Ultimate Make Ahead Macaroni and Cheese is elegant enough to serve at a dinner party, but easy enough to serve during the week. It’s creamy, cheesy goodness makes it the ultimate comfort food for any time, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas!
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of Contents
I used the following ingredients: Dried elbow macaroni, Kosher salt, milk, unsalted butter, all-purpose flour, extra sharp Cheddar cheese, Gruyère cheese, freshly ground black pepper, nutmeg, and Panko breadcrumbs.
Cooking the Macaroni
The first thing that I did was to cook the macaroni in salted water according to the package directions.
Once the macaroni was al dente, I drained it in a wire mesh strainer and rinsed it well with cold water. Then I set the cooked macaroni aside while I made the cheese sauce.
Making the Cheese Sauce
Once the macaroni was cooked, I melted part of the butter in the same saucepan as I had used for the macaroni.
Then, I whisked in the flour. I let the roux cook over medium heat for several minutes.
Next, I added the milk. I whisked the sauce over medium heat until it was thickened and bubbly.
I removed the pan from the heat, and added part of the Cheddar cheese, all of the Gruyère cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
I whisked the mixture until the cheeses had melted and the sauce was creamy smooth.
Finishing the Ultimate Make-Ahead Macaroni and Cheese
Once the cheese sauce was ready, I added the cooked macaroni. I stirred the mixture until the macaroni was nicely coated.
Then, I poured the macaroni into a greased casserole dish.
I topped the macaroni and cheese with additional Cheddar cheese and sprinkled on the Panko breadcrumbs. Finally, I dotted the top with some butter.
At this point, I covered the macaroni and cheese and refrigerated it for the next day. I could have gone ahead and baked it at this point as well.
The next day, I baked the macaroni and cheese in a 375° F oven for about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, it was hot and bubbly, and the top was golden brown.
The Ultimate Make Ahead Macaroni and Cheese was out of this world. It was creamy, cheesy, and full of flavor. Yum!
Frequently Asked Questions
You can use regular breadcrumbs in place of the Panko breadcrumbs. You can also use crushed Ritz crackers.
This can absolutely be cut down. Here are the measures that I use when I make half the recipe:
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt, divided
8 ounces dried elbow macaroni
2 cups milk
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups (5-ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
2 ½ cups (10-ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
¼ teaspoon black pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
This recipe makes delicious leftovers. I generally reheat the leftovers in the microwave for several minutes until fully heated. You could also reheat them in a 350° F oven for about 15 minutes if you wanted to preserve the crunchiness of the Panko breadcrumbs.
The macaroni and cheese freezes beautifully. If you bake it frozen, I would add 10 to 15 minutes to the baking time.
If you’d prefer a quicker Mac & Cheese, check out Susan’s Easy Stove-Top Mac & Cheese. It’s amazing.
Ultimate Make Ahead Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 ½ Tablespoons Kosher salt divided
- 16 ounces dried elbow macaroni
- 4 cups (32-ounces) milk (See Tip 1)
- 8 Tablespoons (1 stick, 4-ounces) unsalted butter, divided
- ½ cup (2.5-ounces) all-purpose flour
- 3 ⅓ cups (10-ounces) Gruyère cheese, shredded
- 4 ½ cups (18-ounces) sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded and divided (See Tip 2)
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ cups Panko breadcrumbs (See Tip 3)
- Preheat the oven to 375° F.
- Bring large pot of water with 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 9 to 10 minutes. Drain and rinse well with cold water; drain completely. Set aside.
- Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot; whisk in the flour. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Whisk in the milk and cook for several more minutes, until bubbly and thickened.
- Remove pan from heat; add 3 cups of the Cheddar cheese, all of the Gruyère cheese, ½ tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until all of the cheese is melted and the sauce is creamy and smooth.
- Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
- Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter; mix the Panko breadcrumbs. (See Tip 4)
- Top macaroni and cheese with remaining 1-½ cups Cheddar Cheese and Panko breadcrumbs mixed with butter.
- May be prepared in advance up to this point, covered and refrigerated.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the top is golden brown. (See Tip 5)
- Yield: 10 to 12 Servings.
Chula’s Expert Tips
- I used whole milk in this recipe, but you could also use low-fat milk.
- I’ve made this with regular cheddar cheese, sharp cheddar cheese and extra-sharp cheddar cheese. All are delicious.
- Rather than Panko breadcrumbs, you can use regular plain breadcrumbs or crushed Ritz crackers.
- Rather than mixing the Panko breadcrumbs with melted butter, you can just dot the top with butter.
- If you’re baking this after it’s been in the refrigerator, you will need to add 5 to 10 minutes to the baking times.
I originally posted the Ultimate Make-Ahead Macaroni and Cheese on December 25, 2017. Since then, it has been my go-to recipe for an amazing macaroni and cheese.
In this re-post, I added new pictures and updated text. I also included the measurements that I use when I cut the recipe in half. In fact, the pictures that I used are for a half recipe.