This mac & cheese is inspired by an absolutely delicious mac & cheese I had recently ordered at a restaurant. I mean it doesn’t take much to love mac n’cheese, but there was something so creamy and decadent about this one that I had to ask the chef what their secret was. He told me he used three cheeses – Monterey jack, cheddar and parmesan cheeses. He also added a panko breadcrumb crust on top and torched it with a blow torch to add just the right amount of crunch factor.
So of course, I had to emulate this at home. And boy did I ever! This is my version of the creamiest dreamiest mac and cheese you will every have. And dont worry, I added broccoli to it, so it is a little bit healthy too! 😉
This will work just as well with gluten free pasta if you like. But it is most definitely not dairy free. If you are looking for an easy dairy free cheese sauce go here. This one is for my dairy lovers. When you want to indulge in a bowl of cheesy comfort food.
The Secret to Perfect Mac n Cheese Every Time
The real trick here is to make sure your pasta is not fully cooked through before you add it to the sauce.
You want to drain the pasta at least 2-3 minutes before it gets to al dente (just reduce the recommended cooking time on the label). That way, when you add the undercooked pasta to the cheese sauce, it will have a chance to absorb all the saucy goodness while it finishes cooking. And you will not have any mushy overcooked pasta! Promise!
Another secret to making this the perfect mac n cheese is adding a crusty panko parm topping. Don’t skip this. It makes all the difference!
I like to use a traditional elbow macaroni for my mac n’ cheese but have been known to dabble in shells or cavatappi (corkscrew spirals) from time to time. What is your mac n cheese shape of choice?
Give it a go and let me know how you like it! Don’t forget to tag me if you make this on IG or on Facebook! It’s a good one!
The Perfect Mac & Cheese
- 450 g elbow macaroni (you can use gf pasta if you like)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp flour
- 2 cup milk (preferably full fat milk)
- 1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
- 1 head broccoli (chopped into small florettes)
- pinch salt
- pinch black pepper
For the Crispy Topping
- 4 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp parmesan
- 1/2 tsp italian seasoning
- pinch garlic salt
- pinch chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp oil (I use avocado or canola oil)
- Set a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water and make sure it is salty like sea water.
- Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, but reduce the cooking time by 2-3 minutes. They should still be quite firm to the touch.
- About 1 minute before you are going to drain the pasta, add the broccoli flourettes and let them blanche for 1 minute.
- Scoop out and save about 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain pasta and broccoli and set aside.
- In the same pan, wipe it dry and add 2 tbsp butter.
- Add 4 tbsp flour and cook on medium low heat till starting to bubble and the flour starts to give off a nutty fragrance (2-3 minutes). You don't want to over cook the flour, or it will start to turn brown and burn (a little brown is ok, it just means your finished sauce wont be as white – it is still fine to eat).
- Using a whisk, keep whisking the flour as you slowly pour 2 cups of water into the pan. You may have to do this in small 1/2 cup batches to allow the flour to properly mix into the milk so that there are not too many lumps in your sauce.
- Keep stirring while the mixture comes to a boil. It should thicken up quite a bit and start to coat the back of a spoon when dipped in the sauce. (If your sauce is looking too lumpy, you can strain it before moving on, normally I'm a bit lazy and I don't mind a few small lumps and just move on to the next step).
- Turn off the heat (this is important so the sauce doesn't curdle when you add the cheese and salt), slowly add in the 1/2 cup each of shredded Monterey jack, cheddar and mozzarella cheese into the hot white sauce. Stir to combine and melt the cheeses into the sauce.
- Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp salt and a pinch of pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Turn the heat back on medium, and add the par-boiled pasta into the sauce with the 1 cup of reserved pasta water. If it is still looking too thick, add a bit more water.
- Stir to combine and heat through. The pasta will absorb a bit more of the liquid. When it comes to a boil, turn off the heat.
- Meanwhile, mix the topping ingredients in a small bowl till combined. Set aside.
- Scoop the pasta into a heatproof serving dish. I like using individual serving dishes, but one large baking dish will work too.
- Sprinkle with an even layer of the topping mixture.
- Using a blow torch, or under your oven broiler or toaster oven, torch the topping till golden brown – about 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.