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This homemade Baked Mac and Cheese recipe is easy to make and simply the best! The sauce is creamy, velvety and packed with cheesy goodness.
Do you love all kinds of Mac and Cheese? Me too! This Instant Pot Velveeta Mac and Cheese and this Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese are two of my other favorite Mac and Cheese recipes.
Best Homemade Mac and Cheese
Do you sometimes struggle to find a meal that all your guests will enjoy, young or old? Me too. Adults seem pretty easy to please for the most part but kids can be tricky.
I know there are some young picky eaters in my extended family so when I am deciding on what to bring to a family event, such as Thanksgiving, I put a lot of thought into it. I truly want young and old to enjoy it. It brings me joy to see others enjoying what I have created. That’s why this baked mac and cheese recipe is simply the best! It solves all my problems and will be your solution too.
When I take a bite of this homemade baked mac and cheese it’s as if I’ve wrapped myself in my favorite sweater and I’m sitting by the fireplace reading a good book. Mac and cheese is the definition of comfort food, and when it is baked it pushes it over the top.
Everyone can remember eating the boxed variety as a kid and heck most kids love it now. While the boxed variety is simple to make, the taste does not even compare. Make this recipe, you’ll understand. 🙂
It’s like they’re not even in the same food group. Make this baked mac and cheese recipe, you’ll understand and you’ll discover it’s actually pretty easy to make. So there you have it, folks, problem solved! A recipe you can serve for any occasion, for any person, because all will love it anytime.
Common Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe Questions Answered:
How do you make the best homemade mac and cheese?
It’s quite easy to make. First, cook the pasta as per the package instructions. Then, make the cheesy béchamel sauce. Next, Combine the pasta and cheese sauce and put the mixture into a baking dish. Then, top with a breadcrumb and butter mixture. Finally, bake until nice and bubbly.
What cheese is best for macaroni?
For me, it’s important that the mac and cheese stay flavorful and doesn’t become one-note. The cheese flavor really needs to come through. When you take a bite you should taste cheese and not flour or worst yet—nothing!
That’s why I like to use both extra sharp cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese. The two complement each other nicely and their flavors don’t get lost in this baked dish.
How do you make baked mac and cheese creamy?
It all starts with a velvety béchamel sauce that gets 1.25 pounds of cheese stirred into it. Additionally, It’s important that the cheese sauce isn’t too thick because once it coats the macaroni and goes into the oven to bake, it will only thicken and that does not make for a creamy mac and cheese.
How to take this Mac and Cheese recipe from Side Dish to Main Dish:
It’s pretty easy to turn this baked macaroni and cheese recipe into a main dish. All you need to do is add some protein, veggies, or both!
Favorite Baked Mac and Cheese add-ins:
- shredded rotisserie chicken
- diced turkey
- steamed lobster
- sliced kielbasa
- sliced smoked sausage
- steamed broccoli and crumbled bacon
- kale or broccoli rabe
- roasted garlic
- sautéed mushrooms
- caramelized onions or shallots
- cream cheese and jalapeño
- more cheese: no more than a grated 1/2 cup of the following: fontina, Gruyere, crumbled blue cheese, or chèvre.
Cook’s Note – Baked Mac and Cheese:
- Don’t be tempted to crank up the heat when making the mac and cheese sauce. High temperatures will cause the cheese to become grainy and the sauce to break.
- Also, don’t overcook the casserole while it’s in the oven. This will dry it out and the final dish will not be as creamy.
Disclosure: This post for Baked Mac and Cheese recipe includes affiliate links. See the rest of Food Folks and Fun’s disclosure policy here.
- 9×13-inch baking dish
- pasta pot
- mixing bowl
- wire rack
What goes well with baked mac and cheese?
- Slow Cooker Baked Beans
- Skillet Green Beans
- Dr. Pepper Baked Chicken Wings
- Simple Turkey Brine & Oven-roasted Turkey
- Bacon & Apple Stuffing
- Mashed Potatoes
- Harvest Salad
- Crescent Rolls
- Cranberry Sauce
- Roasted Butternut Squash
- Cheesy Broccoli and Cauliflower Casserole
- Slow Cooker Honey Baked Ham
Baked Mac and Cheese
FOR THE MAC AND CHEESE
- 16 oz dry elbow macaroni
- 6 Tablespoons butter
- 6 Tablespoons flour
- 3 ¾ cups whole milk
- 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
- ¾ teaspoon dry mustard powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 16 ounces (4 cups) extra sharp cheddar, grated
- 4 ounces (1 cup) Parmesan cheese grated
FOR THE BREADCRUMB TOPPING:
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 4 ounces (1 cup) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- pinch ground black pepper
MAKE MACARONI AND CHEESE SAUCE:
- Move oven rack to middle position and preheat to 425 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9x13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.
- Salt the cooking water, and cook the elbow pasta as per package directions to al dente, DO NOT overcook the pasta. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and stir constantly until the mixture darkens slightly in color, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk until combined. Whisk in the onion powder, mustard powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. It will take about 3-5 minutes for the mixture to thicken.
- Turn the heat off and whisk in the cheddar and Parmesan cheese until the cheese has completely melted.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked macaroni and stir to combine. Then, pour the macaroni into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer.
MAKE BREADCRUMB TOPPING:
- In a small bowl stir together the bread crumbs, butter, cheddar, salt, and pepper until the breadcrumbs are evenly coated.
- Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top of the macaroni.
- Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the edges of the casserole are bubbly and the breadcrumb topping has turned golden. Move the pan to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes before serving.
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I LOVE this mac and cheese!
Veena Azmanov says
Your step by step process of making this dish so simple in making was superb. Mac and Cheese is my favorite too.
This is my favourite kind of comfort food. I need to make some mac and cheese today.
Jacqueline Debono says
Baked pasta is my favourite comfort food. Your baked mac and cheese looks absolutely delicious.
My kids ULTIMATE favorite food. I can’t wait to try this recipe for them.
I hope they love it!
Danielle Wolter says
This is truly the ultimate comfort food. I am in love with this recipe. Mac and cheese is one of my all time favorites. Great tips too!
It’s one of my favorites, too. Thanks for stopping by!
This recipe is so delicious and simple to make! I can’t wait to serve it at Thanksgiving!
This quickly became a favorite at my house!! So good!
Love the sound of the cheese mix in this, plus the tips on how to make it a meal with various add ins definitely gives some ideas!
Gina Matsoukas says
This recipe is delicious! I don’t think I will ever make mac and cheese any other way ever again!
All time favorite way to eat pasta, right here! Love this easy, scrumptious recipe…it’s the way baked mac and cheese should be! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Mac and cheese is my FAVORITE! So creamy and delicious. The crunchy topping is perfect!
Andrea Metlika says
This mac and cheese looks so cheesy delicious. The topping and all the cheese is perfect.
Thanks so much for sharing! I made this for a Friends-giving and it was the first thing we ran out of! Can’t wait to share it with my family this week!
Woot, woot! So glad it was a hit! 🙂
Would love to make this but confused by 4 cups 16 ounces extra sharp cheese; grated so 6 cups? Also 4 ounces 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese shredded
I apologize for the confusion. The cup amounts should have been in parentheses as they are the conversion of the ounces. I made the change on the recipe card.
Can this be put together and cooked the next day?
Yes, absolutely! I’d let it sit at room temperature while the oven preheats.