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Food & Recipes

Want a Crispier Mac and Cheese? Bake It In a Sheet Pan

Get a taste of crunchy, cheesy goodness in every bite.

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Let’s be honest: When mac and cheese is served at the Thanksgiving table, everyone sets their sights on a corner piece. That’s because it’s the best part: creamy, melty macaroni baked and piping hot beneath a crisp, slightly crunchy top layer with golden brown edges. It’s the perfect bite. Unfortunately, a standard baking dish doesn’t allow every guest to enjoy that perfect bit — because there are only so many corners in 9 x 13 inch rectangle. But there’s an alternative. Making your mac and cheese in a sheet pan reduces the dish’s depth and creates more surface volume, which yields an even, golden brown crust throughout. Keep reading to learn more.

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Why Use a Baking Sheet?

Baking this dish in a standard oven-safe pan limits the surface area for cheese to form a brown crust. Baking your mac and cheese in a sheet pan, however, makes every piece a crispy-edged piece. That’s thanks to the baking sheet’s wide, flat dimensions, which also allows the dish to cook quicker and more evenly. (To thoroughly clean and prepare your sheet pan for the big day, use this clever hack.) 

How To Make Sheet Pan Mac and Cheese

Ree Drummond’s sheet pan mac and cheese recipe goes from oven to table in just 20 minutes. She uses a variety of cheeses, including Parmesan and cheddar, to give the dish a sharp, tangy flavor. The recipe calls for garnishing the mac and cheese with basil, which adds a hint of anise and balances the richness of the cheese. Here’s Drummond’s twist on this beloved holiday staple:

Ingredients:

  • 2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
  • 1 cup cubed processed cheese, such as Velveeta 
  • 2 ½ cups grated cheddar
  • 2 ½ cups grated Gruyere
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard 
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce 
  • Kosher salt 
  • 1 pound macaroni, cooked according to package instructions 
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • Nonstick cooking spray, for the pan 
  • Fresh basil leaves, to garnish 

Directions:

  • Prep: 25 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins 
  • Total time: 45 mins
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place half-sheet pan in oven to heat.
  2. Place saucepan over medium heat and add evaporated milk, processed cheese, one cup cheddar, one cup Gruyere, dry mustard, hot sauce, and salt. Whisk until cheeses are melted and mixture is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cooked pasta to cheese sauce; stir to coat and combine.
  3. In small bowl, toss Parmesan with remaining 1 ½ cups cheddar and 1 ½ cups Gruyere.
  4. Remove sheet pan from oven and carefully spray with cooking spray. Pour mac and cheese from saucepan into sheet pan and spread evenly.
  5. Sprinkle cheese mixture evenly over top. Bake until cheese topping is fully melted and mixture is bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, garnish with basil, and serve.

A Final Word Before Cooking

Mac and cheese is, in my humble opinion, as essential to a Thanksgiving meal as the turkey (especially if you have picky kids in attendance!). So, go the extra mile to ensure your guests will want seconds (and thirds) of this cheesy side dish.

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