There are so many elements that make it extra bagel-y: cream cheese in the cheese sauce, which adds a delicious tang; chives, because chive cream cheese is the best cream cheese; just a tiny bit of barley malt syrup, a sweet sticky substance that's a key ingredient in making bagels taste bagel-y; and tons of everything bagel seasoning on top. It seems like a lot when you're making it, but it gets all crunchy in the oven and adds perfect texture.
Technique tip: Cook the pasta for a minute less than the package instructions to keep it a bit more al dente as it bakes.
Swap option: If you're feeling extra, sub out the panko breadcrumbs for bagel crumbs. And for bonus points, add hot dogs or veggie dogs and then it's bagel dog mac and cheese. I've included measurements below to make your own seasoning, but you can certainly use store-bought. If you use store-bought, sprinkle it on to taste because some of them are extreeeeemely salty.
- 8 ounces short pasta, such as rigatoni
- olive oil
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
- kosher salt
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2½ cups whole milk
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 4 ounces white cheddar or Gruyere or a mix of both, shredded
- 1 ounce shredded Parmesan
- 1½ teaspoon barley malt syrup (optional)
- crushed red pepper flakes
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped chives or scallions
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
- ketchup, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
2. Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box, cooking for one minute less than directed. Drain, toss with a drizzle of olive oil, and set aside.
3. In a large pot, melt 1/4 of the butter over medium high. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring until soft, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the milk and cook, whisking continuously, until thickened, and then repeat with another cup, and then the remaining 1/2 cup. Add the cheese and stir until melted, and then add the barley malt syrup (if using), a few pinches of crushed red pepper, a few turns of black pepper and salt, to taste. Stir in the pasta and chives. Transfer to an 8-inch baking dish or a dish that's a similar size.
4. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter. In a medium bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs and melted butter and then distribute it over the top of the mac and cheese. Combine the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried minced onion, dried minced garlic and salt in that same medium bowl and sprinkle it liberally over the top.
5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden-brown on top. Let cool slightly and then serve with ketchup.