If you don’t like macaroni and cheese, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we can be friends anymore. Just kidding. But honestly, have you ever known such a person?

After a long week of battling deadlines and rush hour traffic, there’s nothing more comforting than a bowl of macaroni and cheese. It’s a great side dish, but it’s an even better main dish. It pairs well with fried chicken, meatloaf or pork chops but you also can’t go wrong with a standalone heaping, cheesy pile of the little elbow shaped pasta.

I believe my Louisiana-bred mother has perfected this fine entrée by adding a touch of ground dry mustard. Top with Japanese panko breadcrumbs and you’ll have a crispy finish to your dish. So, whenever you’re feeling a little down, stressed out and over life, whip up this concoction and let the melted cheese soothe the pain away.

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2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces extra sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
1/2 (16-oz.) package elbow macaroni, cooked
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (for topping)

Step 1:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Microwave milk at high for 1 1/2 minutes. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.

Step 2:
Gradually whisk in warm milk and cook, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes or until thickened.

Step 3:
Whisk in mustard, salt, black pepper, 10 ounces shredded cheese, and if desired, red pepper until smooth; stir in pasta. Spoon pasta mixture into a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish; top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly.