Crafting your own homemade mac and cheese from scratch can seem intimidating, but fear not! We're here to guide you through each step of the process. From boiling the pasta to creating the perfect cheese sauce, we've got you covered. Plus, we'll share expert advice, creative spins, and tips for preparing and storing this delicious dish. Get ready to savor the art of homemade mac and cheese!
THE ART OF CREATING HOMEMADE MAC AND CHEESE
If you've never ventured into the realm of crafting your own mac and cheese from scratch, it can be a slightly intimidating endeavor. However, fear not, as we will guide you through each step!
- Cook the pasta by boiling it and then draining it.
- Create the cheese sauce by combining a fat source (butter) with a starch component (flour), and then whisking in milk products.
- Cook the sauce until it reaches a thick and luscious consistency.
- Add shredded cheeses to the sauce and stir well.
- Combine the cheese sauce with the cooked pasta.
- Transfer half of the mac and cheese mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle it with more shredded cheese.
- Layer the remaining mac and cheese on top, and add an extra sprinkle of shredded cheese.
- Bake the dish and prepare to savor the delightful outcome!
EXPERT ADVICE FOR PREPARING BAKED MAC AND CHEESE
- Pasta boiling technique - Cook the pasta for a slightly shorter time than usual. I personally prefer boiling elbow pasta for around 4 to 5 minutes. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven, and you wouldn't want it to become mushy.
- Optimal temperature for liquid ingredients - Whenever possible, use room temperature liquids. Cold liquids tend to take longer to thicken compared to warmer ones. As the water for the pasta is coming to a boil, I like to set my milk and half and half aside to reach room temperature.
- The cheese selection - Pick your favorite cheeses! In this recipe, cheddar and gruyere are my personal favorites. However, you have the freedom to experiment with different types of cheese. Mozzarella, gouda, smoked gouda, swiss, monterey jack, colby jack, and colby are all excellent choices. Feel free to explore the comments section below the recipe for reader suggestions on cheese selection!
- Shredding your own cheese - I know it can be a hassle, and it's tempting to use pre-shredded cheese from bags. However, those bags of cheese contain a starchy substance that prevents the cheese from clumping. Unfortunately, this also affects its melting ability. For the best results, take the time to shred your own cheese.
CREATIVE SPINS ON MAC AND CHEESE
- Bacon infusion - If you're a bacon aficionado, feel free to add some crispy, crumbled bacon as a topping or even mix it into the mac and cheese itself!
- Stove-Top preparation - If you'd rather not bake the mac and cheese, that's completely fine! Simply ensure the pasta is boiled until it reaches al dente perfection (check the package for the correct cooking time), and you'll only need approximately 3-3.5 cups of cheese in total. No layering necessary - just add all the cheese to the sauce and combine it with the pasta.
- Exciting toppings - While I personally enjoy the layer of cheese on top that turns wonderfully crispy, you can also get creative with alternative toppings. For example, mix 1 cup of panko with 2 tablespoons of melted butter as a crunchy topping. Alternatively, 1 cup of crushed Ritz crackers combined with 2 tablespoons of butter creates an exceptionally delightful result!
- Different baking times - Although the recipe specifies a lower baking temperature and time, I often find myself adjusting it to suit my family's preferences. I prefer baking this mac and cheese at 350°F for 30 minutes, followed by broiling for 2-3 minutes to achieve that heavenly cheesy "crust".
PREPARE MAC AND CHEESE IN ADVANCE
- Follow the instructions for making the mac and cheese, but refrain from baking it. Instead, transfer it to a baking dish and allow it to cool completely. Cover the dish tightly with foil and refrigerate it 1-2 days ahead of time.
- Prior to baking, let the dish sit on the counter for 30 minutes.
- Bake the mac and cheese at the temperature specified in the recipe for 25-35 minutes, or until it becomes hot and bubbly.
Do keep in mind that this recipe, like most mac and cheese recipes, may lose some of its creamy consistency when made in advance. The dish has been tested when prepared immediately, which yields the best results. If you need to make this recipe ahead of time, I recommend slightly increasing the amount of sauce.
STORING YOUR MAC AND CHEESE
Any leftover mac and cheese should be tightly covered and refrigerated. It can be stored this way for 3-4 days. To reheat, add a small amount of milk or cream and microwave it partially covered with plastic wrap. Stir frequently as it reheats.
ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT USED IN THIS RECIPE
- Box Grater - This simple tool is crucial for creating the best mac and cheese, as it allows you to freshly shred the cheese!
Hey there! I'm Amanda - a devoted wife, mother, photography enthusiast, and bacon connoisseur! I firmly believe that preparing delicious meals should be a breeze. Now that you're here, take a moment to peruse through a few recipes and let's embark on a culinary adventure together!
