Classic Macaroni and Cheese #SundaySupper

This Classic Macaroni and Cheese is made with a mix of cheddar, Monterey Jack and pasta topped with buttery bread crumbs. Pure comfort food!
Classic Macaroni and Cheese | A delicious blend of cheeses and pasta with a buttery crumb topping

Classic Macaroni and Cheese

I tend to be fearless in the kitchen. At 25 years old, I remember being tired, pregnant and nauseated and painting filo dough with melted butter to make my first baklava for a neighborhood cookout. I also have clear memories of a couple flops from that same time period, one being a beef stroganoff when I attempted to make a more upscale version by replacing the ground beef with strips of some mystery cut of meat. We spent more time chewing than chatting during that meal. The hubby still reminds me of that disastrous entree from time to time. And then there was the homemade mac and cheese I made for our first Lent as a married couple. It was so bland and pasty. I should have stuck with the box of Kraft Deluxe! So fast forward a couple decades. I still get nervous when I am about to make homemade macaroni and cheese. Would there be enough flavor? Would it be gluey? lumpy? or creamy? I turned to Cook’s Illustrated for a tried and true Classic Macaroni and Cheese recipe.

Classic Macaroni and Cheese | A delicious blend of cheeses and pasta with a buttery crumb topping


The family LOVED this. Cook’s Illustrated cautions against leaving your noodles al dente, which will make your end result grainy. So cook the pasta till it’s completely cooked through and your sauce will be creamy and lip-smackin’ good. A decent dose of dried mustard and a touch of cayenne boost the flavor, not flat and boring like my first attempt. Unfortunately, the well-cooked pasta doesn’t make for the most photogenic dish. And there’s also a problem when you walk away from the broiler and the topping turns black. Oops, who would do that? I just scraped off the burnt pieces, sprinkled a few more crumbs and did a monitored broil. Success!Classic Macaroni and Cheese | A delicious blend of cheeses and pasta with a buttery crumb topping

This week, our Sunday Supper crew is sharing budget recipes. Meatless meals tend to be easier on the wallet, so try working one into your weekly menu. Thanks to Lane, of Supper for a Steal, and Pam, of Blueberries and Blessings, for hosting us this week. And check out all the marvelous contributions below!

Classic Macaroni and Cheese
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A lovely blend of cheeses and pasta topped with buttery bread crumbs
Recipe type: Entree, Casserole
Serves: 8 servings
For Topping:
  • 6 slices white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 6 pieces
For Mac and Cheese:
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (or favorite pasta shape)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour (I prefer Wondra brand which helps prevent lumps)
  • 1½ teaspoons dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 5 cups milk
  • 8 ounces Monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  1. Pulse bread and butter in food processor till crumbs form...about 10-15 pulses. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the broiler.
  3. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt to a large pot of boiling water. Cook until pasta is tender (not al dente...should be fully cooked). Drain pasta and set aside.
  4. In the same pot you used to boil the pasta, heat butter till it gets foamy.
  5. Add flour, mustard, and cayenne and whisk well to combine.
  6. Continue whisking until darkens slightly, about 1 minute.
  7. Slowly whisk in milk and bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly till sauce starts to thicken. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking now and then, till sauce is the thickness of heavy cream. Remove from heat and whisk in cheese, 1 teaspoon salt. When cheese is melted, stir in pasta and cook till mixture is fully heated through, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add pasta mixture to greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish, sprinkle with bread crumb and broil till topping is golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Cool about 5 minutes before serving.
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated.
Alternatively, you can saute the bread crumbs in butter till browned to top the macaroni and cheese. Place in a 350º oven to heat fo 10 minutes before serving.

Classic Macaroni and Cheese | A delicious blend of cheeses and pasta with a buttery crumb toppingBudget Recipes:

This week, our Sunday Supper crew is sharing budget recipes. Meatless meals tend to be easier on the wallet, so try working one into your weekly menu. Thanks to Lane, of Supper for a Steal, and Pam, of Blueberries and Blessings, for hosting us this week. And check out all the marvelous contributions below!


  1. Thank you, Liz, for revealing that didn’t just pop out of the womb with a Mastering the Art of French Cooking already downloaded into your brain. All your dishes are always sooo perfect. So, it gives one hope that trial and error has been a part of your process, too.

    Thank you, too, for the idea of the sprinkle of dry mustard. I’m always interested in mac ‘n cheese recipes. Although, I don’t have kids of my own, mac ‘n cheese is such a winner with kids (nieces, nephews, neighbor’s kids.) Thank you for sharing your version =)

  2. Happier Than A Pig in Mud says:

    Mac and Cheese is a big hit around here! I use cayenne, haven’t tried the mustard, sounds good:@)

  3. jaja, I like Kim´s comment! I still have to make a grown up version of mac and cheese, one of the orange meals my mother used to make when we lived in california. And it doesn´t have to look good, because we all know it is good! The cayenne is perfect, it´s such a flavor enhancer.

