Classic Crispy Top Macaroni and Cheese
This is basic mac and cheese at its best—easy and cheesy with just the right amount of crusty topping. People can’t put their finger on the secret ingredient, but the tiny bit of Dijon enhances the flavor beautifully. For added convenience, this recipe may easily be doubled and freezes well.

Yields 6 servings.
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces pasta (my favorites are the traditional elbow, gemelli and bucatini)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 level teaspoon Dijon mustard (resist the urge to use a heaping spoonful…a little goes a long way)
  • 2 cups milk (I use non-fat but 2% or whole are fine also.)
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
For the topping
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or coarse dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese (see notes)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. First, make the topping by tossing the panko with the melted butter in a medium bowl. Then mix in the cheese. Set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain and cover.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan and blend in the flour, salt and pepper. Cook until the mixture is bubbly, and then gradually add the milk, stirring while adding. Stir in the Dijon.
  5. Over medium heat, cook and stir until the sauce boils, and then simmer for one minute, stirring constantly.
  6. Reduce the heat to low, add the cheese, and stir until just melted.
  7. Add the pasta to the cheese mixture and toss lightly to coat. Pour into a 9-inch square baking dish (see note), and then sprinkle with the topping.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the topping is lightly golden.
Notes
  • This recipe may be baked in any 2-quart casserole. I like using a 9-inch square pan because it provides a good ratio of crispy surface area to gooey inside. If you use a 9-inch round casserole, which yields slightly less surface area, you may wish to use about 3/4 of the topping recipe.
  • When freezing, it is best to do so prior to baking.
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