One-Pot Manchego Mac and Cheese with Pimentón Breadcrumbs

A smoky Spanish take on the comfort food classic.

  • Serves


  • Cook

    28 minutes

Benjamin Kemper

By Benjamin Kemper

Published on February 8, 2023

Welcome to One Pot Bangers, Benjamin Kemper’s weeknight cooking column, where you’ll find our freshest, boldest ideas that require just one pot, skillet, or sheet pan. Busy week? We’ve got you covered with these low-effort, high-reward recipes from around the globe.

Some of my biggest culinary wins are a product of the drunchies—you know, the drunk munchies. That’s how this one-pot manchego mac and cheese recipe was born: I'd just gotten home from the club and had a hankering for a big bowl of mac. But making béchamel was a nonstarter—I needed sustenance, now. So I fried a handful of breadcrumbs, adding Spanish pimentón for color and heat. Then I cooked a box of pasta straight in the milk, stirring it like a risotto and letting no creaminess go to waste. Finally, in went the contents of my cheese drawer, grated white American and manchego. I wolfed down every last smoky, gooey spoonful, convinced I’d created the best Iberian-American mashup ever. Maybe that was the drunchies talking—or maybe a pinch of pimentón really is the secret to great mac. Try this recipe, and you be the judge.


  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón), divided
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 4 cups whole milk, plus more as needed
  • 1 lb. dried fusilli pasta, or other pasta with grooves
  • 2½ cups grated block white American cheese (10 oz.), such as Land O’Lakes
  • 2½ cups grated manchego cheese (10 oz.)
  • 1½ tsp. mustard powder, or 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • Finely chopped parsley leaves, for garnish


Step 1

In a large pot set over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant (do not brown), 1–2 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the paprika and cook for 30 seconds, then add the panko and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden, 4–6 minutes. Scrape into a bowl and set aside. 

Step 2

To the empty pot, add the milk and 2½ cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring every 2 minutes, until the pasta is soft (do not undercook), 12–14 minutes. Add the American cheese, manchego, mustard powder, and remaining paprika and butter and stir until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute. If the pasta looks dry, add more milk 2 tablespoons at a time until creamy to your liking. Season with salt to taste, then top with the panko and parsley and serve.  

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