The cheesiest baked mac and cheese recipe, ever. Four cheeses and crispy thyme breadcrumbs make this an irresistible dish, any time of the year.
This mac and cheese recipe is incredibly cheesy and perfect for weeknight dinners or as a decadent side dish. The breadcrumb topping adds great texture but I often make it without and add an extra handful of cheese before baking.
Table of Contents
- 1 Ingredients
- 2 How to make baked mac and cheese
- 3 Can I make this ahead?
- 4 What to serve with baked mac and cheese
- 5 Mac and cheese recipes
- 6 Four cheese baked mac and cheese with thyme breadcrumbs
- Flour. All purpose flour.
- Milk. Whole milk or full cream milk.
- Sour cream.
- Cheddar cheese. I used a mature/sharp cheddar cheese. Monterey Jack, Colby jack etc. also work well.
- Gruyere. Any nutty, good melting cheese will work. Havarti and Raclette are good options.
- Parmesan cheese. Pecorino is a good substitute.
- Mozzarella. I like it for the super cheesy pull it gives the finished mac and cheese.
- Macaroni. You could use any short pasta shape. Elbow macaroni, Penne, Fusilli, etc.
- Breadcrumbs. I used sourdough bread that I tore roughly but you could use fresh, Panko or dried breadcrumbs.
- Olive oil.
- Salt and pepper.
How to make baked mac and cheese
- Make the four cheese sauce: Start by making the roux. Melt the butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour until smooth. Pour the milk in whilst whisking continously until a smooth sauce is formed. Turn down the heat and add the spices. Allow to simmer, stirring regularly, until the sauce is thick and creamy. Once cooked, remove from the heat and add the cheeses. Stir until the cheese has melted then season to taste.
- Cook the pasta and assemble: While the sauce cooks, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook for 8 minutes or until almost cooked but still a bit firm (just under al dente). Reserve 1 cup of cooking water and drain. Add the pasta to the sauce along with the sour cream and stir to combine. Add some of the pasta water. You want the sauce to be very creamy and a little loose as it will continue thickening in the oven.
- Bake the mac and cheese: Transfer the macaroni to a casserole or baking dish. Combine the bread, oil, salt and thyme and scatter over the top (optional). Place in a preheated oven and allow to bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes then serve.
Can I make this ahead?
Yes, the mac and cheese can be fully prepped all the way up to the baking step a day in advance. I would add more cooking water or milk (approximately 1 cup) as the pasta will absorb more liquid if it is made ahead. This will keep it creamy. Baked mac and cheese leftovers can be kept in the fridge for a few days and reheated in the oven.
What to serve with baked mac and cheese
Mac and cheese recipes
For the cheese sauce
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup flour
- 2-3 cups milk
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 cup grated mature cheddar
- 1 cup grated Gruyere
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- salt and pepper to taste
For the baked mac and cheese
- 1 kg (2lbs) macaroni par-cooked + reserve 1 cup of cooking water
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 cups bread cubed/roughly torn
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp thyme
- pinch of salt
- Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour.
- Whisk until smooth then slowly pour in the milk, a little at a time. (I always reserve approximately ½ cup milk. Some flours will absorb more/less liquid so you might not need all of it and sometimes after adding cheese I like to thin out the sauce just a little with the remaining milk.)
- Whisk continuously until the sauce is thick then turn down the heat, add the spices and allow to simmer, stirring, until the sauce is thick and cooked through (this takes around 7-10 minutes on a gentle heat).
- Once the sauce is cooked (the sauce will be completely smooth tasting with no flouriness) remove from the heat and add the cheeses. Stir until melted then season to taste.
- Combine the cheese sauce with the pasta then add the sour cream. Stir and add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to thin out the sauce. You want the mac and cheese to be very creamy before going into the oven. Transfer to a large casserole dish.
- Drizzle the oil over the bread and mix with thyme and salt. Scatter over the mac and cheese
- Place in the oven and allow to bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crispy.
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
- The breadcrumb topping is optional but adds great texture to the finished Mac and cheese.