Clearly, I have a thing for mac and cheese.  Really though, who doesn’t?  I’ve been having so much delicious fun trying all sorts of flavor variations and they have all been great, but Ben and I both agreed this one is the best we’ve tried yet and that’s saying a lot.  (I’m starting to wonder if this is a “love the one you’re with” mentality – it’s tough not to think that way while you’re eating mac and cheese.)  But really, this was outstanding.  It actually really surprised me because this recipe is far simpler than most mac and cheese recipes I have tried.  With very few ingredients and no roux or bechamel sauce required, this is most definitely the most low maintenance mac and cheese I’ve made.  Normally I like to use multiple cheeses and I wondered if this would be too one-dimensional, but not at all.  The Fontina was perfect and the sauce was so creamy.  I’m drooling just thinking about it now.  Must.make.more.

Other mac and cheese variations I’ve tried recently:
Shrimp and Feta Mac and Cheese
Mushroom Herb Mac and Cheese
Spicy Mac and Cheese


1 lb. small or medium pasta shells
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. Fontina cheese, shredded
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  • 01

    Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions just until 1-2 minutes shy of al dente.

  • 02

    Meanwhile, dice 4 tablespoons of the butter and place in a large mixing bowl.  Warm the cream in a small saucepan or the microwave.  Cover to keep warm.

  • 03

    Once the pasta is cooked, add to the bowl with the butter and toss to coat well.  Stir in the warm cream and the Fontina until the cheese starts to melt.  Mix in salt to taste, and add the nutmeg.

  • 04

    Pour the mixture into a buttered 2-quart casserole dish.  In a small bowl, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.  Mix in the panko breadcrumbs and shredded Parmesan.  Toss with a fork to coat evenly with the butter.  Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the pasta in the baking dish.

  • 05

    Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Serve immediately.


  • it`s so delicious!

  • mmm I love this too! In fact, I just remembered that I have a pan in my freezer that’s calling my name…

  • My, my, my. It looks so incredibly creamy and delicious, and I’m sure the panko breadcrumbs just round it out perfectly. Can’t wait to try this one!

  • Im not a big mac-n-cheese fan….but this I think I would like!!

  • Wow, that looks amazing! Shell pasta is so decorative. I love mac ‘n cheese, but you’re right, who doesn’t? lol :)


  • Catherine O.

    Yum! This sounds heavenly! I will definitely try to make this soon! :)

  • I have a mac & cheese problem too! Just so good. I will have to try this recipe, thanks!

  • This looks so creamy and good, almost like an alfredoey macaroni!! Love your use of shells instead of regular macaroni!!

  • Oh my, I LOVE fontina! I have to try this ASAP.

  • Haejin

    Gosh, this looks so good. I’m a huge fan of fontina and must try this recipe this week. Thanks for sharing! I love visiting your blog!

  • bking

    Oh my…!!! This looks amazing! I have everything but the fontina…and I must make this today. I have some blocks of white cheddar–do you think that would work instead of the fontina? If not, I am going to the store–pronto! Love your site!

  • Annie

    I don’t think white cheddar would be the best substitute because it has very different melting properties than fontina. I’d recommend getting the fontina!

  • Yummm… This looks excellent, Annie! My husband is a forever lover of the boxed variety, but I’ve been slowly turning him on to gourmet mac n’ cheese. This one will be my next project!

  • Mia

    I am trying to keep myself from leaving for the store right now. This mac and cheese looks DIVINE! Annie, if you ever wanted to write a cookbook, it would need to be compromised of mac and cheese recipes as well as cupcake recipes. Thanks for the recipes girl, YOU ROCK!

  • Wow, you are so right. That looks so amazing, but when I read the ingredients, it sounds so simple! Mac and cheese is just the best! I can’t wait to try this. Fontina is definitely a cheese I love and don’t eat nearly enough of.

  • That mac & cheese looks SO amazing!!! Thanks!

  • it’s a very happy place to be…right above a bowl of something this creamy & delicious looking!

  • I’ve been in the mood for mac and cheese for weeks now, this might just be my fix! It looks beautiful, and so simple!

  • Emi

    Looks delicious! Did you serve it just on it’s own, or did you include some sort of protein (chicken on the side, etc). I am going to try this for a dinner party, but don’t want it to be too heavy and one note of a meal…ideas?? Thanks lady!

