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

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.

Video

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. I love adding bacon to omelets! It adds a nice salty taste to the eggs, cheese, and veggies.

  2. This looks amazing! I have been searching for a great baked mac n’ cheese recipe! Thanks for sharing!

  3. You mean, besides everything?!! lol I love adding bacon to my cheeseburgers 🙂 It showcases the bacon well! 🙂

  4. WE add bacon to a lot of foods …eggs, sandwiches, salads , bake beans and a lot of our casserole dishes <just a few, we love bacon

  5. I would love bacon in just about anything. I do enjoy it on egg sandwiches. 🙂
    westiemks5 at yahoo dot com

  6. The ingredients list “1 1/2 teaspoons chicken bouillon” but this is not in the recipe instructions…?

  7. I love to add bacon to my quiche recipes!
    Thanks for the chance to win!
    wildorchid985 at gmail dot com

  8. Twice baked potatoes with bacon crumbled on top, Cobb salad with bacon crumbled in and sandwiches.

  9. I tried a breakfast casserole for the family the other day, added the cheese on top and sprinkled with bacon. It turned out amazing, the whole family really liked it.

  10. I always use bacon to flavor my green beans. They just wouldn’t be the same without it! I also use bacon in potato salad, baked beans, country gravy, most any casserole I bake and even in my deviled eggs…so yummy!!

  11. My favorite dish to add bacon to is my homemade meatloaf recipe, or I love adding bacon pieces in my sauteed green beans!

  12. Im always looking for a new Mac and cheese Recipe. This sounds amazing and I love Bacon and love it in almost everything.

  13. I know people will think I’m crazy but one of my favorite meals is liver with onions and bacon. Cook the bacon first and then the onions in the bacon grease. I usually make at least one onion per slice of liver. We love our onions cooked in bacon fat. Then flour and season the liver and cook it in the bacon grease. So delicious.

  14. I think you nailed it. Mac and Cheese with some bacon bits sounds great. I also like to liven up salads with bits.

  15. We add chopped bacon to our chicken alfredo, omelets, salads, cheesy ranch potatoes. Lol everything is better with bacon.

  16. 5 stars
    Made this mac and cheese as part of our dinner on Sunday. HUGE HIT. Best homemade mac and cheese I’ve tried.

  17. 5 stars
    This is a recipe that can be devoured any time of the year and tastes soooo good I add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a teaspoon of crushed garlic and all I can say is wow.

    1. I agree–it’s we enjoy it as a side or main dish any time of year! I love your additions of tomatoes and crushed garlic. Yum! Thanks for commenting

    1. Hello in New Zealand! Half and half just means half heavy cream and half milk. Hope you enjoy the mac and cheese 🙂

  18. 5 stars
    Oh my gosh!, This is the best Mac & Cheese I have ever eaten! I made it to see how it would turn out because I volunteered to bring Mac & cheese to an office birthday party. It will be a hit, for sure! We will eat this one and I’ll make another on Sunday to take on Monday. Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe. ??

  19. 5 stars
    I made this for dinner last night. My daughter in law told me it was the best macaroni and cheese she’d ever had. My son told me that he usually is bored with mac and cheese after the second bite. He gave it rave reviews. This morning asked if he could have some of the leftover for breakfast. Thank you. Definitely five star rated!

  20. 5 stars
    Great recipe! We loved it. My daughter in law said it was the best she’d ever had. Son told me he’s usually bored with mac and cheese after the second bite. He asked this morning if he could have some leftover for breakfast. Thanks for this keeper.

    1. Hi Vitoria, the noodles will soak up the sauce, so I would suggest making the sauce and cooking the noodles and storing them separately. Then throw everything together the day of 🙂 Enjoy!

  21. 5 stars
    Made this for an office Christmas party. Doubled everything so it would feed a small army. Even so, it was gone in 10 minutes and received rave reviews. Took me a little longer to prepare than quoted, but it was my first go around with this recipe. I also put it under a broiler for five minutes to really put some color on the breading.

  22. 5 stars
    I made this yesterday for Thanksgiving Dinner. I prepared the sauce the night before and so glad I read the reviews first and the author’s response to not combine sauce to noodles till right before baking. I made that mistake the year before with Alton Brown’s recipe and was treated to super dry Mac and cheese. This year it was just what I wanted. Nice and creamy inside with that nice crisp of panko bread topping and Parmesan cheese “crust”. I followed the recipe, for the cheese I used 8 oz of Gouda and 16oz of Sharp cheddar. It was a nice contrast. I will definitely use this again (playing with cheese opinions- so many possibilities). Thanks so much for the great, easy instructions. The video was super great and made it so simple to follow along! Nice job, your site is a keeper!

  23. Do you think this recipe will be good as a take and bake meal? Stick it in the fridge for a day and then make it? If not, how about doubling the sauce, then do you think it would work.

    Thanks! This looks delicious!

    1. Sure! I would cook the noodles just barely until al-dente, or even undercook them for a minute. I think doubling or 1.5 the sauce is a good idea.

  24. 5 stars
    My seven year old twin granddaughters love this and have renamed it Nanna’s Mac n Cheese!
    Serve it with a salad for their parents.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 5 stars
    Mine came out yummy, and made an excellent side dish to the ribs I slow rolled on the grill for. four hours 🙂

  28. 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.

  29. 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