Food & Wine

The Ultimate Mac and Cheese

The Ultimate Mac and Cheese

The crumbly top is the perfect partner for a decadent cheese sauce. 


• 400g dried macaroni

• Melted butter, for greasing

• 1 bunch chives, chopped

• Sea-salt flakes and freshly ground white pepper, to season

• 1 thick slice sourdough

• 70g cheddar, grated

• 20g butter, melted


Cheese sauce

• 40g butter

• 1 brown onion, roughly chopped

• 4 rashers (250g) rindless bacon, thinly sliced

• ¼ cup plain flour

• 3¼ cups milk

• 180g cheddar, grated


  1. Cook macaroni in a large saucepan of salted boiling water following pack instructions. Drain well, then return macaroni to pan.

  2. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease an 8-cup capacity baking dish with melted butter.

  3. To make cheese sauce, melt butter in a large deep frying pan over a medium heat. Add onion and bacon and cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes or until onion has softened. Add flour and stir until combined, then cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and gradually add milk, stirring continuously until smooth and combined.

  4. Pour sauce over macaroni, then add chives and stir to combine. Season with salt and white pepper, then transfer macaroni and sauce mixture to prepared dish.

  5. Process sourdough in a food processor until crumbs form. Transfer crumbs to a small bowl, then add cheddar and melted butter. Stir to combine.

  6. Scatter crumb mixture over macaroni and bake for 25 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately.

Cook’s tips

  • Add an adequate amount of salt when to your water when boiling your pasta. Well seasoned pasta is the key to great mac and cheese.

  • Always opt for smaller varieties of pasta, preferably hollow to hold plenty of that irresistible cheesy sauce. Elbow pasta is the classic choice but other shapes including fusilli, conchiglie or farfalle work as well.

  • Perfect your bechamel. Remember to constantly stir the sauce and cook off the flour well. Making sure the milk doesn’t boil is vital, and when adding your choice of grated cheese, do it in stages ensuring it melts completely before adding more.

  • If you do have some spare cream in the fridge, replace some of the milk with it for a richer and silkier bechamel.

  • To elevate the flavour profile of your dish, add some spices or extra ingredients. Try mustard powder, garlic, chilli or nutmeg.

  • Don’t limit to yourself to one type of cheese, try adding a trio. Whether it’s gruyère, brie or even something stronger like blue or parmesan.

  • This recipe already incorporates bacon, but if you want to make it meat-free, try adding sautéed mushrooms, seasonal herbs, caramelised onions or even sundried tomatoes.

Image: Better Homes & Gardens

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