  • This pasta looks amazing. I love your choice of pasta noodles and cheese.

  • Annie

    Hi Emi,
    Since I only made this for our family, we had it with salads (we are fine with veggie meals). If I were serving it to guests, I would probably use it as a side with some protein to round out the meal, but I don’t think anyone would complain about a big bowl of this stuff either :)

  • Creamy and cheesy! I have to make some mac and cheese too!

  • Emi

    I certainly wouldn’t complain :) Thanks for the ideas- I’ll let you know how it goes!

  • OMG Annie – I saw this on my google reader this morning, and I didn’t have anything planned yet for dinner tonight so I made this. It is so easy – and amazingly yummy and addictive. WOW!

  • Another terrific looking mac and cheese. I really like the use of panko bread crumbs in this recipe.

  • This looks delicious!

  • I completely agree with you! Everyone has a thing for mac-and-cheese. Definitely one of the best go-to recipes, and the kids love it. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I actually just made baked mac-and-cheese a couple nights ago. My family DEVOURED it! I think they’d devours yours too! Here’s the recipe if you’re curious:

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Shanna

    Interesting mix. I’m going to have to try this out. My brothers love mac and cheese, so it may be a new favorite. Thanks!

  • Annie

    If you are looking for a basic baked mac and cheese, I did a comparison of six different recipes a while back. Personally, I wouldn’t make the one you did because I don’t use condensed soups. I prefer to make things from scratch.

  • I will definitely check out your comparison! I used that recipe because I didn’t have much time. Thanks!!


  • Demi

    Made this last night for the hubby and I….delicious!!! And sooo easy! Definitely will be making this again.

  • waldorfmodern

    We tried this last night, it was a great, easy recipe. The parmesan and panko mix worked well, and I’d never tried fontina before. Made the mistake of putting it in a too-shallow dish, and it got a little dry. Otherwise, a winner. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Sam

    Annie – as per usual, this looks excellent! I enjoy your postings and have loved each of the recipes I’ve tried based on your beautiful photos and descriptions. Keep up the great work!

  • Ellen

    Oooh, I think I’ll be trying this next time I make mac & cheese! I made the mushroom & herb recipe a few weeks ago, and it was delicious. :)

  • I made this today and it was delicious! Thank you for the recipe.

  • bking

    I’ve made this 3 times since you posted it. The fontina is key, it just wouldn’t work with another kind of cheese. It is so, so very good and I love how easy it is to make. My summer clothes are tighter…and I blame you…you and your blasted recipes!! JK I love your site. Thanks for posting your recipes, everything is amazing. I’m making the oreo cupcakes today.

  • Noel

    How do you think this recipe would taste with cremini mushrooms?

  • Annie

    Personally, I think the simplicity of this dish with no extras is one of the best things about it. That’s just my feeling though, experiment if you like.

  • Staci

    i LOVE this recipe! I had never had fontina cheese before but your recipes haven’t steered me wrong yet so I gave it a try last night. MAN OH MAN was I pleasantly surprised! It was so creamy and a little nutty! My boys (my husband and 2 year old) really loved it! I’ll definitely be making it again! Thank you soooo much for this recipe!

  • Michelle

    Great recipe! Paired this last night with the spinach and mushroom pizza you have a recipe for on your site, and it was delicious.
    I added panfried pancetta, and sweet peas to the mix and was not disappointed. The panko bread crumbs makes the most delicious crust on top after baking!

  • Jennifer

    This is the best Mac and cheese I’ve had. And so easy to make. My boyfriend told me it is his new favorite dish. I mixed in a little goat cheese and bleu cheese to make it interesting. Thank you!

  • jeff

    this is the wife’s favorite. it rocks!

    some idea’s
    add prosciutto / pancetta and peas.

  • Ashley

    Everyone says this is the best mac & cheese they have ever had! The cheese’s flavor is like a mix of mozerella, swiss, parmesan and cheddar! I LOVE IT!

  • Nancy

    Tonight I am making this for the third time, just as the recipe is written, because it is perfect. It was my first attempt at homemade macaroni and cheese, and this recipe is the best, and so easy too! The second time I made it was for my husband’s birthday dinner and I added some pancetta just for a twist, and he absolutely loved it. Thanks for these awesome recipes and ideas. :)

  • Enaj

    Mmm, this looks so delicious! I’m making this tonight, and I need some advice; I don’t have any panko breadcrumbs on hand (just seasoned bread crumbs). Will using seasoned breadcrumbs be okay, or am I better off just leaving out the breadcrumbs entirely? Thanks for this blog – it’s a life saver :)

  • Annie

    Personally I would just skip the topping. After discovering panko, I now hate all regular types of breadcrumbs and they just don’t seem to add much texture-wise.

  • Enaj

    Thanks, Annie! I went with your suggestion and left off the topping, and it came out beautifully! My boyfriend really loved it (and he’s usually strictly a stove top mac&cheese kind of guy). I’m excited to try this again when I have the panko crumbs. Thanks again! :)

  • Dori

    I just made this tonight and WOW, this is the best mac and cheese I’ve ever made! Thanks for introducing me to the recipe! I absolutely love your blog.

  • Misha

    You have never steered me wrong! I am going to give this one a try. Our daughter is due next week and I want to stock up my fridge/freezer. BTW my husband loves the ham and cheese sliders. We have it once a week. (Oh, I love them, too!)

  • Annie

    Misha, I don’t think this would be a good one to freeze or use for stocking up on. But, it takes 5 minutes to prep so it will be a quick meal to prepare when you need it. Congrats and good luck!

  • Misha

    Thank you for the well wishes and the advice!

  • sherin

    Hi Annie,

    Do you think adding truffle oil to this recipe would complement it or ruin it? Assuming one likes truffle, of course. Thanks!

  • Annie

    I love truffle oil but have never cooked with it myself. I think this dish is perfect as is though, so I guess my answer would be try it once without, then once with, and then you can decide!

  • Abi

    I was wondering if you could freeze this and bake later? I am looking for recipes to freeze before having a baby. Thanks! I can’t wait to make this. We are a mac and cheese loving family.

  • Annie

    No, I don’t think this would freeze well unfortunately. Many dishes will but this isn’t one of them.

  • Monica

    This recipe is amazing! We can’t stop making it!

  • Diane

    Annie, I just love your recipes. I make so many of them!
    Quick question. Is your Fontina the Danish or the Italian? I’m hoping it is the Danish because that’s much easier for me to find where I live, and it’s *a lot* cheaper too. But with all the raves for this, if you’re using the Italian, then I’ll have to search it out.

    Thanks again :)

  • Annie

    I wasn’t aware there were two different types. At my store it’s just labelled fontina. Though, I’m fairly certain there is an Italian flag on the label of the one I buy.

  • Leslie

    Hi Annie! First, love your site! I made your peppermint brownies over the holidays and they were awesome! Although, now that the holidays are over it’s back to carrots and water. :) J/k. But, I do want to know if you would recommend wheat pasta with this dish, would it change the taste too much?

  • Annie

    That’s really a matter of personal preference. I don’t really like whole wheat pasta so I wouldn’t recommend it, but obviously if you like whole wheat pasta, you might enjoy it.

  • Mary Ruth

    I made this last night. So easy and so yummy! Thanks again and can’t wait to see what you post this week in yummy desserts!

  • Megan Teare

    I just want to say thank you!!!! I am NOT a cook at all but I have been trying to get into cooking for my family. Tonight we had my parents and brother over for dinner and made this. Everyone loved it and my mom even asked if I would send her the recipe. I sent her the link to your blog. THANK YOU!

  • Sarah Crosby

    This was a great mac-n-cheese recipe! Made it a few nights ago and both the hubs and I liked it! I did use whole wheat pasta and it was great, so Leslie up there, if you use whole wheat pasta, I say go for it in this recipe! It *sorta* had an alfredo taste to it, so the hubs recommended next time to add chicken or mushrooms! I agree!

  • Erica

    Hi Annie I have a question. Somebody may have asked already, but I didn’t see it. My grocery store has several different types of fontina cheese. Does it matter where it is from? I LOVE Mac and cheese especially with panko on top! I’m very excited to try this new recipe. Thanks:-)

  • Annie

    Someone did ask that recently, though it may have been via email. I was not aware that there were multiple kinds of Fontina. At my store, I always buy the one I see that has the Italian flag on it, and since this recipe comes from an Italian cookbook, that would be my best guess. But I don’t really know what the difference is so I’m not sure if it really matters.

