Baked Macaroni and Cheese

True confession – one of my guilty pleasures is “blue box” macaroni and cheese. That said sometimes you want something more “grown up”, something with a bit of depth to it. This recipe, based on one we’ve used for years from Joy of Cooking, hits that spot.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour


  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni (8 oz.)
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ancho chile powder
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup “red matter” (or 1/2 cup diced onion)
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 4 oz. Sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 oz. Colby-Jack cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Use 1/2 a tablespoon of butter to thoroughly grease the inside of a 1 /12 quart baking dish.
  2. Bring 12 cups of water to a boil. Add the kosher salt and allow water to return to a boil. Add macaroni and cook per the directions on the package (it was 11 minutes for me). “Al dente”, or even slightly under, is desirable here as the macaroni will bake in the sauce.
  3. While the pasta cooks melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and ancho chile powder; use a whisk to incorporate these ingredients into the butter. Cook the mixture for 1 minute; stirring constantly.
  4. Add the milk and whisk to incorporate. Bring to a simmer and add the “red matter”/onions, paprika, pepper and sea salt. Stir until well incorporated. Cook for 2-3 minutes until sauce thickens.
  5. Add about two-thirds of the grated cheese and stir until melted.
  6. When pasta is ready drain and add to the cheese sauce. Stir until all of the macaroni is coated with sauce.
  7. Transfer half of the macaroni and cheese to your prepared baking dish. Sprinkle about half of the remaining grated cheese over it. Add the remaining macaroni and cheese and sprinkle the last of the grated cheese over it. Distributed the Panko bread crumbs over the entire dish.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the dish half way through cooking to promote even browning.
  9. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

“Red matter” is a guajillo and caramelized shallot jam that my husband makes in large batches a couple of times each year. We use it in braised greens, stews, stir fries and, mac and cheese. You can substitute diced onion if your husband doesn’t provide you with this bounty.

I turned the broiler on 450°F for 3-4 minutes to help brown the top of my macaroni and cheese.


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