AVOID PRE-SHREDDED CHEESE!
I understand the convenience of pre-shredded cheese, but not only does it lack the same flavor quality, it also contains additives that prevent the cheese from melting as it should. Therefore, I highly recommend using a box grater to shred fresh cheese for your homemade mac and cheese. This small effort will yield far superior results!
WHAT TYPE OF CHEESE SHOULD YOU USE?
This classic mac and cheese recipe calls for cheddar cheese. Personally, I gravitate toward medium or sharp cheddar, but any type of cheddar will suffice. If you want to elevate your dish or impress guests, consider experimenting with a combination of different cheeses. Be sure to choose cheeses that melt well, such as white cheddar, smoked gouda, gruyere, brie, goat cheese, mozzarella, or fontina.
ABOUT THIS HEAVENLY MACARONI AND CHEESE
The present recipe will delight you with each mouthful, offering a perfect blend of creamy and cheesy notes. The macaroni is cooked to tender al dente perfection, and the dish features multiple layers of shredded cheese, smothered in a smooth and velvety cheese sauce. Finally, it is artfully baked until it reaches bubbly perfection!
INGREDIENTS FOR BAKED MAC AND CHEESE
These are the key ingredients:
- All the essential flavors!
Macaroni, commonly known as elbow pasta, is the star of the show. However, feel free to use any short pasta variety, such as penne or ziti. The combination of gruyere and mozzarella cheese creates an exceptionally indulgent flavor profile.
Please note: Cream is not necessary for this recipe, as the butter and cheese provide sufficient richness. Adding cream might compromise the overall experience by making it excessively heavy.
I know that preparation methods and ingredients vary from one individual to another. Feel free to explore and experiment with different cheeses and additional seasonings to make the recipe your own. Garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, smoked paprika, and hot sauce are popular choices for enhancing the flavor profile. To achieve the 4 cups of cheddar cheese required, shred a 16 oz block of cheddar. Similarly, for the 2 cups of gruyere cheese, aim for an 8 oz block of gruyere.
GUIDE TO A CRUNCHIER TOPPING AND FIRMER CONSISTENCY
If desired, you can achieve a crunchier topping and a firmer texture by adjusting the baking method as follows:
- Prepare the recipe as directed, but bake at 350 or 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes. As the baking time concludes, broil the dish for approximately 2-5 minutes until the top turns golden brown and delightfully crispy.
Mac and Cheese is truly a culinary masterpiece, suitable for any occasion. Whether you're preparing a simple family dinner or hosting a grand holiday feast, this dish will undoubtedly impress. It pairs exceptionally well with a variety of main courses, ranging from baked pork chops to savory steaks, succulent roast chicken to crispy garlic chicken thighs. The only types of dishes I would avoid pairing it with are very light and summery options, such as tuna tartare, as the contrast might be a bit overpowering. On festive occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter, combining it with a delectable roast turkey, perfectly seasoned roast pork, or a succulent standing rib roast is a winning choice. Trust me, holidays would not be the same without this incredible mac and cheese! - Nagi xx
BAKED MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE
For a detailed demonstration of the preparation process, you can watch the recipe video. This particular recipe has become a beloved staple and is featured in my debut cookbook, Dinner. I've shared it by popular demand due to its status as a reader favorite! Subscribe to my newsletter and stay updated by following me on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Servings: 6-8 servings (hover over # to adjust)
RECIPE VIDEO above. This remains the best Baked Mac and Cheese I've ever tasted! Perfect in every aspect, it features an exquisitely white, ultra-creamy cheese sauce, topped with a crunchy and buttery perfection. This dish is perfect for gatherings, as it does not dry out and become dense like most other macaroni and cheese recipes, thanks to the additional step of tossing the macaroni in butter, preventing it from bloating. Furthermore, it emerges from the oven delightfully saucy.
TOP TIP: Grate your own cheese to achieve remarkable results. Pre-packaged shredded cheese often contains additives that can make the sauce grainy or powdery. Pasta:
- Cook the pasta: Begin by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook it according to the package instructions, minus 1 minute.
- Toss in butter: Drain the cooked pasta and return it to the pot. Add butter and toss until melted. Allow the pasta to cool while preparing the sauce (optional but recommended - Note 3).
- Mix the topping ingredients together and set them aside.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (all oven types).
- Make a roux: Melt the butter in a large saucepan or ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Add milk: Begin by adding approximately 1 cup of milk and mixing it to dissolve the flour paste. Then add the remaining milk and mix until the sauce is lump-free (use a whisk if necessary).
- Add seasonings: Mix in the salt and any desired seasonings.
