My Favorite Mac and Cheese Recipe

This recipe is a modest adaptation from a recipe on by Rhoda Boone. I’ve taken out the garlic and Parmesan in the bread crumbs to make it “kid” friendly. I’ve also tested this recipe as a half portion of the original presented here. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a little soupy going into the oven. It will thicken up to just the right, creamy consistency.


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces (1/2 pound) cavatappi pasta
  • 4 tablespoons butter (plus 1 more tablespoon to grease dish)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup heaving cream [edit: that’s “heavy” not “heaving”, oops]
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 2 ½ teaspoons mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. To make the bread crumbs: heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the panko and season with salt and pepper. Stir and toss bread crumbs until evenly brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. It’s important to keep the crumbs moving around for even browning. Remove from heat. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool and store, covered, at room temperature.)
  2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just before al dente. If the package says cook 9 to 11 minutes, cook only 8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, drain and store in the fridge, covered.)
  3. To make the cheese sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan (large enough to hold the cheese sauce and the pasta) over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk to remove lumps. Cook, whisking frequently, until the flour cooks out a bit but the color of the roux is still pale, about 3 or 4 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cream and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture slightly thickens, about 3 or 4 minutes. Sprinkle in the nutmeg, mustard powder, salt and pepper. Whisk until blended. Switch to a spatula or spoon, and stir in the cheeses, a handful at a time, stirring until the cheese melts before adding the next handful. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring, until all the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in the cooked pasta, tossing to coat.
  4. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 11 X 7 X 2 baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter. Pour the pasta and cheese mixture into the prepared pan. Top evenly with the toasted bread crumbs. Place on a rack in the center of the oven and bake until the mixture is bubbling hot, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.