Though formally English in origin, macaroni and cheese is a favorite culinary staple of the Deep South. And while the rest of the western world likely treasures it almost as much, mac 'n' cheese holds a special place in the hearts of American Southerners due to its nostalgic family value-after all, a large baked mac 'n' cheese is almost always present at social family gatherings and holiday tables below the Mason-Dixon line. As I grew up in a kosher home, mac 'n' cheese was never a dish served at our holiday tables, as such meals always consisted of meat foods. But it was a favorite weeknight dinner when I was a kid. Every family has their favorite recipe. This extra-cheesy mac 'n' cheese is my family's favorite and the ultimate in dairy winter comfort food. Enjoy, y'all.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 3 quart(9x13-inch) baking dish. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add pasta and cook for 1-2 minutes less than package directions for al dente doneness. Drain and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil to keep from sticking.
While the water is coming up to a boil/ macaroni is cooking, mix together the cheeses. Set aside. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly. While continuously whisking, slowly add the milk, and whisk until smooth. Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking often, until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper and 3 cups of the shredded cheese, stirring to melt and combine. In a large mixing bowl, combine drained pasta with cheese sauce, stirring to combine fully. Pour half of the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with 1 1/2 cups of grated cheese, then top with remaining pasta mixture. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and panko crumbs. Dot with 1 -2 tablespoons of butter. Bake for 15-25 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and top is a light golden-brown.