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Best Homemade Baked Macaroni and Cheese

There is lots of room for your own interpretation in this recipe. Use whatever shape pasta you like or have on hand. I usually choose elbow or penne. Same with the cheese. I like equal parts Sharp Cheddar, Medium Cheddar and Gruyere. But you can choose any good melting cheese, all one kind or a mix.


  • 1 pound dried pasta see head note about shape
  • 1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce don't worry, this will not make the end dish spicy
  • 12 ounces grated cheese see head note

For breadcrumbs

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs preferably fresh (see note below for instructions)
  • 2 teaspoons salt


  • Cook the pasta according to package directions, perhaps just under cooking it by a minute or two. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  • Combine the milks in a heavy saucepan and warm them to just under a boil. Watch this carefully, it's a mess if it boils over.
  • Meanwhile, in another medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Increase the heat to medium and add the flour. Stir, almost constantly for about five minutes until the raw flour flavor is gone. While you're doing this you can stir in the paprika, mustard, hot sauce and a hefty pinch of salt and ground pepper.
  • After about five minutes pour the hot milk into the flour and butter mixture and stir or whisk steadily over medium heat until the mixture gets thick. About 5 minutes.
  • Butter or oil a 9 X 13 baking dish and dump the pasta in it. Now stir in the milk mixture until incorporated. Next comes the cheese, dump it all on top and stir it into the pasta and milk mix. (You can do this in a separate mixing bowl if you prefer, then transfer to the baking dish.)
  • Set the casserole aside and make the breadcrumbs.
  • In a large skillet melt the 4 tablespoons butter, when it's warm and bubbling add the breadcrumbs and salt and stir occasionally until the breadcrumbs are golden and smell toasty.
  • Top the casserole with the breadcrumbs and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes. If, after that time the crumbs are not as golden as you like you can put the whole thing under the broiler for a few minutes.
  • Let sit, covered with foil, for about 10 minutes before serving hot (or warm, if you're serving it to small children).


Breadcrumbs: I often use store-bought Panko for breadcrumbs but really making your own is a cinch and definitely tastes better. For 2 cups crumbs take about 3 slices of white or whole wheat bread, tear it into large pieces and put it the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the food processor for about 10 or 12 pulses until the breadcrumbs are the right consistency. That's it. Save any extra in a zip lock bag or airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
This mac and cheese can be made a day in advance and reheated, covered in foil, in a 350 degree oven. It can also hold quite a while. Covered tightly with foil let it rest in a warm oven for as much as an hour until you need it. This is an incredibly forgiving dish, thank goodness.