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
4.94 from 416 votes
Review Recipe

Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 8
Author Holly Nilsson
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.)

Keyword baked, casserole, homemade mac and cheese, macaroni and cheese
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. Sounds delicious. Hoping it will taste great with some bacon and perhaps rosemary? Also what do you think about also using gruyere?

  2. I want to make this for a large crowd, graduation party. Any suggestions? I have made some of your other recipes and they are amazing so I’m sure this will be a hit!!

    1. I have easily doubled this recipe and it’s worked perfectly so I’m sure increasing the ratios as written will work just fine. You could make about 3 recipes in one large pan to feed a large crowd.

      When cooking it, you’re just really heating it since everything is already cooked. I would reserve the cheese you are topping it with and cook the two large pans stirring part way through cooking to ensure the middle is hot. Sprinkle the cheese over the pasta about 10 minutes before removing from the oven (you could broil it slightly just before serving if needed). Enjoy!!

      I do also have a crock pot mac and cheese which I’ve successfully tripled in my large slow cooker before.

      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. To calculate nutrition we use a plugin (similar to an app, but for a website) that uses the Spoonacular API to calculate information. Keep in mind this is an estimate only and will vary by brands and actual ingredients used.

  3. I didn’t have any soup or parmesan so just omitted those and it was still amazing. This just might be my new favourite mac and cheese recipe!5 stars

  4. Oh My Goodness!
    Just made this and it was Amazing!! Even our 4 year old granddaughter loved it once she took a bite5 stars

  5. I made this for Thanksgiving last year. It was a hit, especially with my MIL. She said it was the best she ever had, & has now assigned me to make the mac ‘n cheese for Easter Sunday. Thank you for sharing your recipe for others to enjoy!5 stars

  6. I have tried so many mac & cheese recipes over the years. We are all in agreement that this is indeed a 5 STAR recipe. I altered the recipe for 16 oz of pasta and used a very sharp cheddar cheese which I grated. It was incredible!5 stars

  7. This is a great recipe! It has been my go-to for numerous family gatherings. Winner every time.

    Today we decided to deviate from the recipe as it is (although it’s GREAT left alone as well) – today we added 1 tsp white pepper, 1 tbsp minced dehydrated garlic, 1 tbsp dehydrated garlic and 1/4c wing sauce.

    Outstanding both ways. Truly a great recipe, thank you for sharing it.5 stars

  8. I’ve tried several homemade mac and cheese recipes before. This was my grandson’s favorite …and the rest of the family. Thanks!5 stars

  9. I was looking for a well made creamy macaroni and cheese and I found it here. Thus was delicious will be my go to.

  10. This is THE mac-n-cheese recipe. I have searched for years for a recipe that’s easy and delicious, and this fits the bill. Search over. I make this at least once a month.5 stars

  11. This is the recipe I use its the best . I put ritz crackers with melted butter and parm cheese for topping makes it even better 5 stars

  12. Making this for myself tonight since my husband wont eat any kind of macaroni and cheese so leaves more for me ..lol
    Didnt have cream so I did it all with milk
    I used tillamook white sharp cheddar cheese 3 cups as well as 1 cup tillamook Colby jack cheese and I did use a can if cheddar soap
    Cant wait to try it .
    Almost exactly the same way my mother use to make it back in the day when us kids were little expect she only used milk as well and only sharp cheddar cheese salt and pepper that was it ..
    Always served with peas and apple sauce 5 stars

  13. Tastes great but I followed the directions and it was not very creamy. Any idea what happened or what I can do differently? I cooked it a little less time than recommended but it was still dry.4 stars

    1. Did you use 12 oz of regular elbows (and not a full 16oz box)? Was it made ahead of time? Was it creamy when it went into the oven? I would suggest cooking it for a little bit less time.

  14. This is now my go to mac n cheese recipe. It was very delicious, kids especially loved it. I didn’t have mustard powder so I substituted turmeric instead, nice taste to it.5 stars

  15. This Macaroni and Cheese recipe is absolutely the best! I have made several times and it never goes to waste. This weekend we are going to cook on the smoker! I think with that hint of mustard seasoning in there it is going to be amazing!5 stars

  16. I cannot even tell you how many Mac and cheese recipes I’ve tried and none were just “right.” I found a good stove top one but this is more baked and traditional with the cheese crust on top. I mean so many came out dry and sub par. This was absolutely perfect – do NOT skip the cheese soup!!!5 stars