  4. Thank you for the tip on cooking the pasta past al dente. I’ve done that for different creamy dishes and never realized it was better to keep it from getting grainy.

  5. Love, love Mac and Cheese and your recipe sounds like a winner! I know all about flops as a young wife and even still today almost 4 (yes I said it) 4 decades later – eek! I once saw a chef prepare this dish and he spread the pasta out on a T-towel to completely drain after it was cooked – it really made a difference in the texture. Yum – I might have to make this for our Sunday Supper!

  6. I’m not really fond of mac but your classic mac and cheese looks so tempting I nearly grab it from our screen 😀

  7. Homemade mac and cheese is the best. I love trying new recipes and experimenting to find our favorite. Yours sounds very yummy!

  8. Mmm! Such yummy mac n cheese!!!

  9. Hmmmmm, I never knew that about cooking the noodles through! What a great tip! Thanks for a lovely recipe, Liz!

  10. Funny when I was younger I loved the Mac and Cheese in the box, but now I love homemade, so much better! I love your recipe and I love that you made your own bread crumbs!

  11. You cannot beat mac ‘n cheese! I love this classic!

  12. Love the use of bread for the topping… I totally must try this!

  13. I love Cooks’ Illustrated, don’t you? It always has such wonderful tips. Your mac and cheese looks fantastic!

  14. Macaroni and cheese is one of these US dishes I have never tasted or prepared. It sounds very basic, but your version and presentation is particularly tempting. I can imagine it very well with blanched green asparagus!

  15. Oh, how I love Mac and Cheese. Liz, your version – like always – just looks and sounds amazing!!! Thank you! ~ Bea

  16. Love the photos and how you’ve evoked macaroni memories. Loved it – especially with the good cheddar, Lz!

  17. This looks so delicious Liz! I love love Mac&Cheese and you did an amazing job!

  18. I got started here, reading through it and clicking on all the links. Found a wonderful recipe site for kidney/dialysis patients and finally got back here a few hours later! Thanks you JuanitasCochina for all the information. I can’t partake of the Mac and Cheese but I found plenty of other things I can cook and eat thanks to you.

  19. This looks wonderful! I have had a few kitchen disasters too, but sometimes that’s part of the fun. As long as most of the time it turns out 🙂

  20. Liz…what a gorgeous mac and cheese! Cooks Illustrated never ever steers me wrong…I love homemade mac and cheese, but have never tried theirs. Must fix that…and soon!

  21. And thank you Skinny Chiick forgetting me started on this morning adventure!

  22. When I read your first paragraph, it reminded me of the time my youngest was three weeks old and I threw a birthday party for my oldest, then turning three. Of course I made the cake from scratch. When the adult guests heard that, they shook their heads and one of them said, “I don’t think I’ve ever had homemade cake in my life!” I think I could have gone with a mix just that one time, and no one would have minded.

  23. Diana @GourmetDrizzles says:

    Such endearing stories… and too funny on the spent more time chewing than chatting 😉 Been there, done that. And love this mac and cheese recipe. Yum on the mustard, and the bit of spice. Sounds like a winner, and beautiful photos, as always, too! 😉

  24. Do you know I have never made macaroni and cheese!! What a bad mother I am, I am sure my children would adore this recipe! Obviously I am going to have to fix this faux pas this winter… it is already getting cooler here. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  25. I experimented in my early married years too. Actually, I’m still experimenting but I’d like to think I’m now not quite as clueless. I love mac and cheese – it’s such great comfort food and everyone in the family will eat it with no complaints xx

  26. I had to smile. The first time I made a double-crust apple pie we couldn’t break through the crust to get to the apples. Thank goodness for tolerant families, eh? Heck, I still end up with a tough cut of beef sometimes and we end up chewing and chewing.

    The mac and cheese looks delicious. Dudette is so picky about this dish she’ll only accept a bowl if she can see the blue box on the counter. I wonder if I could get away with this if I put out a blue box just for show.

  27. You can never go wrong with a classic! Your mac & cheese looks perfect for any night of the week – love the bread crumb topping!

