French Onion Mac & Cheese

It’s fun to create variations on my family’s favorite dishes. Homemade mac & cheese is easy to make, and there are endless ways to change up the recipe.

For this recipe, it’s worth spending the time to caramelize onions! They only need occasional stirring as they cook, so plan to get some other work done in the kitchen as the onions brown to perfection. I used small pasta shells in this recipe, but you can use your favorite pasta shape: choose something that will catch the sauce and onions.

French Onion Mac & Cheese

Makes 6 servings

Caramelized onions:

2 large sweet onions, sliced
2 tbsp light olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, or to taste

Cheese sauce:

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp light olive oil
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
4 oz Cheddar Jack cheese, shredded (1 cup)
4 oz Swiss cheese, shredded (1 cup)
2 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Other ingredients:

1/2 lb. pasta, cooked and drained according to package directions
1/4 cup panko


Caramelize the onions: Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil; when it begins to shimmer, add sliced onions and stir well. Allow to cook without stirring about 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium. Add seasonings and continue to cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the onions are golden brown. This will take about 25 minutes. Remove the onions to a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Prepare the cheese sauce: Melt oil and butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly add the milk, stirring to combine after each addition, until the full cup of milk has been added. Stir well until the mixture thickens. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese until it is melted completely and the sauce is creamy. Add onions and apple cider vinegar. Stir, then add the cooked pasta. Remove from heat and stir until combined.

Butter a 2-quart baking dish. Spoon the macaroni and cheese into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle panko over the top.

Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking another 15 minutes.

If baking a premade refrigerated casserole, bake 30 minutes covered, then 15 minutes uncovered.

This recipe can be doubled and baked in a 13×9 baking dish. Add about 10 minutes to bake time for the larger quantity.

Photos and recipe copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz for Cook and Count. All rights reserved.

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