Imagine smooth and bubbly baked White Cheddar Mac and Cheese with herbed bread crumb topping. Homemade mac and cheese is always the best, and this one is ultra cheesy and flavorful!
We love mac and cheese over here! I love experimenting variations of mac and cheese with different types of cheeses and toppings, and this White Cheddar Mac and Cheese is by far my favorite!
This one is baked until bubbly and nicely melted, and topped with and herbed bread crumb topping. To make it even better, I use Gruyere cheese in addition to the White Cheddar. Add so much flavorful and creaminess. It’s pretty amazing!
And in case you missed it, I also have an easy stovetop mac and cheese recipe, but I have to admit, this white cheddar mac and cheese has a special place in my heart. So let me show you how to make it!
The Secret to Amazing Mac and Cheese
If there’s one thing you should remember about mac and cheese is the you need freshly grated cheese! Here’s why:
- The cheese is creamier: This will make the cheese sauce ultra smooth.
- It helps the cheese melt better: Pre-shredded/bagged cheese usually comes with other ingredients, such as cornstarch, and this makes the cheese hard to melt.
- More flavor: Freshly grated cheese packs more flavors. It makes a huge difference!
I’d recommend getting a durable box grater. Or if your food processor comes with a shredding blade, you can use that too!
I never ever make mac and cheese with pre-grated cheese. I know it’s an extra step to shred it yourself, but trust me…it makes a tremendous difference in texture, consistency, and taste.
I’m telling you, this White Cheddar mac and cheese is the definition of deliciousness!
Now, let me tell you another secret: this baked White Cheddar mac and cheese also has Gruyere cheese!
White Cheddar is definitely the star of the dish, but the addition of Gruyere takes it to a whole new level. Gruyere is slightly salty and very creamy. It definitely enhances the consistency, making it extra creamy and smooth.
Here’s what you’ll need for the mac and cheese:
- Cavatappi pasta: Cavatappi is my pasta of choice for mac and cheese.
- Unsalted butter and all-purpose flour: Both of these will be used to make a roux, which is the base of the cheese sauce.
- Whole milk: Preferably whole milk, but 2% works too. Try not to use skim milk since it’s too diluted and watery.
- White Cheddar cheese: Freshly grated. I love the flavor of White Cheddar.
- Gruyere cheese: Freshly grated. Adds lots of flavor and extra creaminess.
- Garlic powder: More flavor!
- Salt and pepper
I also add an amazing herbed bread crumb topping that you cannot skip because it is that good! It’s packed with flavor and adds great texture.
Here’s what you need for the herbed topping:
- Bread: Sandwich bread is fine here. You’ll need to make bread crumbs with a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use panko bread crumbs instead.
- Unsalted butter: Tossing the bread crumbs with melted butter will help the topping brown beautifully and add flavor.
- Garlic powder: More flavor!
- Italian seasoning: I love this blend, but feel free to use your favorite herbs.
Whenever I make fancy mac and cheese, I always make a bread crumb topping. It protects the cheese and pasta from drying out and adds great flavor.
How to Make It
Per usual, you can find the full list of ingredients and detailed instructions in the recipe card below, but to give you an idea of how it’s made…
- Get the oven ready! 375 degrees F.
- Cook the pasta al dente: The pasta will finish cooking in the oven, so make sure it’s cooked al dente. Al dente means that there’s still a slight firm bite.
- Make the sauce: Make a roux with the flour and butter first, then add the milk and cook until thickened. After it’s thickened, add the cheese and stir until evenly melted.
- Add the cooked pasta and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
- Make the herbed bread crumb topping: You’ll need a food processor if using sandwich bread. If you don’t have one, just use panko bread crumbs.
- Assemble and bake! Pour the cheese and pasta over a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Top with the bread crumbs. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
A lot of cheesy goodness. Oh my!
The great thing about this White Cheddar Mac and Cheese is that you can customize it however you want.
Here are some ideas:
- Add some bacon! Cook some bacon separately and crumble it. Then add it to the cheese sauce along with the cooked pasta.
- Add veggies: Try broccoli, cauliflower, or fresh spinach.
- Use your favorite pasta: I love using cavatappi for mac and cheese. Other great options are macaroni elbows, rigatoni, mini shells, or rotini.
The possibilities are endless! Mac and cheese can be made in so many ways with so many flavor combinations, cheeses, pastas, and more. I love both White Cheddar and Gruyere, so making mac and cheese with these two just made sense…and the results were amazing!
Serve this mac and cheese with:
Thank you for reading! If you make my recipe, tell me how it goes by commenting below!
Tips for Success
- Use freshly grated cheese! It will melt better, taste better, and be creamier!
- Don’t rush the cheese sauce: When making the cheese sauce, you first need to make a roux, which is combination of equal parts of flour and fat. In this case, the roux is made with 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup unsalted butter. Whisk constantly for about 4 minutes until that raw flour taste is gone and until it’s a tiny bit toasty. Then add the milk and cook until thickened before adding the cheese.
- Cook the pasta al dente: remember the pasta will finish cooking in the oven, so make sure it’s al dente. Al dente means that there’s still a slight firm bite when bitten.
White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound cavatappi pasta (or other similar pasta)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (equiv to 8 tablespoons)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk, plus more as needed
- 12 oz White Cheddar cheese, freshly shredded (use a box grater)
- 8 oz Gruyere cheese, freshly shredded (use a box grater)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
Herbed bread crumb topping:
- 6 slices white sandwich bread
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the 1/2 cup of unsalted butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk constantly for about 4 minutes, until thickened. This is called a roux. Don’t rush this process as the raw flour needs to cook. At this point, the roux should be a bit pale in color and should begin to smell a tiny bit toasty.
- Gradually, add the milk, stirring. Bring to a boil (turn up the heat to medium-high to get it going) and then reduce to a simmer for about 3-4 minutes, stirring often until thickened.
- Add the freshly grated cheeses and stir until evenly combined. Cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the cooked pasta (drained) to the sauce and stir until well combined. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Transfer to a large 9” x 13” baking dish. Set aside.
- Make the herb crumb topping: combine all the herbed bread crumb topping ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times until you get crumbs. Note: if you don’t have food processor, use panko bread crumbs instead of bread.
- Top the mac and cheese with the prepared herbed bread crumb topping.
- Bake for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Let it cool for 10 minutes. Enjoy!
- Special equipment: box grater for cheese, large Dutch oven or pot, 9x13 baking dish, food processor.
- Freshly grated cheese! Grate the cheese right before cooking for best results.
- Pasta: cook the pasta al dente (when the pasta is still a bit firm) since it will finish cooking in the oven.
- Making the roux: Don't rush through the roux (flour and butter mixture) making process. The raw flour needs to cook for about 4 minutes with the butter. Nobody wants raw flour tasting sauce! Be sure to stir constantly to prevent it from burning.
- Adding the milk: It will take a few minutes for the milk to thicken up, especially while simmering. I promise it will!
- The herbed bread crumb topping: I prefer making fresh bread crumbs with my food processor, but if you don't have one, you can just use panko bread crumbs.