A classic homemade baked mac and cheese recipe is one of my favorite dishes.
Tender elbow macaroni is smothered in a rich homemade cheese sauce and then baked under a crispy butter crumb topping until golden brown and bubbly.
This mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food.
A Favorite Baked Mac and Cheese
- Cheesy, creamy, and loaded with tons of cheddar flavor, baked mac and cheese is always a crowd-pleaser!
- This recipe uses everyday ingredients and turns them into a decadent cheesy dish.
- This can be a side dish or a budget-friendly main dish.
- Keep it as a vegetarian entrée or hearty side dish, or add leftover cooked chicken, ham, bacon, or even sliced summer sausage.
Ingredients for Baked Mac and Cheese
Pasta – Classic mac is made with elbow macaroni; however, any small-ish shape will work. Elbows, shells, penne, and rotelle are all great options.
Cheese Sauce – This sauce starts with butter and flour to make a roux (don’t worry, it’s really easy!). Milk and cream make this mac and cheese sauce really rich and creamy.
Cheese – Sharp Cheddar is my favorite choice for a classic mac and cheese recipe. If you’d like, add a little Gruyere (or swiss) for a bolder flavor. Feel free to use your favorite cheeses like gouda, white cheddar cheese, colby jack, or a blend of your favorites. Be sure at least half of the cheese is a sharp or bold cheese for the best flavor.
Toppings – Baked mac and cheese is perfect on its own! But if a topping is in order, make a quick topping using breadcrumbs or a Panko topping. Bacon bits, diced tomatoes, sliced jalapenos, or green chiles are tasty toppings as well.
How to Make Mac and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese has achieved superstar status all over the world, and it’s easy to prepare:
- Boil pasta: Cook pasta al dente (firm), drain, and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
- Make the sauce: Make a roux by cooking flour, seasonings, and butter. Whisk in milk, cream, and seasonings. Cook until thickened per the recipe below.
- Stir in cheese: Remove from heat and add cheeses; whisk until smooth. Stir in cooked elbows and spread in a casserole dish.
- Bake: Add topping and bake until the top is browned and bubbly. Let it rest before serving.
How to Prepare Mac and Cheese Ahead of Time
- To make ahead, prepare the recipe as directed without baking. Cover and chill until ready to reheat in the oven or assemble and bake later.
- If making ahead, once the sauce is mixed with the pasta, I like to stir in an additional ½ cup of cheddar cheese to the cooled dish. Since the pasta will soak up a little of the sauce, I find this keeps it nice and creamy.
- Remove the mac and cheese from the fridge at least 30 minutes (or up to 60 minutes) before baking. You may need to add extra baking time if it is cold from the fridge. Do not overbake.
How To Freeze
Homemade mac and cheese can be prepared ahead of time and frozen before baking.
- Line a baking dish with aluminum foil add the macaroni and cheese. Freeze in the baking dish.
- Once frozen, lift the foil out of the baking dish and wrap it tightly (this allows you to use the baking dish while the macaroni is frozen).
- To bake: Put the foil-lined mac and cheese back into the same baking dish. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, remove from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking. You may need to add a little bit of cooking time.
Store any leftover mac and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days and reheat in the oven, on the stovetop, or in the microwave.
Freeze leftover portions in an airtight container or a freezer bag for up to three months.
More Cheesy Baked Pasta
Did you make this Baked Mac and Cheese? Leave us a comment and a rating below!
Baked Mac and Cheese
- 16 ounces dry macaroni
- ⅓ cup butter
- ⅓ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 ¾ cups milk
- ½ cup light cream
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
- ½ teaspoon seasoned salt or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper or to taste
- 14 ounces sharp cheddar shredded, approximately 3 ½ cups lightly packed
- 1 ½ ounces fresh Parmesan cheese shredded, approximately ½ cup
- ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons butter melted
- 2 ounces sharp cheddar shredded, approximately ½ cup lightly packed
- 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese shredded
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Cook the macaroni al dente according to the package directions. Drain well, run under cold water, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and onion powder and cook for 2 minutes.
