There are few dishes more comforting and indulgent than macaroni and cheese, and this version will become your new go-to.
Mac and cheese may seem straightforward, but in an all-star mac, each component is carefully considered and intentionally chosen to build a creamy, melty pasta bake. Master each element of the dish with this winning recipe.
It all starts with the noodles, and in this recipe, we use large elbow macaroni noodles. They’re a bit thicker than your average elbows, so they catch more of that creamy cheese sauce (and the exposed ends crisp up beautifully when baked).
At the core of any good mac and cheese is a winning blend of cheeses; this recipe calls for three different types of cheese, each one serving a distinct purpose: Extra-sharp Cheddar brings that punch of sharp cheesy flavor and coveted orange color; Parmesan makes an appearance in the breadcrumb topping, bringing a natural bite of salt and crisping up beautifully. Then, for the third cheese, have your pick of Monterey Jack, provolone, or mozzarella, all white cheeses that bring creaminess and that stretchy, cheese-pull texture we look for in any high-quality mac.
At the base of the cheese sauce is a roux—a mixture of butter and flour—and we incorporate mustard powder to bring salty, earthy tang. Then, to kick this mac and cheese up a notch, we add crumbled bacon to the breadcrumb crust and mixed directly into the pasta bake.
From Skillet Cauliflower Mac to Macaroni Pie, there are countless ways to reinvent this comforting dish. But before you get really creative, it’s important to master the basics. This Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon is an excellent, extra-indulgent recipe to keep in your rotation—it’s sure to please a family or a crowd.
- 1 pound uncooked large elbow macaroni
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
- 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated (about 1/2 cup)
- 6 thick-cut bacon slices, cooked and crumbled, divided
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup whole buttermilk
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing dish
- 12 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
- 4 ounces Monterey Jack, provolone, or mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
- 2 large eggs, well beaten
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil over high in a large stock-pot. Stir in pasta and 1 tablespoon of the salt, and return to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender but still firm, about 6 minutes. Reserve and set aside 2 cups cooking water, and then drain the pasta. Return pasta to pot, and remove from heat. Cover to keep warm.ALISON MIKSCH; FOOD STYLIST: KAREN RANKIN; PROP STYLIST: JOSH HOGGLE
- Generously butter a 13- x 9-inch baking dish, and set aside. Toss together breadcrumbs; Parmesan cheese; and half of the cooked, crumbled bacon in a bowl, and set aside. Stir together flour, pepper, mustard, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a small bowl. Heat milk and buttermilk in a medium saucepan over medium, undisturbed, until barely steaming but not boiling, 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.ALISON MIKSCH; FOOD STYLIST: KAREN RANKIN; PROP STYLIST: JOSH HOGGLE
- Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high. Add flour mixture. Cook, whisking often, until mixture is smooth and thick and has a delicate golden color and toasted aroma, about 2 minutes.ALISON MIKSCH; FOOD STYLIST: KAREN RANKIN; PROP STYLIST: JOSH HOGGLESlowly whisk in warm milk mixture. Bring to a boil over high. Cook, stirring often, until thickened to the texture of cream, about 3 minutes.ALISON MIKSCH; FOOD STYLIST: KAREN RANKIN; PROP STYLIST: JOSH HOGGLE
- Stir shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses into milk mixture, and remove from heat. Stir in beaten eggs until mixture forms a smooth sauce.ALISON MIKSCH; FOOD STYLIST: KAREN RANKIN; PROP STYLIST: JOSH HOGGLE
- Uncover cooked pasta, and stir. (If pasta sticks together, stir in reserved warm cooking water, and drain again.) Stir cheese mixture and remaining bacon into drained pasta in stockpot.ALISON MIKSCH; FOOD STYLIST: KAREN RANKIN; PROP STYLIST: JOSH HOGGLE
- Transfer pasta mixture to prepared baking dish, and sprinkle evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Bake in preheated oven until firm, puffed up, and lightly browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot or warm.