  28. i am desperately and hopelessly in love with macaroni and cheese – yours is wonderful

  29. Delicious take on a classic, Lizzy!

  30. Yum! Leave it to Cook’s Illustrated to figure out the most complicated or the simplest recipes. This looks wonderful. You could have been writing about me in that first paragraph 🙂

  31. Amy Tong says:

    This is the ultimate comfort food. I gotta give this recipe a try. Thanks for the tips in cooking the pasta all the way through so I don’t get grainy pasta. 🙂 ahem….walk away and burnt the top of the pasta sounds like something familiar in my kitchen! hahaha….we all learn from our mistakes, the hard way. 😛

  32. I’m the same way Liz. I remember an apple pie pastry and it flopped completely! The English love their apple pie with cheddar cheese, so I thought why not put cheddar in the pastry! It was hard as steel and not tasty at all, brutal! But it never stopped me from trying, thank you Mom!
    This Mac and cheese sounds and looks incredible! One of my ultimate fav comfort foods and it looks like you did it! Totally YUM! Way better than KD!

  33. Lizzy,
    Your mac and cheese looks delicious. I’ve never made it from scratch but I’d love to try your recipe.

  34. Liz: This is dinner time….Looking at this temptation made me want to invade my PC monitor and steal your Mac and Cheese. LOL You are so lucky that my wish cannot come true!

  35. Who doesn’t love mac ‘n cheese? One of those great comfort foods – I totally love it. Great version! I often like to sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top, too. Good stuff – thanks.

  36. I haven’t made mac & cheese in what seems like forever. I’m going to have to change that rather quickly because your photos have inspired me to get moving!

  37. Lovely! I can use Dreamfield’s pasta for this classic dish. I was interested to see how you made the breadcrumbs – clever!

  38. This looks delish Liz!

  39. There are definitely foods which are not photogenic but you still did a mighty good job. Loved the story of your early cooking attempts. You’ve come a long way.

  40. I actually like the crispy top with bread crumbs.

  41. A friend is always asking me “Can you make the macaroni and cheese with the crispy crumb crust?” I’ve perused through recipes, but nothing really caught me..until yours! It looks wonderfully cheesy and exactly what he’s been asking for! Definitely on my ‘to make soon’ list 🙂

  42. Another great mac N cheese! I wish I had the waistline to be able to try out this recipe and all of the recipes I’ve been seeing. I love a good Macaroni and Cheese and this one does look delicious!

  43. Mmmm… Looks way better than Kraft Dinner. Which I am have not had in a while and am sort of craving now.

  44. Lizzy, it is comforting to know that someday I might be a better cook hah! hah! I have had more than my fair share of cooking disasters and am still experiencing disasters from time to time. I am not a fan of mac and cheese but I do understand that it is a very popular dish. My partner’s kids would love this a lot 🙂

  45. I have been looking for a good macaroni and cheese recipe that uses dry mustard powder. This looks like a perfect version, thanks for sharing.

  46. Hahaha this reminds me that I have to make M&C for 40 this week! It looks nothing like yours though

  47. You said it right.. this looks lip-smacking. 🙂

  48. Mmmmmm…is there anything that says “comfort” better than homemade Mac & Cheese?

  49. Perfect comfort food my friend, classic 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  50. Mac n Cheese is out ultimate comfort food!! We love it mix it up and make it different each time..

    Thanks for the post Liz

    Mr. & Mrs. P

  51. love that you mixed the cheeses, not pure cheddar!

  52. We should all be so fearless in the kitchen! We’ll never learn until we try, right? I lament all the time that my culinary skills are subpar (I’m a much better baker than a cook). I find that I’m always comparing myself to my mom and mother-in-law, both of whom are amazing cooks. I can’t never replicate their recipes. As for mac ‘n cheese, we had a bumpy introduction. I tried the Joy of Cooking’s recipe years ago and it was a disaster – the sauce curdled and was completely inedible. I couldn’t figure out what I did wrong! Today though, mac ‘n cheese and I are good friends. Your version looks amazing – I wish I had a giant scoop of it right now!

  53. I remember you revealed your failure story once and I couldn’t believe it. Everything you make looks so good and yet you tell us story about the times you used to fail. It gives me hope. Really! Especially baking in my case. This year my daughter goes to school for a little long time (no more lunch with me) and I’ll make lots of mistake to be a better baker. But before that I have to make this mac and cheese! Looks fabulous. This is my 2nd mac and cheese post today and I’m craving it already.

  54. Lizzy, your mac and cheese looks delicious:) This is one of my family’s favorite dishes. Thanks for sharing -I will be making this soon:)

  55. We’ve gotten a little snobbish and fancified with smoked gouda in our mac & cheese but sometimes the classic is the most comforting. Anytime I see a dish of it with a crunchy top, I get hungry. 🙂

  56. Ah, the early years of being a domestic diva! Thank goodness that times and we, change. Love your mac and cheese.

  57. this is so much like mine, except for the monterey jack cheese and haven’t tried Wondra. Will def have to try it. I had 7 sons who could go through a lot of mac and cheese and hubby still does. Thanks

  58. Great classic mac n cheese recipe!


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