Outside-the-Box Mac and Cheese

Serves 6
Feel free to experiment with different types of pasta and cheeses, or just use whatever you have on hand for a fun medley.


  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (or any other pasta)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart milk
  • 12 ounces cheese, shredded (for example, white and yellow cheddar, Gouda, Parmesan, goat cheese)
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • Hot sauce, for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in middle position. Butter a 2 1/2- to 3-quart baking dish.
  2. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, drain, and return to pot.
  3. While pasta cooks, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk flour into butter and continue cooking until roux is golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Whisk milk into roux and boil, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, cayenne, and black pepper. Pour cheese sauce over pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine panko with remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle over macaroni and cheese, place on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until golden on top, 20 to 30 minutes.
Need help with the ingredients? Check our pantry list: