and saute for 30 seconds.
- Stir the dry ingredients into the frothing butter until smooth.
- Cook and stir the base mixture for another minute or two, or until it thickens to the point that dragging the spoon across the bottom of the pan leaves a clean streak for several seconds.
- Remove one half of the thickened roux from the pan, and then slowly stir it into the beaten eggs to temper them. Once the eggs have been tempered, add them back into the roux and stir to combine.
- Add the milk into the roux all at once, whisking the base mixture to break up any lumps. Continue to cook and continually whisk the sauce until it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove the sauce from the heat, and stir in the grated cheeses until completely melted.
- Fold the cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce until it's completely coated.
- Divide the macaroni evenly between the two prepared baking dishes.
- Prepare the topping by combining the melted butter, bread crumbs, and cheese until the bread crumbs are fully coated and begin to clump.
- Divide the topping in half and sprinkle evenly over the macaroni in each of the baking dishes.
- Bake both pans of macaroni and cheese in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly. Serve one pan immediately.
- While enjoying the first pan of macaroni and cheese, allow the other pan to cool to room temperature. Then tightly cover the baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and freeze it for up to 3 months.
- When you're ready to use this pan, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and then bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees. F.