Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

I think I’m finally getting really, really close to getting this right. 

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground (powdered mustard*)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika**
  • 1/2 cup onion (diced small)
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 9 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground)


  • 3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 3 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place dry pasta in a 4-quart pot and barely cover with cold water. Bring just to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, then test for doneness. You’re looking for al dente, that is the noodles should put up some resistance to the tooth but not so much that it gums up in your back teeth. Drain pasta in a colander but do not rinse.
  3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 3-quart saucier or saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until the mixture is pale blond, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the mustard, paprika and onion and cook another minute. Whisk in the milk and cook over medium-high heat, whisking often for 7 to 8 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat.
  4. Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl then drizzle in about half a cup of the milk mixture, whisking constantly. Then, whisk the egg mixture into to the milk mixture. (This common maneuver called “tempering” prevents curdling of the egg by slowly increasing their temperature. Skip this and you’ll be making scrambled eggs.) Stir in the cheese, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Fold in the macaroni then move to a 4-quart casserole or soufflé dish.
  5. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, then toss the breadcrumbs with the melted butter and distribute evenly over the top. Bake for 30 minutes, cool for 5 minutes, then serve to a grateful world.

*I like Coleman’s which is made from a mixture of yellow and brown mustard seeds.
**If you haven’t had a good reason to buy smoked paprika, now you do. I get mine on-line from
***As an alternate topping: 2 oz. of old hard cheese (parm, manchego) processed with 1 cup panko breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle on top and bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Alton Brown's Macaroni and Cheese Recipe


Add yours
  1. 1
    Shelly Jefferson

    I loved it, and the stovetop version. I do not like extremely gooey mac and cheese, so I use two eggs. To each their own on that. I usually add a little more mustard powder and a good splash of Crystal, but Red dot will do. You just have to mind your dots. Today I am using a couple ozs. fresh grated Parmesan with the cheddar. I even threw in some Fontina. Use what you got, and tweak it to your taste, but to put down this recipe, I seriously doubt you were doing it right the first time.

  2. 2

    THE best Mac and Cheese EVER. Creamy and delicious. I was skeptical, at first about the onion, but even my onion hating friends and family say this is the best Mac and Cheese they’ve ever had. They never can guess that “secret ingredient” is what makes this so, so delicious. I am taking it to a 4th of July potluck today, as requested by the host. I’ve made it about a dozen times now and it is ALWAYS a hit. I make it exactly by the recipe and it is perfect every time.

  3. 3
    Cheryl M.

    I love you Alton, but not this Mac and Cheese. It wasn’t creamy at all and sort of old casserole-ish. I’ve never added an egg and never will again. I’ve used James Beard’s recipe for 30 years, and will go back to it.

  4. 4
    Polly Richards

    I have made this recipe for years now – printed out on paper and it is all messy lol! We love the recipe just like it is. The recipe used to call for a bay leaf in with the milk. Best mac n cheese recipe. (I have tried others)

  5. 6
    Tim Hyde

    I followed the recipe except 2 things. I used a sleeve of crumbled Ritz crackers instead of panko and I added half cup of finely chopped smoked black pepper ham.

  6. 7

    In place of the dry mustard, i use a tablespoon of whatever liquid mustard I have. Kosciusko Beer Mustard is very good in this dish. I also use smoked gouda cheese and replace the smoked paptika with one teaspoon Tabasco smoked chipotle sauce.

  7. 10

    The bake was perfect! We skipped the onion and found it a bit lacking in flavor, so perhaps someone else’s comment about using onion powder would fix that. Also may skip the breadcrumbs and just add more cheese for the topping, may experiment with different cheeses for the base.

    I used a pasta pot (Bialetti brand) to make the roux, at slightly lower than medium temperature to start with on my glass cooktop. The important part is to KEEP WHISKING as you add only pinches of flour in at first, then be more generous. Then add the milk (also gradually), and kick up the temp once it’s all in.

  8. 12
    BG Smith

    I have to say I love Alton Brown and usually his recipes really deliver. Not so this time. I had misgivings when I saw smoked paprika as an ingredient but am adventurous and decided to make the recipe as written for a church camp out. Unfortunately the smoky flavor did not go over well. Secondly, I have made Mac n cheese in the past but never used egg as a binding agent, so second flaw was the dish was quite solid, not creamy gooey the way many want it to be. I will go back to my mom’s recipe on this one Alton, sorry.

  9. 14

    If your Mac n cheese curdled you may have used skim milk plus did not temper the egg( whisk it, whisk in hot liquid gradually before adding back into the sauce.
    Use half n half or cream instead of skim milk or soy milk- milk curdles at high heat, cream does not

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