Mini Staub cocotte filled with Mac and cheese and crispy breadcrumb topping with more in the background.
Photography, Art Direction & Food Styling: Anthony Contrino

Mac & Cheese is arguably America’s number one comfort food.  At least it is in my household!  I’ve always been a fan of the boxed mac and cheese, so that’s my inspiration.  My version is nice and creamy and is meant to be eaten right away.  While I’m not the biggest fan of the casserole version (it’s never creamy enough for me) I do like the breadcrumb topping, so I’ll often add some to my mac and cheese.  You can grab the recipe for that HERE.

Mac & Cheese

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6



  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 small cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • ½ cup panko


  • 4 ounces mild cheddar, grated on a box grater
  • 4 ounces Monterey Jack, grated on a box grater
  • 4 ounces Colby, grated on a box grater
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing, optional
  • ½ small shallot, minced finely
  • 1 large clove garlic, grated on a microplane
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 dash Worcestershire
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta, cooked to al dente, pasta water reserved


  • MAKE THE CRUMB TOPPING. In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
  • Add the garlic and a pinch of salt, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add the panko and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer immediately to a bowl; cool completely.
  • MAKE THE MAC & CHEESE. In a large bowl, toss the cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby and flour and toss until the cheese is fully coated.
  • Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  • Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
  • Add the paprika, Worcestershire, Dijon and pepper and stir to combine.
  • Add the milk and increase the heat to medium-high; cook , stirring often, until the milk begins to steam.
  • Add the cheese mixture and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the cheese is melted and the sauce has thickened, for 2 minutes.
  • Season with salt, to taste, if necessary.
  • Add the pasta and mix to combine.
  • Add up to ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water to control the creaminess of the sauce; serve immediately.
Course: Pasta, Side Dish
Author: Anthony Michael Contrino