The weather was perfect this weekend, and what better reason to fire up the barbecue? I invited over my girlfriends Joy and Paula for some barbecue chicken breasts, corn on the cob, and delicious grilled asparagus. Paula suggested mac ‘n’ cheese as a side and it was perfect timing since I had been sitting on this particular mac ‘n’ cheese recipe for a week. It was the perfect opportunity.
The recipe starts off with a French Roux sauce. It’s a basic white sauce made extraordinarily great with melted cheese. I used extra-sharp cheddar and white cheddar cheese. If you want to get fancy, Gruyere cheese would be amazing in this. Afterwards, I topped it all off with crusty panko crumbs and baked it until golden. It was a hit with the girls. It also made for an awesome late-night snack the next day while Joy and I lounged around the house watching Saturday Night Live.
The recipe makes a very large size casserole. I split mine up into two baking dishes. The first one I left as is, and the second dish (pictured above) I topped with thinly sliced tomatoes right before I dusted it with panko crumbs. So freaking good.
Ingredients – Recipe mostly adapted from Barefoot Contessa
1 pound Whole-wheat spiral pasta
1/2 cup flour
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
4 cups of milk (I used 1% milk)
3 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
3 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
*optional – 1 large tomato, thinly sliced
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to directions on the package. Drain and toss with olive oil. Set pasta aside.
In a medium sauce pan, heat up the 4 cups of milk, but do not bring to a boil. Set aside.
In a large sauce pan, melt 6 tablespoons of butter over a medium-high heat. Stir in flour and cook for 2- 3 minutes. Slowly pour and whisk in the warmed milk. Whisk until sauce becomes smooth and thickens. Once thickened, add nutmeg, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Turn heat off and add shredded cheese. Stir until cheese has melted.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta and mix until combined. Then pour cheesy pasta into a large casserole dish. For the panko crust, melt the rest of your butter in a medium skillet (2 tablespoons). Add panko crumbs and mix together so crumbs get evenly coated with butter. Sprinkle crumbs over mac ‘n’ cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes.
*Optional – If you’re adding sliced tomatoes to your mac ‘n’ cheese, add them prior to sprinkling crumbs over the top.