This creamy, cheesy, gourmet mac and cheese is made with bacon and topped with a panko bread crumb topping.  It’s baked to perfection and will outshine any mac and cheese you’ve tasted! 

If you love warm, comfort food, don’t miss our Chicken Fajita Pasta, Skinny Chicken Alfredo, or one pan Meatball Casserole!

A wooden spoon taking Gourmet Baked Mac and Cheese out of a casserole dish.

What I LOVE about this recipe:

That crumb topping: the panko bread crumb topping give it the perfect taste and texture you’d find at your favorite restaurant.

The homemade sauce: You know what I love most about the sauce for this mac and cheese? It uses every-day pantry ingredients– butter, milk, flour, half and half, cornstarch, mustard, and spices– once combined, they make the BEST, creamy, cheesy homemade sauce for mac and cheese. 

Family favorite: this is a huge crowd pleaser that I serve year round!  Anytime I’ve served it at a part, everyone raves.  You can bring it as a side to serve along steak or chicken, Or serve it as a main dish with a side of green beans or roasted veggies.

Bacon cooking in a skillet

How to Make Gourmet Mac and Cheese:

1. Cook the pasta: cook your favorite pasta according to package instructions, just until al dente (be careful not to overcook i)t! Strain and rinse with cold water. Set aside

2. Cook the bacon in a large skillet until perfectly crispy. Make sure to leave a tiny bit of that delicious bacon grease in the pan for step number 2–the sauce!

3. Make the sauce: melt butter, whisk in flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and gradually whisk in milk.  Mix together cornstarch and half and half. Gradually add it to skillet followed by mustard, chicken bullion, onion powder, garlic, powder, parsley, salt and pepper.  Cook until slightly thickened and remove from heat.

A saucepan with ingredients to make the sauce for macaroni and cheese

4. Stir in cheddar cheese, bacon, and pasta. Pour mixture into 8×8’’ baking dish. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

5. Top with crumb topping: Add panko, melted butter and olive oil to a skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until crumbs are golden brown. Evenly sprinkle bread crumb mixture over the gourmet mac and cheese. Add remaining bacon crumbles on top.

6. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly.  Serve warm.

Three photos of mac and cheese being layered into a casserole dish. A layer of cheese noodles, topped with parmesan cheese, and then topped with bacon and panko breadcrumbs

Tips for Gourmet Mac and Cheese:

  • Avoid pre-shredded cheese: It’s really best to shred your own cheddar cheese, rather than using store bought pre-shredded cheese. Fresh shredded cheddar and parmesan cheese melt easier and tastes better.
  • Use High quality ingredients:  the better the ingredients, the better the end result! In particular, high quality bacon and cheese!  Great ingredients make all the difference in the end result truly being “gourmet”. 

A casserole dish filled with mac and cheese with bacon.

Make Ahead And Freezing Instructions:

To make ahead: You can make this recipe 1-2 days ahead of time.  Prepare the mac and cheese through step 10, just before baking.  Allow it to cool, cover it tightly, and store it in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To freeze: Make the entire dish but freeze before baking.  Allow it to cool completely in the 8×8 pan, cover it well with plastic wrap and tinfoil and store it in the freezer for 2-3 months.  Allow it to  thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake until warmed through and the cheese is bubbly on top.

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Recipe

A casserole dish of mac and cheese with bacon.
Prep 15 mins
Cook 40 mins
Total 55 mins
Add to Meal Plan

Video

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni (or other bite size pasta)
  • 6 slices Sugardale Hickory Smoked Bacons
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chicken bouillon paste , or bouillon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
  • 2 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Crumb topping:

  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tablespoon butter , melted
  • 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Cook pasta according to package instructions, just until al dente. Don’t overcook! Strain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 8x8 baking dish.
  • Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy, about 5-7 minutes. Remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Remove some, but not all of the grease from the pan.
  • Add 1 tablespoons butter to the pan and then whisk in flour. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and gradually whisk in milk. 
  • Add the cornstarch to the half and half and whisk until smooth. Gradually add it to skillet followed by mustard, chicken bullion, onion powder, garlic, powder, parsley, salt and pepper.
  • Cook sauce for a few more minutes, just until it begins to slightly thicken. Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheddar cheese. 
  • Crumble/chop the bacon and add most of it to the pan, reserving a little for topping later. Add cooked pasta and toss to evenly combine.
  • Pour mixture into 8x8’’ baking dish. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
  • Add panko, melted butter and olive oil to a skillet (or, I use the pan the pasta was cooked in, just to use less dishes). Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until crumbs are golden brown. 
  • Evenly sprinkle them over mac cheese. Add remaining bacon crumbles on top.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve warm.

Notes

Tips for Gourmet Mac and Cheese:
  • Avoid pre-shredded cheese: It’s really best to shred your own cheddar cheese, rather than using store bought pre-shredded cheese. Fresh shredded cheddar and parmesan cheese melt easier and tastes better.
  • Use High quality ingredients:  the better the ingredients, the better the end result! In particular, high quality bacon and cheese!  Great ingredients make all the difference in the end result truly being “gourmet”. 
To make ahead: You can make this recipe 1-2 days ahead of time.  Prepare the mac and cheese through step 10, just before baking.  Allow it to cool, cover it tightly, and store it in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  
To freeze: Make the entire dish but freeze before baking.  Allow it to cool completely in the 8x8 pan, cover it well with plastic wrap and tinfoil and store it in the freezer for 2-3 months.  Allow it to  thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake until warmed through and the cheese is bubbly on top.

Nutrition

Calories: 485kcalCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 23gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 57mgSodium: 633mgPotassium: 292mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 475IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 367mgIron: 1.2mg

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. 4 stars
    Just want to clarify some measurements: for 2 cups cheese how many ounces ungrated: Same for noodles, 1 1.2 cups?
    Thank you

    Sue Linquist

  2. Love! I didn’t have Half & Half so used part milk, part cream cheese. I also topped it with Gorgonzola cheese and diced tomato. This will definitely be a staple comfort food.

  3. 5 stars
    Mine came out yummy, and made an excellent side dish to the ribs I slow rolled on the grill for. four hours 🙂

  4. This is and excellent meal, I’m not a cook, tried it and now the family wants more!!

    Thanks

    I do have one question. if you wanted to make it ahead of time in the day and serve it that night. Can you and what would your recommendations be to do that?

    Thanks again

    1. Yes, but I would store the sauce and noodles separately until you’re ready to bake it, otherwise the noodles will soak up some of the sauce.

  5. 5 stars
    This has become a family favorite. We love the multiple flavors and textures. The time and effort are well worth the final results.

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