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
4.97 from 1164 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole

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

Ingredients  

  • 12 ounces dry elbow macaroni
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 cup half and half or light cream
  • 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

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.

Video

YouTube video

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.
4.97 from 1164 votes

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

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About the author

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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Comments

  1. Would this recipe come out okay if it was baked for 350 degrees? 425 seems high and I’d like to bake it next to something else5 stars

    1. Hi Ashley, I can’t say for sure because we have only tried baking at 425°F. Maybe another reader can help!

  2. What can you substitute for the half and half cream? I don’t have enough on hand but I do have 35% cream and homogenized milk. Thank you

  3. Question – I plan to make this for Thanksgiving and transport an hour away. Should I do everything except the final bake and then bake it at our destination? Thanks for any help!5 stars

    1. Hi Katy! Yes, you can make this casserole ahead of time and bake it at your destination. Let us know how it works out for you!

  4. Only max and cheese I make. Everywhere we go, everyone asks me to bring the Mac and cheese. We make it with penne pasta and it gives it a whole different taste. Also, I only use one block of cheese and the soup. No cheese on top. Also, makes a fantastic base for scalloped cheese potatoes!!!5 stars

  5. I made this as written with the soup in it. I made half of the recipe and it was still a good amount. It was bomb and my new favorite recipe for Mac n cheese5 stars

  6. maybe I missed it ? but I did not see how much of each ingredient is needed where the measuring amounts ??

    1. Hi Shawna, You can find the recipe towards the bottom of the post or by using the jump to recipe button at the top. It has all the ingredients, measurements, and instructions there!

    1. I 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 as you can see in the comments.

  7. My mom used to top with Italian seasoned bread crumbs. It gave the casserole a bit of a crunch with each bite. So yummy

  8. I’m cooking for two. I’m betting your recipe is for a small army. I wish you would clarify these sorts of details. Throwing food out because you can’t stand the thought of eating the same thing five nights in a row isn’t much of a way to save money. Oops you did say it. Ok off I go, dividing by 4.

    1. Hi Rod, if you push the print recipe it lets you adjust the serving size and will auto-calculate the measurements for you! I hope that helps :)

    1. HI Kiki, when reheating, I often add a little bit of milk or cream and cook over low heat on the stove. Or you can cook your noodles al dente, assemble the casserole up to step 5, then bake on the day of the party. Whichever works best for you!

  9. SO good!!!! I made this recipe for my nephew’s birthday. It was such a big hit! Everyone raved about it. Delish!!!

    1. I 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 as you can see in the comments.

  10. I made your recipe to the “T” my family loved it. Going to make it for my card party tomorrow. Need to change your site Spend with a dollar.5 stars