This Baked Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese recipe is the ultimate rendition of the beloved cheesy casserole. Two kinds of cheese melt together in a spicy, creamy sauce. Meanwhile a kicked up crust of panko, crumbled blue cheese, garlic, and Buffalo sauce takes things up a notch. You'll never need another buffalo mac and cheese recipe after trying this one!
Bring a pot of water to boil. Add salt and the pasta, and cook until just shy of al dente, about half as long as the box suggests (it will continue cooking in the oven). Drain and set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat the hot sauce and 2 tablespoons butter, and swirl together to incorporate. Reserve ¼ cup of the buffalo sauce and set aside. Add the remaining sauce to the shredded chicken and mix well. Set aside until needed.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in the same pot used to boil the pasta. Add the flour to make a roux and whisk until it is nice and smooth. Cook for a couple minutes to cook out the raw flour flavor, but do not allow the roux to brown.
Add the hot milk a little at a time, whisking in between each addition, until all of it has been added. Cook, constantly whisking, about 7 to 10 more minutes on medium heat until thickened, allowing it to bubble and simmer, but not come up to a full boil. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and whisk in the shredded cheeses, a little at a time until completely combined.
Once the cheeses are all combined and melted, add the pasta and stir to coat. It will be very saucy. Fold in the celery and shredded buffalo chicken.
Pour the pasta mixture into a greased 3-quart shallow baking dish. Drizzle ½ of the reserved buffalo sauce over the top.
Add ½ cup of the panko to a small mixing bowl and add the garlic and blue cheese. Use your fingers to cut the blue cheese chunks into the panko as if you’re making biscuits, yielding a mixture of pea-sized blue cheese/panko chunks. Add the remaining buffalo sauce and combine. Crumble the mixture over the top of the casserole.
In the same small mixing bowl, add the remaining panko and olive oil and mix to combine. Distribute the panko mixture over the pasta. You now have a double crust of blue cheese-buffalo-panko crumbs, and regular panko crumbs.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until nice and bubbly, and golden brown. Allow the pasta to rest for about 10 to 15 minutes before serving, as it will be extremely hot and also need a few minutes to set.
If using bottled Buffalo sauce in place of hot sauce, use ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the prepared Buffalo sauce and skip the first part of step 2 (mixing with melted butter). Reserve ¼ cup of the Buffalo sauce for the topping, and toss the remaining sauce with the shredded chicken.
To freeze: cool completely, then wrap the baking dish tightly with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil.
To bake frozen mac and cheese: thaw overnight in the refrigerator (or don't), cover it tightly with foil (if it isn't already--remove the plastic wrap if it's still in there) and bake it at 350°F until bubbly and heated through. The amount of time this takes is really dependent on the size of your baking dish. It should take 45 minutes to an hour if you thawed it or longer if it's still somewhat frozen. The internal temperature should be 165°F. Uncover and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes to brown the crust.