Mac and cheese is a classic that brings everyone to the table with big, eager eyes and hearty appetites. But don’t make it from the box! Those prepackaged mac and cheese boxes have loads of ingredients you can’t pronounce. This is the best mac and cheese recipe you’ll find using just 8 common kitchen staples for a creamy, cheesy, heavenly delight that makes a great side for holidays or a cozy family dinner any night.
Best Mac and Cheese Recipe
This is hands down the best mac and cheese recipe because of its perfectly balanced cheesy and creamy taste. The kids absolutely love it. When I make my homemade mac n cheese recipe for guests, it instantly puts a smile on everyone’s face. It’s truly a winner and one your family will ask you to make all the time.
Mac and Cheese Ingredients
- Elbow macaroni – Well, the name of the dish says it all! Elbow macaroni is one of the quintessential ingredients for baked mac and cheese!
- Butter – You’ll need unsalted butter to serve as the fat base for your cheese sauce.
- Flour – And to go with that butter and add thickness, you need flour.
- Milk – How else can you get that sauce to be creamy?
- Cheese – Your favorite melting shredded cheeses are the key to delightfully cheesy mac and cheese! So what is the best cheese to use for macaroni and cheese? My family prefers a blend of sharp cheddar and mozzarella, but you can also use different cheeses such as Swiss cheese, Parmesan cheese, white cheddar, Gruyere, or Gouda if you love those.
- Breadcrumbs – This gives easy baked mac and cheese a wonderful crust on top that contrasts with the rich creaminess of the dish. It is a combination that you just cannot achieve with stovetop mac and cheese. If you’re out of breadcrumbs you can substitute panko instead!
Easy Mac and Cheese Recipe
This easy homemade mac and cheese recipe takes only 30 minutes from start to finish. And did I mention just 8 ingredients? Yup, I did. Homemade baked mac and cheese is so much easier than most people assume, and this simple mac and cheese recipe is something the kids can absolutely help you with. You can have the richest, most delicious easy mac and cheese on your table quick, and you’ll never go back to those box kits again.
You are the cheese to my macaroni.
How to Make Mac and Cheese from Scratch
Making homemade macaroni and cheese from scratch is just as easy as that boxed junk only it comes without chemicals and additives. You’ll need elbow macaroni cooked to al dente texture. Then you’ll make the cheese sauce with butter, flour, and milk. Add the cheese, then mix the pasta, cheese sauce, and top with breadcrumbs and bake it up until it’s bubbly and irresistible! If you’ve never tried homemade baked mac n cheese then be ready to have your mind blown.
Expert Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Creamy Mac and Cheese
- Choose the right cheese(s) – To have the best creamy mac and cheese, you need to use melting cheeses. Cheddar is one of them, but if you mix it with mozzarella too, you get unbelievable creamy and cheesiness. My son used to love boxed Velveeta until we started making this and now there is no turning back!
- Warm the milk – Warm up the milk too before adding it to your cheese sauce mixture. This makes it thicken up faster and more evenly.
- Mustard powder – This recipe calls for optional dry mustard powder. If you don’t have it on-hand, you can leave it out. But if you do, try it. It will NOT give you a strong mustard flavor or anything. It has a nice acidity that brings balance to the creaminess and depth to the flavor for an even more comforting dish. You can also substitute a half teaspoon of garlic powder for you garlic lovers out there.
Pro Tip: A creamy baked macaroni and cheese recipe with bread crumbs is not just for the kids. When I’m alone I love making an ‘adult’ version by adding roasted veggies!
How to Cook Mac and Cheese
Different recipes have different instructions but for the majority of baked macaroni and cheese recipes you’ll need to start by cooking your macaroni and cheesy sauce on the stovetop. From there, baking them in the oven all combined allows it to get richer, creamier, and just plain more amazing than ever.
Is cheddar good for mac and cheese?
Cheddar is one of the best cheeses to use in your mac and cheese. If you’re going to use several cheeses together, cheddar should be one of them.
Is mozzarella good in mac and cheese?
Yes, it melts so well and complements cheddar and other cheeses for a truly creamy experience.
What is the best cheese to use for macaroni and cheese?
The best cheese for mac and cheese is sharp cheddar. Sharp cheddar gives mac and cheese that classic flavor we’ve come to know and love. It melts smoothly too, though mixing other melting cheeses in can create more depth.
What can I add to my mac and cheese to make it better?
Mac and cheese is plenty good on its own but if you want to add to it, crumbled cooked bacon is a dream come true. Grated parmesan or Romano cheese can add an Italian flourish while hot sauce gives it a kick. If you have leftover hot dogs or ham, chop them up to add too.
Can you use evaporated milk instead?
Yes, evaporated milk can be used if you don’t have regular milk. It will add the right amount of creaminess.
What is the best seasoning for mac and cheese?
You wouldn’t think it, but mustard powder really adds a nice depth of flavor to homemade creamy mac and cheese. It won’t give it the taste of mustard, but something extra to break through the richness of the cheese.
Can panko be substituted for bread crumbs?
Your best macaroni and cheese recipe can naturally have panko bread crumbs used instead of regular bread crumbs. You can also find gluten-free panko, gluten-free breads crumbs, and gluten-free pasta to sub with too!
How Long to Bake Mac and Cheese
Your mac and cheese will take 15 to 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 400F. Allow time for the stovetop cooking of the pasta and the sauce. In total, you’ll have this whole recipe ready to serve piping hot in just 30 minutes. While it bakes, it’s easy to throw together a salad to accompany the meal.
How do you make mac and cheese stay creamy?
When reheating mac and cheese, adding milk to it will help it regain that creamy texture.
How to Store Mac and Cheese
If you have any leftovers (sometimes ours completely disappears!), you’ll have to cover it tightly and refrigerate it. It’s good for 3 to 4 days.
Can I Freeze Macaroni and Cheese
Yes, but it is not recommended. When you freeze and reheat mac and cheese the creamy consistency does not hold up well at all. It often results in a mushy mess. It is best to use a refrigerator in this case over the freezer. Fortunately, its a very fast dish to make so fresh is the best approach.
Classic Homemade Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 5 tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 2 cups grated cheese ((sharp cheddar cheese & mozzarella cheese make a great blend))
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp mustard powder (optional)
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- Preheat your oven to 400F degrees. Grease a 9x13-inch baking casserole dish with butter.
- In a large pot, bring salted water to boil and cook the elbow pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat to start the mac and cheese roux. Add in the flour and whisk until a thick, smooth paste is formed. Cook for about 2 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, warm the milk in the microwave and then slowly whisk into the roux. Cook the sauce over medium heat until thickened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir slowly while the sauce thickens and be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the shredded cheese one handful at a time. Stir in the salt and optional mustard powder after the cheese has fully melted.
- Transfer the cooked pasta to a large mixing bowl and pour the sauce over the pasta, stirring gently until the pasta is evenly coated. Transfer the pasta to the greased baking casserole dish and sprinkle the top with bread crumbs. Bake the pasta until bubbly and golden brown about 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately.
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