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Baked Mac and Cheese with Crispy Panko Topping

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This Baked Mac and Cheese is loosely based off Ina Garten’s recipe with layers of gruyere & cheddar, nutmeg, & a crispy panko topping.

It’s no secret that my family and I really like pasta. I love Ina Garten’s Mac and Cheese – it is creamy and rich without being too heavy, it is elevated in flavor because of the gruyere cheese and crispy topping, but there are a couple changes I wanted to make to the recipe. It feels illegal to make changes to an Ina Garten recipe because hers always turn out so well, but I wanted to add a little more flavor to this and also cut back on some of the steps (ahem homemade bread crumbs).

Most of the recipe is the same as Ina’s (which you can find here), with a couple small changes: I removed the tomatoes, I used panko crumb topping instead of homemade bread crumbs (not only does it take the work out of making your own, but panko breadcrumbs are so light and airy, they make a perfect light crunch on top), and the addition of garlic and mustard powder into the recipe. Don’t worry, you can’t taste these flavors strongly outright, but they add a little depth to the Mac and Cheese and keep it from being one straight creamy flavor profile. I also lowered the oven temperature slightly to keep the crispy topping from burning.

You are going to love this Baked Mac and Cheese with Crispy Panko Topping! My kids scarfed it down and asked for it in their lunches the next day (if you need a great insulated lunch thermos, we love this one).

Baked Mac and Cheese with Crispy Panko Topping

This Mac and Cheese is loosely based off Ina Garten's recipe with layers of gruyere & cheddar, nutmeg, & a crispy panko topping.
Serves 8-10 as a main dish, and about 14-16 as a side dish.
Serving Size 10


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (or other short-cut pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 quart milk (4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)
  • 12 ounces grated Gruyere cheese (about 4 cups)
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon salt (plus a little more to salt the water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • cups panko bread crumbs


  • There will be several elements to prepare so I like to be sure to measure everything out first for this recipe.
    Grate the cheeses and set aside. Measure out the milk and flour, and set aside. Then measure out the spices and set aside.
    Divide the butter into one 6-tablespoon piece and one 2-tablespoon piece. Set aside.
  • To begin the recipe, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • In a large pot of water, drizzle the 1 tablespoon of oil, and add a little salt to the water. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
    Be sure to cook al dente as the pasta will continue cooking when it goes into the oven.
  • While the pasta is cooking, prepare your sauce. In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium low heat until warm to the touch (but do not boil it or scald it).
  • In a separate large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and then add the flour. Whisk flour into butter to form a roux, over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until the mixture is slightly thickened and smooth.
  • Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic salt, and mustard powder.
    Whisk until smooth and then pour over cooked pasta and mix well.
  • Pour the pasta into a 9×13" baking dish.
  • Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and mix them with the panko bread crumbs.
  • Sprinkle the panko mixture over the macaroni and bake for 15-20 minutes until the panko is golden brown, and the pasta is lightly bubbling.
  • Remove from oven and enjoy!

I hope you love this Baked Mac and Cheese with Crispy Panko Topping; it’s one of my favorite main dishes. Be sure to tag me @plumstreetcollective with recipes you’re making. Happy cooking!

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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    Almost TOO good…who am I kidding. It was amazing and cheesy and rich. Exactly how Mac n cheese should be

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