Baked Mac & Cheese with Homemade Breadcrumbs

Earlier I posted a recipe for homemade Tarragon Thyme Pumpernickel Bread Crumbs. All day I've been thinking about how I could use these in dinner tonight. I didn't have any meat out so I decided to do a breadcrumb topped mac and cheese and mimic the flavors in the pasta.

This post is picture heavy because my lovely husband decided to play photographer again. Personally, I think he was just using it as an excuse to stay near my bowl of shredded cheese which somehow dwindled in ounces while he was in the kitchen.

Baked Mac & Cheese with Homemade Breadcrumbs
(serves tons- makes 2 casserole dishes full)

4 cups dried macaroni (they consider a half cup a serving so technically this is 8 peoples worth of mac)
2 cups milk of your choice (I had whipping cream on hand that needed to be used so I used 1/2 c whipping cream and 1 1/2 cups nonfat milk.)
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp tarragon
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
14 oz shredded cheese (You can mix types- I used a bit of parmesan and the rest cheddar.)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1. Start water boiling for the macaroni. Add 1/2 tsp of the kosher salt to the water. Once boiling, add macaroni and boil until al dente. You should be able to finish the other steps by the time the mac is done boiling. Preheat oven to 375.

2. In a saucepan, melt the butter. When the butter is melted stir in the flour. Your goal here is to make a white gravy for the macaroni. Stir occasionally for about 3 minutes until the gravy turns tan and is well mixed. Add in the dairy.

3. Continue to stir occasionally over low-medium heat. The sauce will start thickening. Get your herbs & spices ready. 
Stir the herbs into the milk, butter, flour mixture. 
Turn to low. 
4. This is the point where I realize that I haven't shredded the cheese yet. We go thru large amounts of cheese in our house so I buy the giant  2 lb block for $8.49 and shred as needed. You could save yourself a step and buy your cheese shredded. You will need to shred 14 oz. If you don't have anyone in your kitchen trying to steal the shredded cheese as you cook with it you could make do with 12 oz. 

Saving 2.5 oz to use as topping, stir remaining cheese into the gravy and let it melt. 

5. At this point your macaroni should be done so go ahead and drain it. Then put it back in the pan. 
Make sure the cheese has melted into the gravy. Turn the burner off and dump the cheese mixture into the mac. 
Stir it up until every noodle is bathed in cheesy loving. 
6. Split the macaroni between two casseroles that have been sprayed with cooking spray. I also split off a small tupperware full of the macaroni to save for a toddler dinner. I also find that if you bribe your children with macaroni they'll stay quiet while it cooks. 
Yay macaroni!

Nom nom nom. 

7. Sprinkle tops of casseroles with remaining cheese & breadcrumbs. I used about 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs on each one. Put in oven and bake for 20 minutes on 375. 

8. Take out and let rest for 5 minutes. Dish out and enjoy!

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