Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese with a custardy base will hit the spot when your day has been less than perfect.

Some days are better than others.  

Today I have already been stung by a yellow jacket, chased our horse around the pasture trying to catch him for our farrier, cleaned up puppy puke - on OUR bed, no less - and discovered that a bunny has not only eaten all our spinach but also all our beet tops....and it's only 3 o'clock  in the afternoon. 

All in all, I've had better days.

Some days call for comfort food. 

For me that means macaroni & cheese. The real stuff.

Not the stuff in the box with the powdered cheese packet, or even the "high end" stuff in the box with the liquid cheese packet. Nope, a day like this calls for homemade from scratch. 

My recipe isn't healthy, it's not meant to be.  It's not a well-balanced meal and yes, you could substitute whole wheat pasta for the elbows, 2% milk for the heavy cream and low-fat cheese for the Vermont cheddar - but honestly, sometimes you just need real honest-to-goodness, high-fat, high-calorie comfort food. 

Today is one of those days.

I prefer to bake my macaroni & cheese in individual casserole dishes, because somehow it's more comforting to have a whole one for myself and not have to share, but you can use a regular 9x12 baking dish instead.

Scroll down for the printable recipe card.

Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1 stick butter
1/4 cup flour
1T mustard (I use Grey Poupon Harvest Coarse Ground)
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk ( you can use whole or 2%)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
16 oz elbow macaroni, cooked
16 oz shredded cheddar cheese
10 oz block Vermont white sharp cheddar, shredded
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
Baby basil leaves, for garnish

Melt 1 stick of butter in a saucepan.  Whisk in the flour, until blended, over medium-high heat. Whisk in the mustard.

Whisk in the heavy cream and milk, salt and pepper (I like to be pretty generous with the pepper to give my mac and cheese a nice pop of flavor), stirring several minutes until sauce thickens and begins to bubble.  Add cheeses and stir until melted. Remove from heat. 

Combine sauce with macaroni, season to taste, and pour everything into lightly greased individual casserole dishes or a 9x12 pan. 

Stir Panko crumbs into the melted stick of butter and spread over the top of the casseroles.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes for a large casserole dish, slightly less time for individual dishes, or until the topping bubbles and is golden brown. Garnish with the basil leaves.

©2012 by Fresh Eggs Daily, Inc. and updated in 2024 for Coop to Kitchen. All rights reserved.