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Joanna Gaines's Becki's Mac & Cheese

Becki's Mac and Cheese

byJoanna Gaines
Total 45 mins, includes cooling time
Active 20 mins
Makes 8 to 10 servings
I love to eat all kinds of food, but in all honesty if you told me I could have only one thing every day for the rest of my life, it would be mac and cheese. I realize this is exactly the choice that many eight-year-olds I know would make, and I’m okay with that. I first had this recipe, which has become my favorite, at my friend Becki’s house. Her family has become a part of our own, and she knows just how much I love mac and cheese. It has become a tradition of ours that every time we join her family for dinner at their house, she makes this side for us. It’s simple and creamy enough to please all the kids, while the blend of cheeses and optional crispy panko topping makes it feel interesting to adults. Since I started making this recipe for my own family, my favorite things to pair it with are Almond Chicken Tenderloins (page 211) or Meat Loaf (page 259).
TIP: In this episode, Jo substitutes the Velveeta with 8 ounces of cream cheese. This sub is up to your personal preference, and will not significantly alter the taste of the final recipe. Also, in this episode, Jo makes the mac and cheese in a 5-quart braiser. The recipe method here (and in "Magnolia Table Cookbook") calls for a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. You can use either type of dish to achieve the same mac and cheese.
  • Kosher salt
  • 16 ounces elbow macaroni, with no ridges
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces processed cheese, such as Velveeta, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces white Cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
Crispy Topping (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 2 pinches of kosher salt
  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the macaroni until al dente according to the package directions. Drain thoroughly and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, position a rack in the top third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the cream, milk, and butter and heat over medium-low heat until warm and the butter is melted. Pour over the pasta. Add the Velveeta, Gruyère, mustard powder, nutmeg, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir until well combined.
  4. Pour the pasta into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and spread evenly. Top with the Cheddar. Bake until the Cheddar is melted, about 25 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, if desired, make the crispy topping: In a large skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Add the panko and salt and toss to coat completely with the butter and garlic. Increase the heat to medium-low and toast in the pan, stirring often, until lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes.
  6. Remove the baked mac and cheese from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Top with the crispy topping, if using, just before serving.
  7. Store leftovers in a covered container for up to 3 days. Reheat in a 300°F oven.