Try this classic mac and cheese recipe or check out our exciting mac and cheese twists here.

How to get the perfect crispy topping for mac and cheese

We think the perfect mac ‘n’ cheese is an oozy, saucy base with a lovely golden crisp top. There are a couple of tricks you can use to help you dish get the ultimate crispy crust. Scattering dried breadcrumbs on the top means they will just need some extra cooking to go golden and crunchy. If you don’t have dried breadcrumbs you can just whizz some day-old bread in a food processor, then spread out on a baking tray and dry them out in a medium oven. Bread with a drier crumb like sourdough or ciabatta is really good for this.

You can also flavour your breadcrumbs before scattering. Try tossing them with chopped dried herbs like rosemary or thyme, finely grated parmesan, dried chilli flakes or finely chopped garlic.

Which type of cheese do you use in mac and cheese?

The beauty of mac ‘n’ cheese is you can add almost any cheese you like to the base sauce. The most common cheeses to use are cheddar, gruyère and parmesan but blue cheese, mozzarella and smoked cheese all work well.

Cheddar is a good base cheese as it has a rounded flavour and melts well into a white sauce; gruyère adds nuttiness and complexity; parmesan is strong so a little goes a long way – it’s also great to sprinkle on top as it will add an extra crunch to the top.

Blue cheeses like Roquefort or stilton and smoked cheeses are both very strongly flavoured and can be quite overpowering so bear that in mind if using. Mozzarella gives a delightfully ‘stringy’ finish to a mac ‘n’ cheese but it doesn’t have much flavour on its own so you’ll need to add cheddar or parmesan as well.

Mac and cheese recipe


  • 175g macaroni
  • 1½ tbsp butter
  • 1½ tbsp flour
  • 250ml milk
  • 100g cheddar, grated
  • 100g parmesan, grated
  • 90g pack smoked ham, (ready shredded)
  • 2-3 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
  • smoked paprika
  • to serve green salad or green veg


  • STEP 1

    Cook the macaroni but leave it al dente, then drain. Meanwhile, melt the butter and stir in the flour, cook for 1 minute and then gradually stir in the milk.

  • STEP 2

    Bubble the sauce, stirring it for a couple of minutes to cook out the raw flavour of the flour. Season well and stir in both the cheeses and the ham. Add the macaroni and then tip the lot into an ovenproof dish, sprinkle on the breadcrumbs and dust with a good pinch of paprika. Grill the top for about 2 minutes, or until golden and crunchy.

  • STEP 3

    Serve with either a crisp green salad or some lightly steamed green veg.

Looking for the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe? Check out our favourite mac and cheese recipes here.

Mix and match mac 'n' cheese bar


Janine Ratcliffe Portrait
Janine RatcliffeFood director

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