Blank Canvas Mac 'n Cheese
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
You can make the mac in advance up to the point when you sprinkle on the panko. Then store in the fridge until ready to bake.
Serves: 6 to 8
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus a little more for the pan
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart whole milk, preferably at room temperature (you can warm it in the microwave)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound sharp orange cheddar cheese, grated (4 cups; use any combo of cheese you'd like, though some of it should be one that melts well)
  • ⅔ cup panko breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and set it aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, following the package directions, until 3 minutes shy of al dente. The pasta should still have a bite to it. Drain, and shake out all the water.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until it is fully incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the milk and whisk gently over medium heat until the mixture has bubbled and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the salt, pepper, and most of the grated cheese, reserving about ½ a cup. Add the pasta and toss to combine.
  5. Distribute the mixture in the prepared pan. Top with the rest of the cheese mixture, then sprinkle on the panko. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbling and brown. Let rest for 5 minutes, then serve.
Recipe by Big Girls Small Kitchen at