- Whisk in milk, cream, and seasonings over medium heat. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens. Let boil for 1 minute while stirring.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and add cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese. Whisk until melted.
- Stir in macaroni and pour into a 9×13 casserole dish.
- Top with crumb mixture and bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and topping is browned. Do not overcook.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.
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Thanks for the delicious recipe!
I will be making it often!
A variation I use when making Mac & Cheese … I use French’s fried onion rings for the topping.. adds a bit of crunch and I do love onions!!!
Your version sounds delicious Audra!
This is THE best Mac and cheese..I had to give the recipe to my daughter as my grand kids would only eat “gramma’s Mac and cheese!”.. thanks for all the great recipes!n
I’m so glad your family loved it!
I make this recipe almost montly during mealprep week!
Its sooo good to separate into dishes and be able to throw into the air fryer or oven and reheat,
I buy one of the quartered precooked hams at the grocery or occasionally they’ll have them at the food bank, and I’m always watching cheese block sales. I do add peas, and a slightly bit more cheese! I make the roux in my cast iron, throw all the cheese, pasta and everything else in and then bake it right in the cast iron! love it!
Delicious, thank you for sharing Sarah!
Holly, I finally made this yesterday. It is amazingly delicious! My husband is still complimenting on it and I’m still patting myself on the back! In my opinion it turned out like restaurant quality. I did use Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar, Swiss and grated parm cheeses. We could’ve eaten the whole dish it was that delicious. Can’t wait to make it again. Thank for all your super recipes!
We love hearing that, Moonie! Thanks for sharing ❤️
I’m making this for the 4th BBQ . Question I don’t have dry mustard BUT have Dijon. Can’t I sub the wet mustard. Thank you
You can definitely Marion. Try with the same amount and taste to see if you’d like to add a tiny bit more. Enjoy!
Is that shredded or grated parmesan?
This recipe uses shredded parmesan. Enjoy Bobbi!
This is the best mac and cheese ever! I used cheese i already had. I had a bag of 4 cheese mexican blend and then i used the rest of the swiss and muenster cheeses i had. Oh and parmesan! So cheesy and delicious! Thank you for sharing your recipe! My husband and grandson loved it!
Would Love to get recipes..
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Love the recipes!
It was really good! Not overly cheesy tasting and I added bacon and onions and it was perfect! Enough to feed a family too!
Your Mac and cheese recipe looks great and iwould like to make it for a family dinner. But I will be feeding 10!adults and 2 kids and serving with a baked ham and roasted asparagus. How much should Iincrease the recipe?
This recipe makes enough for 8 servings more as a side dish so you might like to double it and make 2 pans.
I’ve made this recipe several times now. It’s truly delicious made exactly as per your instructions. Thanks much!
Yay! That is so great to hear Ruthielil!
If you will use evaporated milk, instead of milk, like in Queso, It won’t separate.
Thanks for the recipe
Hugs from Texas
Yummy idea, thank you!
So glad you enjoyed it Kay!
This is making me hungry. I saute fresh chopped onions in the butter before I add flour for the roux. The addition of all or any of the following are delicious. chopped tomato, chopped, chopped parsley, chopped sliced ham (I don’t like bacon), cut up hard-boiled eggs. Reserve a little grated cheese and add to the breadcrumbs on the top.
Those additions sounds so delicious Jane! Thanks for sharing.
Is the macaroni in recipe measure by weight or volume. If by weight, about how many cups would that be?
This is by weight Paulette. It is approximately 4 cups dry elbow macaroni. Hope that helps!
Recipes look yummy
I have not made this yet but one question. The recipe calls for light cream but the instructions call for heavy cream. Which one is correct? Thank you. Looking forward to making this, just want to make sure.
This recipe uses light cream. Updated, thank you Mary! Enjoy!
What is light cream? Could you use half and half or heavy cream?
Half and half is perfect in this recipe.
Best mac and cheese ever.My family devoured it.The addition of the gruyere made it. And easy to put together.My go to recipe now.
Glad your family loved it as much as mind does!