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 415 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. This was fantastic! I used cavatapi pasta, & made it exactly as written (including the cheddar cheese soup). I didn’t make the bread crumb topping, only bc my kids don’t like crunchy toppings on mac & cheese. A definite keeper!5 stars

  2. Sounds wonderful and plan to have it for Thanksgiving! Question: Most boxes of elbow macaroni are 16oz so if I use that amount what all do I need to adjust for the sauce?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Lynn, we have only made this recipe as listed but a lot of readers have used 16 ounces of noodles with the existing sauce recipes and found it to still be creamy and delicious as is. We would love to hear how it turns out for you. Hope you enjoy it!

  3. Thank you, a great recipe, a hit at the dinner table, I never thought of using cheddar cheese soup in it & your bread crumb topping. I used my French onion soup bowls, this help controlled the portion for every one as a side dish as they wished.
    Bacon bits & chili peppers to your taste.5 stars

    1. Definitely! Make sure your noodles are cooked just to al dente to prevent them from getting soggy. When ready to bake, we like to take it out of the fridge and let it warm up while the oven is preheating. Then pop it in and bake as directed.

  4. Love this recipe and have made it so many times I’ve lost count. Being a lazy cook I don’t bother with a roux…not needed. Just add the cream and all the cheeses etc and stir together. Pop into dish and bake or even more delicious..put it in you smoker for an hour after you smoke your ribs etc so it gets a brown crusty top and a little smoke flavor. Also I sometimes add a bit of cream cheese. Such an easy recipe and fun to play with.5 stars

  5. Made this mac & cheese today according to the recipe the only addition made was 1/4 cup medium salsa. We like salsa and the result was terrific. This will be a recipe that we have on a weekly or biweekly rotation from now on. Thanks, Holly, for the recipe.5 stars

      1. If you refrigerate it over night how does that affect the baking time? I want to make sure it gets hot in the middle but I don’t want to over bake it.

      2. Hi Linda, we like to take it out of the fridge and let it warm up while the oven is preheating. Then pop it in and bake as directed. It may need an additional few minutes to fully cook but it should be close to the listed cooking time! Just make sure your noodles are al dente if refrigerated overnight to ensure they don’t end up soggy.

  6. This was so amazing I want to share it with a big group at a bridal shower – what would be the best way to modify this to serve 50?5 stars

    1. Oh my, that sounds like such a delicious meal. We have never made this recipe for that many people but depending on the size of your pan you should be able to double the recipe and make a few casseroles. Hope it all goes well!

  7. Very delicious. I added 1/2 can of Cream of Mushroom, 1/2 block of cream cheese, and a 1/2 cup of sour cream. Added 1 1/2 tsp Ms Dash, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp of Bada Complete. And used heavy whipping cream ( what I had on hand). My hubby and mom loved it!

  8. Very delicious! Super rich and cheesy! I made it just as written and it was a big hit with the family! Very easy to make too! Thank you!5 stars

  9. Wow, extra rich and creamy. I used Vermont extra sharp white cheddar and for the cream I used half and half. I’ve been trying different mac and cheese recipes for years, trying to find the one that will be my go to. This is it. Delicious, Thank you!

  10. I’m wanting to make this for my birthday. What can I use in place of light cream. None of our stores have it or else I don’t know what I’m looking for. Thanks!

    1. Light cream is also referred to as half & half. If you still can’t find any you could try combining 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 1/2 cup of milk as a substitute.

      1. Hi Lacey, We have not tried freezing this recipe. Often recipes with milk don’t freeze well so I can’t say for sure how it would work. Some readers have had success based on comments left.

  11. looks delicious

    I made a similar version years back for a block party. Didn’t have sharp cheddar, just some gruyere and mild cheddar. I added a little cayenne to the sauce. Even the little kids enjoyed it. With the inclusion of the mustard and the sharp cheddar this recipe looks like it will be luscious!

  12. I’ve made this recipe a few times now and I will never make it any other way again. I use 3 cups sharp cheddar and 1 cup Monterey Jack just to mix it up a bit. I’ve never been a fan of Velvetta but you really needed it to get the creamy texture. I’m much happier using the soup option! So glad I found this recipe!!!5 stars

  13. This was delicious, and pretty easy to make. I used French-fried onions on top, a little less cheese, and added diced ham. Will definitely make it again!5 stars