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This rich and creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese is the perfect go-to crowd-pleaser, kid-winning, soul-warming recipe. You’ll have it whipped up in under an hour & ready for the ultimate cheesy dinner.
Quick go-to dinners that the whole family will enjoy are the way I roll most nights. If you can relate, be sure to check out this Homemade Hamburger Helper, my Cheesy Chicken Quesadillas, and this Chicken Spaghetti Casserole. You can whip them up in a jiffy, savings you all the headaches on those busy nights!
Easy Baked Mac & Cheese
We all love the convenience and deliciousness of the soul-warming noodles drenched in ooey-gooey melted cheese. But honestly, have you truly experienced the comfort of real macaroni and cheese? Let’s just say you can now skip the eye-catching boxes of noodles with the powder they call cheese at the store. While you’re at it, go ahead a toss out the mystery cheese they call Velveeta.
We are about to get down with some classic, creamy, ultra cheesy baked macaroni and cheese. This is the real deal, old school, what you would get a grandma’s house kind of recipe and it’s about to go down. Let’s get cheesy.
What you’ll need
- Macaroni Noodles: Your basic macaroni noodles will work great here. Or if you prefer whole wheat or a gluten-free option, that will also work.
- Butter: I like to use salted butter.
- Flour: Just your basic all-purpose flour is all you need.
- Milk: We’re not trying to go dairy-free here, so whole milk is great.
- Cheese: You can really use any combination of cheese you like or have on hand. But I have played around with different cheese blends A LOT and have settled on a combination of several cheeses for the BEST flavor and ultimate cheesiness! I used FIVE kinds of cheese: 4 ounces each of muenster, gruyere, sharp yellow cheddar, and white cheddar in this recipe, plus a couple of slices of provolone (Havarti works well too though) between the layers of pasta for the cheesiest mac and cheese ever! I also prefer to shred my own cheese as it melts much easier than the prepackaged shredded cheese.
- Seasoning: I use salt, pepper, onion powder, paprika, and creole seasoning to add just the right amount of seasoning to our mac and cheese.
How to Make
- Preheat oven & cook pasta. Go ahead and preheat your oven so it’s ready to go and then you’ll want to cook your pasta according to the directions on the package in salted, boiling water just until its al dente.
- Shred your cheese. Get all that cheese shredded up and set to the side. Freshly grated cheese makes such a huge difference!
- Make a roux for your cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter is completely melted, sprinkle the flour over the butter and whisk in to form a roux. Cook until it is bubbly and sort of resembles wet sand, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the milk. Slowly add the milk and whisk frequently until the sauce thickens up. This typically takes about 3-5 minutes.
- Add seasoning and cheese. Go ahead and add the seasoning to the milk mixture and then sprinkle 1/4 of the cheese over the sauce and whisk it in until melted. Add another 1/4 of the cheese and whisk again until the sauce is smooth.
- Add cheese sauce to pasta and stir until all the pasta is coated well with the cheese. You could eat the macaroni and cheese just like this if you like it super creamy and stovetop style. But I love to bake our mac and cheese for the ultimate in cheesiness and best texture.
- Add pasta to the baking dish. Add 1/2 of the macaroni and cheese to the baking dish. Layer your slices of cheese on top and then sprinkle with another 1/4 of the shredded cheese. Add the rest of the macaroni and cheese and then top with the remaining shredded cheese.
- Bake and enjoy! Bake your macaroni and cheese until all the cheese is melted and everything is hot.
Should you cover your mac and cheese when baking?
I like to bake mine uncovered so that it gets a nice “baked” texture. But if you are assembling ahead of time and then baking the mac and cheese when it is cold from the fridge, then I would recommend covering it with foil for at least the first 20 minutes.
What are the best cheeses for Mac and Cheese?
Some of my favorite cheeses to are muenster, gruyere, sharp yellow cheddar, white cheddar, provolone, and Havarti. But you really can’t go wrong with this so some other great options are jack cheese, colby jack, pepper jack, mozzarella, gouda, and parmesan. Just keep in mind that each cheese changes the flavor and texture a bit.
Can I use pre-shredded cheese?
I recommend staying away from pre-shredded cheese. It has additives mixed in that help prevent the cheese from sticking together which makes it harder to melt and prevents the smooth and creamy texture that you’re looking for in a homemade macaroni and cheese.
How do I store leftover baked mac & cheese?
Allow the macaroni and cheese to cool completely and then cover tightly. Store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. When you’re ready to dig back in stir in a little bit of milk and microwave until warm, stirring occasionally.
Can I freeze leftovers?
Dairy and the freezer don’t always mix well. It can be done, but it never turns out as good as the fresh version.
Can I make this recipe ahead of time?
Yes you can! Just follow the recipe directions but do not bake it yet. Let it cool down, place some plastic wrap on top, and store in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat it, bake it according to the recipe directions or until it is warmed all the way through.
This recipe also makes a great side dish! Check out these dishes below that will go great with Baked Macaroni and Cheese:
- Southern Fried Chicken
- Roast Beef Sliders
- My Best Roast Chicken
- Grilled Flank Steak with Mushrooms
- Juicy Idaho Finger Steaks
- Smash Burgers
My Best Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 pound macaroni noodles
- 1/2 cup salted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 16 ounces cheese I used 4 muenster, 4 gruyere 4-8 sharp yellow cheddar, 4 white cheddar, and a couple of slices of provolone and havarti that were leftover
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon creole seasoning
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni noodles and cook until al dente according to package directions. Drain well and return to the pot.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter is completely melted, sprinkle the flour over the butter and whisk in to form a roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes until bubbly.
- Gradually whisk in the milk, then continue to cook, whisking frequently until slightly thickened, around 3-5 minutes.
- Sprinkle 1/4 of the cheese over the sauce and whisk it in until melted. Repeat with another 1/4 of the cheese.
- Pour the sauce over the drained pasta and stir to coat.
- Add 1/2 of the macaroni and cheese sauce to a 9x13-inch pan. Arrange 4 slices of cheese on top and sprinkle with another 1/4 of the shredded cheese. Spread the remaining pasta and sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
- Bake for 10-20 minutes until cheese it melted on top and everything is hot throughout.