  • Liz

    I made this a few weeks ago. I actually preferred it from the pot before baking it and will make it again that way soon. The fontina is WONDERFUL!

  • Heather

    I’ve read many of your responses so I know the answer to this may just may be, I’m not a food scientist… however, I was wondering since it’s just cream, cheese and butter does it have to be baked, it there some major chemical change occurring while in the oven? I was thinking about next time, just putting it under the broiler for a few minutes to toast the bread crumbs, bad idea? Thanks.

  • Annie

    Does it have to be baked to be safe to eat? No. Will it taste as good if not baked? In my opinion, no, but you can try it however you like!

  • Heather

    No, I know butter, cream and cheese are safe to eat, it was more what is actually happening to the cheese, butter, cream mixture in the oven. Is it chemically changing to thicken the sauce, etc. The only reason I ask is because the sauce was creamy and wonderful before going in the oven and came out separated and buttery. Perhaps the cream was too hot when I mixed everything together, or perhaps the starch in my pasta didn’t agree with the sauce. I will try new pasta and lower the temp on the cream and hopefully the sauce stays creamy and together next time because it really was tasty. Thanks for the quick response!

  • Brennen

    I’ve loved reading your blog! I am planning to try out a few of your recipes this week! I recently moved to Indy from Chicago, and have had trouble finding a decent grocery store here. I was shocked when I went to Marsh to get dried cranberries, and they said they didn’t carry them! Do you have a recommendation for a good grocery store in Indy?

  • Annie

    I guarantee Marsh carries them. The problem is just that employees are so unknowledgeable about what they stock. I would look near raisins – but instead find craisins. Believe me, if Kroger has them, everyone does because Kroger is the worst stocked of all in my opinion. I personally have been really happy with Meijer. They have almost all the ingredients I need even some unusual ones, and a good selection of organic which is important to me.

  • Brennen Humphrey

    I completely agree about Kroger! I’ve been really disappointed in Kroger’s stock and their produce. I’ll have to check out Meijer! I went to Fresh Market tonight to get all the ingredients for the Fontina Mac and Cheese tonight. It was delicious and really simple! Thanks for the recipe and the shopping tips! :)

  • Heather

    Yes, definitely one of those was the problem. I don’t know which because I got a high quality pasta (rather than the multi grain I used before) and I made sure the cream didn’t boil. No separation this time, yay! Thanks, as always, for sharing!

  • I made this for Mother’s Day and everyone loved it. I used Brie instead of Fontina because I could not for the life of me find it in the stores. But then I ran out of Brie so I supplemented it with cheddar. In the end I had three different cheeses but a very delicious side dish.

  • Melissa

    I am super excited to try this tonight! Fontina is extremely hard to find where i live, and extremely expensive, but i found it and bought it and cannot wait to try this!

  • Melissa

    For those wondering if it should be danish or italian fontina used, i did look further into it as my stores only carry danish, and two are interchangeable.

  • Andy

    I loved this recipe! The instant I saw it, I made it right away! I’m very happy that Fontina is a cheese that I could easily aquire, and the easy nature of cooking it blew my mind. I gotta say, though, I used sweet corbread crumbs as the topping, but I followed everything else to a T and made everyone’s taste buds go crazy! Thanks Annie!

  • Lisa

    Made this today. It seemed rich and creamy. After I baked it, it was a bit dry and seemed like too much panko topping. May try again, less bake time? Or possible no baking. Thanks for sharing. I will try anger time or 2 to get it right. :)

  • Badgersdrift

    This is EXCELLENT! First of the MANY recipes I’ve tried that’s totally pleased me, and by far the simplest and most economical! Why anyone would spend about the same amt. of time fixing the boxed stuff I cannot fathom. And unlike most others I’ve made, it’s still creamy when it’s rewarmed the next day! Followed the recipe almost exactly: used small shells, undiluted evap. milk (NOT the fat-free) instead of heavy cream, my wedge of Fontina was just 7 oz. so I added about 2 oz. of extra-sharp white cheddar, a pinch of cayenne along w/the nutmeg. Just lovely! Thank you!!! I threw my 3-4 other M&C recipe cards in the trash.

  • Kathy Plantz

    This mac and cheese is delicious!!! You’ll love it!