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The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

Tender macaroni noodles get smothered in gooey cheese then made piping hot in the oven. It’s as good as you remember from childhood, it’s… the Best Creamy Baked Mac ‘n’ Cheese!

The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

There are few meals that can take you back to your youth more quickly than mac ‘n’ cheese. I don’t even have to see it or taste it; one smell and I am there, outside riding my bike with my friends around the old court, playing marbles, and getting up to mischief (which really wasn’t all that mischievous in retrospect).

The only thing that could pull us away from all that Saturday-afternoon fun was the call for lunch when we knew we’d be having mac ‘n’ cheese. Had I known then what drugs were, I would have suspected this dish was laced with them. Turns out, it was all natural. And it blew my fragile little mind. Or stomach. I’m not sure which applies more.

Well, I’ve since blown my own mind (or stomach) with this “sophisticated” version of that dish from so long ago. No longer limited to the stove, this one involves real cheese, flour, butter, milk (or cream, if you feel hedonistic) and a quick jaunt in the oven. That’s right, it’s baked.

Ready to have your own mind/stomach blown?

Which cheeses do you recommend?

Well, I obviously recommend cheddar cheese (I like sharp, in particular) but one of the many great things about this mac ‘n’ cheese recipe is that it doesn’t discriminate—all dairy is welcome. So invite mozzarella, Parmesan, or Jack (that’s Monterey Jack to you). Want something fancier? Go with Gruyere, Fontina, Gouda, or Colby. Stick with one or mix it up and have a cheese social. Like I said in the intro, this is a sophisticated version of the mac ‘n’ cheese you ate as a kid; you’re obliged to use cheeses you didn’t even know existed back then.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb uncooked elbow macaroni (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (any kind)
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

Instructions

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 5 servings

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 325°F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish or a dish of similar size.

Step 2: Cook the macaroni until al dente, as per the package instructions. Once done, drain the pasta and set it aside.

The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

Step 3: For the sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, salt, and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes. Gradually pour in the milk and half and half, stirring constantly. Continue to cook until the sauce thickens to a gravy-like consistency, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat.

The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

Step 4: Stir into the sauce 1 cup of shredded cheese until just melted. Then, add the cooked macaroni to the sauce, tossing to coat evenly.

The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

Step 5: Assemble the dish by pouring half of the macaroni mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cheese. Add the remaining pasta on top and finish with the remaining cheese.

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The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

Step 6: Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown on top. Serve warm and enjoy!

The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

FAQs & Tips

How do I store this mac ‘n’ cheese?

Let it cool completely then cover it up with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. You can keep it in the fridge for up to four days. Just know that when you go to reheat it, it may need a splash of cream to reinvigorate it and retrieve that creamy consistency. You can also store it in the freezer (I usually use both plastic and aluminum to cover it up). It should last for up to three months. You may want to divide it up into single servings before freezing it though.

How do I get a brown and crispy top to my mac ‘n’ cheese?

You’re gonna need butter and breadcrumbs (panko works well here). Melt one (the butter) and mix it with the other (the breadcrumbs) then spread it out atop your mac ‘n’ cheese. Throw it in the oven. For the last few minutes, set your oven to BROIL. Keep an eye on it though, BROIL can turn to BURN very quickly.

Why is my mac ‘n’ cheese all runny?

Check the numbers. The amount of milk/cream I add is calculated for the size of dish I use. If you’re using a smaller dish, you may have used too much milk. Also, when you boiled the pasta, did you let it drain completely? Residual water could make your dish runny overall. The cheese and flour is used as a thickener; did you use enough? What about any ingredients you added, like veggies? They contain a lot of water and could be the reason. Last, once you removed it from the oven, did you let it set for 10 minutes? It will thicken during this time.

The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

Variations

You know how, when you were a kid, you would add a little variety by squirting ketchup on top? We’re going to surpass that here. Sundried tomatoes are a personal fave (and they’re kinda like ketchup, right?). Other veggies include caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms and spinach, and roasted bell peppers. For meat, I suggest cooked and chopped bacon or pancetta, diced ham or shredded chicken. If you’re more into flavor variety than added ingredients, use Dijon mustard, thyme, parsley, or chives, or red pepper flakes and cayenne for a bit of heat (sriracha can also be used for this purpose).

The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

About a Mom
Tender macaroni noodles get smothered in gooey cheese then made piping hot in the oven. It's as good as you remember from childhood, it's… the Best Creamy Baked Mac 'n' Cheese!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 5 servings
Calories 507 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 lb. uncooked elbow macaroni about 1 ½ cups
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups milk any kind
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 325°F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish or a similar size.
  • Cook the macaroni until al dente, as per the package instructions. Once done, drain the pasta and set it aside.
    The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
  • For the sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, salt, and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes. Gradually pour in the milk and half and half, stirring constantly. Continue to cook until the sauce thickens to a gravy-like consistency, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat.
    The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
  • Stir in 1 cup of shredded cheese into the sauce until just melted. Then, add the cooked macaroni to the sauce, tossing to coat evenly.
    The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
  • Assemble the dish by pouring half of the macaroni mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cheese. Add the remaining pasta on top and finish with the remaining cheese.
    The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown on top. Serve warm and enjoy!
    The Best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

Nutrition

Calories: 507kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 23gFat: 27gSaturated Fat: 15gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 79mgSodium: 664mgPotassium: 318mgFiber: 2gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 828IUVitamin C: 0.3mgCalcium: 549mgIron: 1mg
Keyword baked mac and cheese, homemade mac and cheese, homemade mac and cheese sauce, mac and cheese
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