classic macaroni and cheese with panko recipe
Nothing beats a classic macaroni and cheese with crisp, golden breadcrumbs when it comes to comfort food. This timeless recipe combines cheesy bechamel, elbow pasta, and extra crunchy panko to form a trifecta of deliciousness!

Just think of the endless variations you could make with this classic macaroni and cheese recipe! Swap out the cheeses, or add veggies, sausage, ham, or spices.

Share with family or friends (who will love you forever), or freeze leftovers in individual portions and reheat in the oven.  

classic macaroni and cheese with panko recipe

Classic Macaroni + Cheese Recipe

Classic Mac + Cheese

The reserved 1/4 cup of cheese creates crispy cheese bits when baked (my favorite!), and adding olive oil to the panko helps it brown up nicely and evenly.
Servings: 6 Servings


  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 4 cups (1 quart) whole milk
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp salt, plus more for salting water and panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz (about 3 cups) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 2 tbsp reserved
  • 3 oz (about 1 cup) shredded pecorino cheese, 2 tbsp reserved
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  • Heat the oven to 400F. Bring a large stock pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until a little under al dente, (it will cook more in the oven later) drain, return to the stock pot, and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk. When it beings to steam, turn off the heat and set aside. In a separate large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook while whisking until the mixture is slightly golden, about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat, and a little bit at a time whisk the warm milk into the butter and flour mixture until well incorporated. Add the 1 tbsp of salt, turn the heat back on to medium high, and stir in both cheeses until smooth. Pour over the macaroni in the stock pot and stir to coat. Transfer to a 5 quart baking dish.
  • Toss together the olive oil and panko bread crumbs with ¼ tsp salt. Sprinkle the macaroni with the panko mixture, followed by the reserved cheese. Bake 25 minutes until bubbly and golden.

classic macaroni and cheese with panko recipe

What’s your favorite thing to add to a classic macaroni and cheese recipe?

Do you like macaroni and cheese with or without breadcrumbs?

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