How to Make the Crispiest, Dreamiest Macaroni and Cheese

March 23, 2016

When Mick and Keith wrote, "You can't always get what you want," our thoughts wandered to the corner brownie, the center of the skillet cookie, and the perfectly golden, but too-quickly-devoured, top of the macaroni and cheese.

But as Amanda Hesser shows us in her Baking Sheet Macaroni and Cheese, the crispy, cheesy top of the pasta doesn't have to be as fleeting as you once thought.

To give every bite of mac and cheese the perfect crunch-squish ratio (50:50, according to Amanda), she bakes the pasta on a sheet pan, borrowing techniques from fellow crunch aficionados:

In Cucina Simpatica, pasta is par-cooked, then combined with cream, cheese and other seasonings and baked at 500° F. The high temperature finishes the pasta quickly and toasts the tips on the top layer—a memorable detail. [Jeffrey] Steingarten's gratin involves roasting thinly sliced potatoes and cream on a baking sheet so that the entire gratin is crisp and handsomely browned. And Melissa Clark spreads her kugel in a baking sheet, achieving a predominantly crunchy texture. Back in the macaroni and cheese lab, I combined these three ideas by par-cooking the pasta, folding it together with a few cheeses, spreading it on a baking sheet, and finishing it in a 475° F oven.

Case closed!

Are you all for the crispy top or the creamy center of the macaroni and cheese? Tell us in the comments below!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • greg t
    greg t
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    Michael Crumpton
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    Jackie Stauffer
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  • Leslie Stephens
    Leslie Stephens
I eat everything.


greg T. March 6, 2017
Simply no way I'm not trying this...
Michael C. March 25, 2016
If you really want to pump up the crunchy, a layer of breadcrumbs on the top of the mac and cheese is great, and don't forget to finish it off with a couple of minutes under the broiler. Also a little bit of Gruyere mixed with the cheddar makes it silky smooth melting
Linda March 5, 2017
Buttered and toasted pinko breadcrumbs are the best. Easy to do in a skillet.
Jackie S. March 24, 2016
Do you think this would work on a shallow cookie sheet (with edges)? Or a glass dish?
Leslie S. March 24, 2016
It should work on a shallow cookie sheet! Pretty wide margin of error here :)
Jackie S. March 24, 2016
Thanks Leslie!