Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole

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Homemade Mac and Cheese is a rich, creamy casserole and this recipe is truly my favorite!

Not only is this creamy macaroni and cheese recipe easy to make, it has a special ingredient so it turns out extra delicious!

This dish has so much cheesy sauce, it’s impossible to resist and once you try it, this is going to be the only baked macaroni & cheese recipe you’ll ever need!

taking a spoonful of Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole out of the dish

Why This is Our Favorite Homemade Mac & Cheese Ever

Hello, my name is Holly and I am obsessed with Macaroni and Cheese.  I love all kinds from crock pot mac & cheese to baked mac and cheese, or even out of a little blue box. Of all of the cheesy macaroni recipes, *this* recipe right here is the best mac and cheese recipe ever and always gets rave reviews!

  • The sauce is from scratch and easy to make.
  • This recipe is extra saucy.
  • The pasta doesn’t get dry, it’s still nice and creamy even after it’s baked in the oven.
  • It’s got great flavor, especially when using sharp cheddar cheese. (The sharper the better!)
  • And most importantly, it’s the best homemade mac and cheese you’ve ever had.

ingredients to make Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole

Ingredients & Variations

PASTA This easy mac and cheese casserole starts with elbow macaroni that are slightly undercooked so they don’t get mushy when baked.

Any short pasta like penne, rotini, or shells will work. Feel free to use gluten free pasta or whole grain pasta if desired.

SAUCE A classic flour and butter mixture is used to thicken the cheese sauce. We add sharp cheddar and fresh parmesan for lots of flavor. A secret ingredient I love to add is condensed cheddar cheese soup (this is optional but reccomened).

For extra richness, I add a bit of light cream to the milk. You can use all milk if it’s all you have.

VARIATION This casserole has a simple cheese topping. But feel free to add a breadcrumb topping if desired.

process of making sauce for Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole

 

How to Make Homemade Mac and Cheese

Making homemade macaroni and cheese (especially this 5-star recipe) is surprisingly easy and quick!

  1. Cook Pasta – Cook pasta al dente (slightly undercooked) drain & rinse.
  2. Make Sauce – A homemade cheese sauce with lots of cheese takes about 10 minutes. (more on the sauce below).
  3. Combine and bake – Toss sauce with pasta and top with remainder of shredded cheese.
  4. Bake (as per the recipe below) until golden and bubbly.

Mac and Cheese Sauce

The sauce for this easy homemade macaroni and cheese is a classic roux based cheese sauce. This just means fat (in this case butter) and flour cooked together and then liquid (milk) added! This sauce is incredibly rich and creamy making sure the macaroni and cheese is velvety smooth and extra creamy every single time.

Be sure to shred your own cheese for the sauce, pre-shredded cheese doesn’t melt as well.

Assembling mac and cheese casserole

The Best Cheese For Mac and Cheese

Sharp Cheddar is my first choice for flavor however you can certainly use your favorite cheeses. Mix it up and use a bit of gruyere, or even pepper jack for a little kick. If you have bits of cheese leftover, you can combine them all together in this easy homemade cheese sauce.

This recipe has a special ingredient that is a little bit unconventional but makes it extra yummy…  AND it is optional. The addition of cheddar cheese soup makes the sauce a little bit extra velvety and just adds a little something. I think it’s much better than Mac and cheese with Velveeta!  Give it a try!  (You can find it at your local grocery store with the other condensed soups or online here).

Spoonful of Easy Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

Recipe Tips

Making Homemade Macaroni and Cheese is not difficult, but below are a few simple tips to make sure it turns out perfect and creamy every single time!

  • Cook pasta al dente (firm) Otherwise the noodles cook extra in the sauce and can get over- cooked in the oven.
  • Salt the pasta water It really makes a difference in the flavor of the pasta.
  • Rinse the pasta after cooking While not everyone agrees, in this particular recipe the sauce is created with a texture that pairs perfectly with rinsed noodles. Rinsing with cold water stops the cooking process, too, ensuring that pasta won’t overcook and get mushy during baking.
  • Shred the cheese by hand Pre-shredded cheeses contain additives to keep it from sticking together which affect the way it melts.
  • Rest before serving Allowing the baked macaroni and cheese to rest for a few minutes after baking will thicken the sauce and allow the casserole to set.
  • Watch the timer Most importantly of all… do not over-bake this recipe.

When cooking your macaroni noodles, cook them according to the package directions but you want them to be still firm.  If your package says 6-8 minutes, just cook them 6…  you get the idea.

cooked Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole in the dish

How to Make a Bread Crumb Topping (optional)

Combine the following and sprinkle over your casserole before baking.

  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (Panko Bread Crumbs are best)
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon parsley (optional)

This recipe makes an extra saucy creamy macaroni.  Do not over-bake this recipe.  You want it creamy and rich, over-baking will cause it to dry out. I find that 20 minutes is perfect in my oven, the cheese sauce will thicken slightly while standing.

Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole in bowls with dish full in the back

More Macaroni Recipes You’ll Love

Did you love this Mac and Cheese Casserole? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!

taking a spoonful of Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole out of the dish
4.96 from 544 votes
Review Recipe

Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 8
This homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole is the best you've ever had. Tender noodles in a velvety sauce make the perfectly irresistible dish!!

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces dry elbow macaroni
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 cup light cream about 10-12% MF
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup optional 10.75 ounces
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar divided
  • ½ cup fresh parmesan cheese

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Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Cook macaroni al dente (firm) according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water.
  • Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Whisk in flour and let cook 2 minutes while stirring. Slowly whisk in milk, cream, mustard powder, onion powder, salt & pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat while stirring until thickened.
  • Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese & 3 cups cheddar cheese until melted. Add soup if using.
  • Toss cheese sauce & macaroni noodles together. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Top with remaining cheese.
  • Bake 18-24 minutes or until bubbly. Do not over cook. Cool 10-15 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

  • Cook pasta al dente (firm) so it doesn't overcook in the oven. I usually undercook by about 1-2 minutes
  • Salt the pasta water.
  • Rinse the pasta after cooking This particular recipe is designed for rinsed pasta. This stops it from cooking.
  • Shred the cheese by hand Pre-shredded cheeses contain additives to keep it from sticking together which affect the way it melts.
  • Rest before serving this will thicken the sauce and allow the casserole to set.
  • Watch the timer Most importantly of all... do not over-bake this recipe.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 539, Carbohydrates: 39g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 32g, Saturated Fat: 20g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 98mg, Sodium: 529mg, Potassium: 246mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 1031IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 560mg, Iron: 1mg

(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)

Course Casserole, Dinner, Entree, Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine American

Macaroni and Cheese Casserole scooped with a spoon

cooked Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole in the dish with writing
close up of Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole in the dish with writing
plated Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole with a title
close up of Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole with a spoon and a title
cooked Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole in the dish and taking a spoon full out with a title
About the author

Holly

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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

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Recipe Rating




Comments

  1. This is wonderful! It is my new go to. I made do with what I had on hand. I used 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 2 cups of milk. I had to go back and thin the sauce with another 1/4 cup of milk. Also, the cheese I had on hand was Vermont CHeddar and Colby, so that is what I used. No cheddar cheese soup in the cupboard, but Cream of Sweet Corn is fantastic! Topped the whole thing with corn bread crumble. My grandson went back for thirds! Even my husband, who is not a Mac and cheese fan told me to make it again! Thank you so much!5 stars

  2. This was great! Ontario schools are closed so I made this for family lunch today. It was perfect for a cold Ontario afternoon and should help get the kids through the afternoon online classes.

    I did all the prep, including cooking pasta and shredding the cheese, before starting work (also at home). Then made the sauce while the oven preheated and put it all together. 25 minutes later (20 to cook, 5 to rest) we are all enjoying homemade Mac and cheese.5 stars

  3. This recipe is awesome! Best Mac cheese I ever had. I used a pound and a half of elbows for a family of 4. I didn’t have cream so I used an extra cup of milk instead and I used a tablespoon of corn starch to help thicken it but it came out delicious.5 stars

  4. excellent. nothing more to say but came out exactly as it should. i substituted 1/2 and 1/2 instead of light cream b/c I forgot to buy it, and used low fat instead of whole milk. The results were still delicious and creamy, with the soup version!5 stars

  5. Hi Holly. I watched your video making this mac and cheese and you didn’t add the soup. Which is more awesome? With or without? Making this Christmas Day. Comments anyone?:)

    1. I definitely add the soup if I have it! (I’ve updated the video to a newer version, the soup is added at 3:45 right before I get the giggles ;) ). Enjoy the recipe, it’s my personal favorite!

      1. If you use 16 oz of elbow mac there will be a bit less sauce (although it would still work because it’s pretty saucy). 12 oz is the recommended amount (about 3/4 of the 16 oz box).

    1. Hi Cheryl, to navigate to the recipe quickly you can use the jump to recipe button at the top of the page. Or you can scroll towards the bottom of the post. It is above the space to rate and leave a comment. Hope that helps!

  6. I’ve been making this recipe for years. Fail proof and everyone asks for recipe. Don’t know why I waited so long to review!5 stars

  7. I can not find cheddar cheese soup anywhere. Suggestions? Can I do this recipe without it can I sub something else? I’ve checked every store in our county. None! So if you have some in your pantry ya might be able to sell it for a pretty penny! :)

    1. Hi Heather, it will change the flavor but you can use any condensed cream soup like cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup. Hope that helps!

  8. Regarding the soup:
    Best to use it or not? Making for a birthday dinner this week, and want to be the BEST EVER!!

    1. I like it with… and I think you’ll agree that this recipe is the BEST!! I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you.

  9. Hello I Would like to try and make this one day before Christmas and was wondering what is light cream. Like is it sour cream I just don’t wanna mess up.

    1. Hi Nicole, light cream is often called coffee cream or table cream if that helps! It is often found near the milk and heavy cream in the dairy section, but it has a fat content of between 18-30%.

  10. This is by fair the best baked mac and cheese I’ve ever made and tasted. Definitely go with Holly’s tips…not just the recipe. Kid approved as well .5 stars

  11. Making today so need quick response if possible. Temp of 425 seems high compared to other recipes. Anyone know if this is accurate or a mistake.

    1. We have made this recipe ahead of time. Ensure your pasta is very al dente and take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before baking. You may need to adjust the cooking time slightly to ensure it is heated through. Enjoy!

    1. We think so! To reheat, add a little splash of milk and either heat on low on the stove or in the microwave.

  12. SO GOOD!! Flavorful to the point of overeating, haha! We loved it; superb comfort food. I used pre-grated cheese anyway because that’s what I had on hand. Still delicious! Thank you for sharing, Holly 5 stars

      1. Yes, this should work, it will be a little bit richer. If you have milk on hand you can also mix half heavy cream and half milk (or add a little bit of broth in place of some of the cream).

  13. This is our new favorite Mac and cheese recipe. The only tweak I make is to use garlic powder if I don’t have mustard powder. Can’t wait to make it for Thanksgiving this year! It’ll be a hit!!!5 stars

    1. I was just thinking the same thing!
      According to the internet: Replace each teaspoon of ground mustard called for with one tablespoon of prepared mustard. Then, omit one teaspoon of liquid from your recipe to compensate for the extra liquid in the substitute.5 stars