I may have been the only kid in the world who didn’t like Kraft macaroni and cheese.
I wanted to be like my friends who were all crazy about this childhood classic. But it was a taste that never grew on me.
If I would have had this macaroni and cheese as a kid, I may have become a fan of the dish much sooner in life.
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese: Finally A Fan
I love pasta. But I’m still really picky when it comes to macaroni and cheese.
When I developed this easy homemade macaroni and cheese during the first weeks of quarantine, for the first time ever, I went back for seconds on a meal I never thought I’d enjoy.
Maybe it’s the Parmesan breadcrumbs, maybe it’s the creamy béchamel sauce. Whatever it is, this recipe finally made me a macaroni and cheese fan.
A Twist on a Classic
In addition to the breadcrumbs and béchamel sauce, there are a few spices in my macaroni and cheese that make it unique: paprika, smoked paprika, and cayenne.
I promise the cayenne won’t be spicy. In fact it’s not even a noticeable flavor in the dish. It just complements the paprika and smoked paprika. But feel free to leave the dash of cayenne out. This macaroni and cheese will still be delicious.
Make This Homemade Macaroni and Cheese!
Make my homemade macaroni and cheese this week. You may never go back to the boxed version.
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
For the cheese:
- 1 cup cheddar, freshly grated
- 1 cup mozzarella, freshly grated
For the Parmesan breadcrumb topping
- 1 cup breadcrumbs, plain
- ½ cup Parmesan, divided
- 1 Tbsp butter
- ¼ tsp salt
For the Easy Béchamel sauce
- 2 cups milk of choice, I recommend unsweetened almond milk
- 2 Tbsp butter
- ⅓ cup flour
- 1 ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ⅛ tsp paprika
- ⅛ tsp smoked paprika
- pinch black pepper
- pinch cayenne, optional; I promise it doesn't make the dish spicy; it just complements the paprika)
- 1 pound macaroni
- tomato, thinly sliced
Make the breadcrumbs
- Add the butter, salt, and breadcrumbs to a medium-sized skillet. Turn the heat to medium, and toss the butter into the breadcrumbs. The butter will melt into the breadcrumbs.
- Keep tossing/stirring the breadcrumb mixture with your spatula until the butter in completely incorporated, and the breadcrumbs turn golden brown, about 5-7 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, and let the breadcrumbs cool for 2 minutes. Now mix in ¼ cup of the grated Parmesan. Breadcrumbs are done, set aside.
Cook the pasta
- Before you start the Béchamel sauce, grate the cheese (if you haven't already) and get the pasta water going.
- Cook the macaroni according to package instructions, but skim 1-2 minutes off the cook time. We want the macaroni slightly more al dente. It will finish baking in the oven.
Prepare the Easy Béchamel sauce
- To a small saucepan, add the milk, flour, and salt. Whisk together until smooth. There should be no flour clumps.
- Turn the heat on to medium, and add the butter to the pan.
- Begin whisking consistently. The butter will melt into the flour/milk mixture in a minute or two. Keep whisking over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until the sauce thickens and comes to a slow boil.
- Now turn the heat off, and whisk in the garlic powder, paprika, smoked paprika, pepper, and cayenne, if using. The béchamel sauce is done.
Bring it all together
- Your pasta should have finished cooking at just about the same time as your béchamel sauce.
- Put your drained pasta back in the pot you cooked it in, and add the béchamel sauce, cheddar, and mozzarella. Stir until the cheese is melted, and the béchamel sauce and cheese evenly coat the pasta.
Bake the macaroni and cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Oil a 9x13 inch glass baking dish, and pour the macaroni and cheese mixture into the baking dish evenly.
- Next, evenly sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the macaroni and cheese.
- Top the breadcrumbs with tomato slices. Last, sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan over the tomato slices.
- Bake the macaroni and cheese, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes. The breadcrumbs will be slightly more golden, the edges browned, and the tomatoes will have released some juice.