- Thicken the sauce: Cook the mixture, stirring/whisking regularly, for 5-8 minutes until it reaches a creamy consistency. When the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon, you should be able to draw a path with your finger.
- Add cheese: Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese. The cheese does not need to melt completely.
- Check salt: Adjust the salt to taste (if you're using the recommended cheeses, additional salt may not be necessary).
- Combine the sauce with the pasta and stir quickly. Then, pour the mixture back into the skillet (as I did) or into a baking dish (Note 4). Sprinkle the breadcrumb topping over the dish.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until the top turns light golden. Avoid baking it for too long, as this could cause the sauce to dry out.
- Serve immediately! I garnished mine with a fresh parsley sprinkle. For the best make-ahead method, please refer to the notes section.
1. Panko breadcrumbs are larger in size compared to regular breadcrumbs, resulting in a delightful crunchy topping. In Australia, panko breadcrumbs can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets. If unavailable, regular breadcrumbs can be used as a substitute.
- Main Cheese (2 cups): My personal favorite is gruyere (as shown in the video) due to its flavor and excellent melting properties. However, you can also use any flavorful melting cheese. Other cheeses that work well in this recipe include cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby, and provolone. In Australia and New Zealand, tasty cheese is a suitable substitute, although the resulting sauce may not be as smooth.
- I recommend using mozzarella for the 2nd cheese (1 cup). It melts beautifully into the sauce, provides excellent stretch, and isn't as oily as other cheeses. Additionally, it has a milder saltiness. However, if desired, you can simply use more of the Main Cheese.
- Remember to always grate your own cheese for cheese sauces. Pre-packaged shredded cheese contains anti-caking agents that do not melt as well and may result in a slightly powdery texture.
- The saltiness of different cheeses can vary. Therefore, if you opt for a different cheese other than gruyere as the Main Cheese, ensure you taste and adjust the salt as needed. Most cheeses have similar salt levels.
3. Tossing pasta with butter provides a light coating that prevents it from bloating while baking in the sauce. This is why it's important to let the pasta cool before combining it with the sauce. While this step is optional, I recommend incorporating it.
4. Baking dish size: Use a 2.5L/2.5qt (10-cup) baking dish. A 9x13" (23x33 cm) dish is perfect for a double batch, but slightly too large for a single batch, resulting in a thinner layer. The goal is to achieve more depth.
5. PREPARE AHEAD: While mac and cheese is best enjoyed fresh, you can make it ahead of time with the following method: Cook the pasta and toss it in butter, then allow it to cool (this is key, as hot pasta will absorb the sauce and bloat). Make the cheese sauce as directed in the recipe, mix it through the pasta, and sprinkle on the breadcrumb topping. Refrigerate or freeze the dish (fully thaw it in the fridge before baking). Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 180°C/350°F. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 25 minutes until the top turns golden. When baked from a cold state, the mac and cheese will take longer to cook.
REHEATING LEFTOVERS: The best method is to microwave the dish until it becomes warm. Then, spray the top with oil or butter and crisp it under the grill/broiler.
6. Nutrition per serving: This recipe yields 6 generous side servings. You'll be amazed at how far 250g/8oz of macaroni can stretch with a generous amount of cheese sauce! As a main, it serves 4 generously. The nutritional information is as follows: Calories: 551cal (28%), Carbohydrates: 48g (16%), Protein: 23g (46%), Fat: 29g (45%), Saturated Fat: 17g (106%), Cholesterol: 89mg (30%), Sodium: 847mg (37%), Potassium: 326mg (9%), Fiber: 1g (4%), Sugar: 8g (9%), Vitamin A: 915IU (18%), Vitamin C: 0.2mg, Calcium: 449mg (45%), Iron: 1.4mg (8%). The nutritional value may vary depending on the brands of ingredients used.
Keywords: Baked Mac and Cheese, BEST Mac and Cheese, Mac and cheese recipe, Macaroni and Cheese.
This recipe was originally published in July 2017. Since then, it has been updated multiple times with improved photographs and the addition of a recipe video. In November 2021, it was reconfirmed as the best mac and cheese recipe I've ever encountered! No changes were made to the recipe itself - as readers would never forgive me for modifying it!
The RecipeTin Eats MAC & CHEESE COLLECTION: I absolutely adore a good mac and cheese! See??
Now that you've discovered the secrets to creating the perfect homemade mac and cheese, it's time to unleash your culinary skills and indulge in this comforting and indulgent dish. Whether you stick to the classic recipe or add your own creative twists, mac and cheese is sure to satisfy your cravings and impress your family and friends. So gather your ingredients, pick up that box grater, and let the cheesy adventure begin! Get ready to savor every creamy, flavorful bite of this ultimate comfort food. Happy cooking!