5tbspbread crumbspanko works best, crushed Ritz crackers are exceptional but decadent
Prep macaroni, pan and oven: Cook macaroni according to package directions (do not overcook!). Drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking process. Pour into a lightly greased 9x13" pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350° F.
Make roux: Melt butter in a wide skillet over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until flour is no longer foamy (about one minute).
Make sauce: Carefully whisk in milk and chicken broth (make sure pan is not too hot, or it will splatter) and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until lightly thickened (about 5-6 minutes). Take off the heat.
Finish sauce and combine with macaroni: Add all spices and all three cheeses, stir well until smooth. Add macaroni and stir to coat.
Finish and bake: Transfer macaroni and sauce back into casserole dish. Evenly sprinkle with breadcrumbs (or topping of choice). Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly around edges. Brown the top under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, if you like. Serve immediately.
Cheeses: Feel free to use any blend of cheese your family enjoys. I generally try to use 1 cup of a melty cheese (mozzarella or a pizza blend work well) and 1 cup of a flavorful cheese (a sharp cheddar or monterey jack are both great).
Milk: Whole milk yields the creamiest dish. I do not recommend going below 2% milk, unless you absolutely have to.
Cream cheese: A previous version of my recipe used Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese. Feel free to use the yogurt as a lighter swap, but these days we prefer our mac and cheese with cream cheese.
It is very important that you do not let your pan get too hot when making the roux for this recipe. You don’t want to add any color to the flour (or worse – burn it!), just very gently cook it.
If you overbake the Mac and cheese, the macaroni will keep soaking up the sauce as they cook, and your Mac will not be creamy but dry and mushy at the same time.
If using yogurt: Measure out yogurt when you first start cooking and leave it out on the counter to bring it to room temperature. When you’ve cooked your roux, first take the sauce off the heat and stir in all other ingredients. This will cool the sauce down a bit. Once you add the Greek yogurt, stir it in very quickly to keep it from splitting.