"White mac and cheese that's ultra creamy and baked with a crispy top of panko bread crumbs. Makes for a perfect side dish for all seasons and holidays!"
You guys, I have a confession to make, and I’m totally not ashamed of it:
I love easy, made-from-a-box mac and cheese.
And not only that, but the obsession goes way back. I had a pretty serious relationship with Velveeta for most of my teenage years and it continued well into my twenties. Even now, I can’t help but pick up the Costco-sized packs of cheesy goodness just so I’m still able to feed myself on those days where I can’t be bothered to get out of my pajamas.
Which, okay, is most days these days.
But still, I’m sure you see my point. Box mac and cheese is the crutch of my survival.
Aside from the store bought stuff, my only other true experience with mac and cheese was the recipe my mother made when I was a kid. I never really cared for it, but that’s certainly not my mother’s fault; she and I just have different tastes in food. She gravitates more toward sharp and spicy flavors while I follow in my father’s footsteps of wanting savory and sweet. I guess you could say she likes tango with her food while I’d prefer it to just roll over and submit to me.
Because I like to bring the laziness to all corners of my life.
For the longest time, I never bothered trying to make mac and cheese from scratch because I had it in my head there wasn’t a way to make it without that sharp, spicy taste of my mother’s recipe. Call it cooking ignorance or just one of those odd untruths we pick up as kids, but there you have it: I really thought good mac and cheese could only come from a box, as if it required some super secret laboratory experiment that couldn’t be recreated at home.
So when I found this recipe and made it for the first time, my expectations were at rock bottom.
Like, the lowest of the low.
I only gave it the time of day because it included my beloved Velveeta.
And no, how wrong I was to doubt it.
Tasting this mac and cheese was like learning the correct lyrics to an old song you’ve been singing wrong your whole life.
At first, you feel a little silly for all that time you wasted doing it wrong, but when it all starts to make sense you realize that now it’s even better than it was before.
The first time I made this recipe I followed the instructions exactly, filling a full 9×13 pan. Usually when I made this much food, it lingers in the fridge for a couple of days until, inevitably, a quarter of it gets thrown out. There are only two of us here to eat it, after all, and a full 9×13 pan is a tall order.
However, I don’t think this mac and cheese made it a full 24 hours before it was completely gone.
It was that good.
I’ve made this recipe a few times since then, each time halving the recipe (because that much mac and cheese can’t be good for The Husband and I), but I don’t think I’ve enjoyed it as much as I did with the full 9×13 pan. And who knows, maybe my measurements were off a tiny bit. Maybe there’s just something special about the exact proportion of ingredients. Either way, I wanted to mention it so you can learn from my mistakes.
So, you can certainly try your hand at halving this recipe – but I wouldn’t recommend it. You might just need to go big or go home with this dish.
Consider yourself warned! And in the best way possible.
This post was originally published on September 26th, 2014. It was updated with new pictures and revised recipe instructions on July 25, 2016.
Creamy Mac and Cheese
- 16 oz pasta type of your choice (shells, elbow, etc)
- 2/3 cup unsalted butter divided
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 cup milk warmed
- 1/4 cup white wine or chicken broth
- 1/2 lb Velveeta roughly 1 cup
- 1/2 lb cheddar cheese roughly 1 cup
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs italian flavor
- 1 tbsp parsley
- Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.
- Prepare pasta per package instructions, cooking for 2-3 minutes less than the recommended time. Drain and set in a large bowl with a towel placed over the top.
- While pasta cooks, melt 1/2 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.
- Slowly add the flour to the melted butter, stirring until smooth. Cook for an additional minute, stirring constantly.
- Pour the milk and white wine (or chicken broth) into the saucepan, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to boil. Once boiling, sauce will thicken quickly. Cook until sauce is fairly thick, about 1 minute.
- Add in Velveeta and cheddar cheese to saucepan and stir until melted. Remove saucepan from heat.
- Pour cheese mixture in the bowl with the macaroni, then toss macaroni to coat. Transfer mac and cheese into the prepared 9x13 baking dish and smooth the top so it's even. Set dish nearby.
- Add remaining butter, panko bread crumbs, and parsley to a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds and stir until combined. Sprinkle butter panko on top of the mac and cheese.
- Bake in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Let creamy white mac and cheese cool for 5 minutes before serving.