The key to super delicious macaroni and cheese is to make a custom cheese blend; in this case, smoked Gouda and salty Pecorino cheese are added to the Cheddar. This macaroni and cheese also gets extra flavor from the addition of fragrant rosemary and thyme.
You can make this macaroni and cheese in advance; after you combine the cheese sauce and baked pasta, pour it into the baking dish, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. When you’re ready to eat the macaroni and cheese, bake in a 350 degree oven until warm and bubbling (though it will take more than 20–25 minutes) then top as directed above.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large sauce pot. Add the flour and whisk until a paste forms. Continue whisking and cooking the paste for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add ½ cup of the warm milk, whisking constantly. When the milk is fully incorporated add another ½ cup whisking constantly again. When the milk is incorporated for a second time, slowly pour the remaining milk into the roux, whisking constantly so that no lumps form. Add the spices and salt. Cook the béchamel sauce 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly add the cream, whisking constantly.
Remove the sauce from the heat and add the cheeses. Stir until fully incorporated. Taste the cheese sauce and add more salt, if desired.
Add the cheese sauce to the cooked pasta and stir until the noodles are evenly coated. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a 9 x 13-inch oven-safe baking dish, cover it with foil, and heat it in the oven until the cheese is warm and bubbling, about 20 to 25 minutes. Then, take the macaroni and cheese out of the oven and remove the foil from the dish.
Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and add it to the Panko bread crumbs. Mix until fully combined. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the macaroni and cheese and put the dish back in the oven just until the breadcrumbs are browned.