This is amazingly cheesy, deliciously comforting and perfect for holidays and weekends! Macaroni noodles are cooked to al dente then tossed with a luxuriously creamy cheddar and gruyere sauce, then topped with crispy toasted panko and oven baked. It's one of the ultimate side dish recipes!
Ready in: 50minutes
1cup (2.5 oz)panko bread crumbs
6Tbsp (3 oz)butter*, divided
12oz. (3 cups)dry macaroni pasta
1tspsalt,more or less to taste
Pepper to taste
5Tbsp (1.6 oz)flour
2 1/2cups (590ml)whole milk,warmed**
1cup (235ml)half and half,warmed**
2cups (8 oz)extra sharp cheddar,shredded (I like to use Cracker Barrel)
2cups (7.5 oz)Gruyere cheese,shredded, divided (I like to use Murray's)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 13 by 9 or 12 by 8-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and spread even, let toast, tossing frequently until golden brown. Pour into a bowl so it doesn't continue to brown and set aside.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook macaroni just to al dente according to package directions (preferably add macaroni to boiling water just when you start to cook the cheese sauce in heated pan so they finish at the same time).
In a large saucepan or medium pot melt remaining 5 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly 1 1/2 minutes. While whisking slowly pour in warmed milk and half and half. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I use about 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper).
Cook mixture stirring constantly until thickened (it should not boil!). Remove from heat let cool 1 minute then stir in 2 cups cheddar and 1 cup gruyere (it doesn't need to fully melt through).
Pour drained pasta into a large mixing bowl (or empty pasta pot), pour in sauce and remaining 1 cup gruyere cheese. Toss to evenly coat with sauce.
Pour into prepared baking dish, spread into an even layer. Sprinkle toasted panko over top and spread into an even layer.
Bake in preheated oven until edges are just barely bubbling, about 20 minutes (if top is browning during baking you can tent with foil, all ovens are little different).
Let cool just a few minutes and serve warm.
*Salted or unsalted butter works fine in this recipe.**To warm the milk and half and half I pour together into a large glass liquid measuring cup then heat in the microwave for about 3 1/2 minutes until very warm. Beginning with warm milk reduces possibility of roux clumping plus it's less hands on stir time for the béchamel sauce.