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.
Homemade Mac and Cheese
When I take a bite of this 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. It’s something everyone enjoys, and this homemade mac and cheese recipe is worth every calorie.
While the boxed variety is super simple to make, it doesn’t even compare. It’s like they’re not even in the same food group. Mac this recipe, you’ll understand. 🙂
Common Macaroni and Cheese Questions Answered:
How do you make 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 compliment each other nicely and their flavors don’t get lost in this baked mac and cheese recipe.
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!
Here are some of my favorite 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.
Cook’s Tools – Baked Mac and Cheese:
ONE YEAR AGO: Cookie Dough Truffles
TWO YEARS AGO: Classic Tomato Basil Soup
THREE YEARS AGO: Citrus Cream Pasta
Baked Mac and Cheese
FOR THE MAC AND CHEESE
- 16 oz dry elbow macaroni
- 6 Tablespoons butter
- 6 Tablespoons flour
- 3 3/4 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
- 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 16 ounces 4 cups extra sharp cheddar, grated
- 4 ounces Parmesan cheese grated
FOR THE BREADCRUMB TOPPING:
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 4 ounces 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/4 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.