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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I made a double batch for a church event, and there were no leftovers to take home. Received many compliments on the taste. Used store brand sharp cheddar and some “fancy” brand New York white cheddar. Fantastic.
Can you make a smaller version of the mac and cheese? How do you half 1/3 cup? There are just two of us and we don’t need a huge pan of mac and cheese.
Yes, you could half the recipe. You would need 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons for half of ⅓ cup. I would suggest reducing the bake time slightly.
Great recipe Holly! It was sooo delicious!