This homemade baked mac and cheese is easy to make yet tastes and feels better than boxed mac. Robin Miller’s family-friendly dishes are perfect for beginners and pros.

This macaroni and cheese is comfort food, with supple noodles, a cheesy, ultra-creamy sauce, and a crispy panko-parmesan crust.

A milk, cream, and two-cheese sauce starts this straightforward dish. Thick, rich, sharp, and melty. Good-quality, tasty cheese doesn’t need garlic powder, onion powder, or nutmeg. To avoid the spice aisle, spend a little more on cheese.

One mouthful will make you swear off boxed mac and cheese.

Best cheese for homemade mac and cheese
Choose meltable and flavorful cheeses.

This cream sauce combines strong cheddar and creamy Swiss. Fontina, mozzarella, Monterey jack, pepper jack, Colby, Gouda, Gruyere, and American make good macaroni and cheese. You can use any cheese that tastes good and is gooey. Mix and match six cups of shredded cheese.

Use blocks of cheese, not pre-shredded bags. Anti-clumping cellulose coats pre-shredded cheese. This layer prevents cheese from melting.

Shred cheddar and jack with a box grater or food processor.

Best pasta for homemade mac and cheese
Mac and cheese works with any pasta shape. Elbow macaroni is traditional. I like little tubes of pasta because the cheese sauce gets into the noodle tunnels and coats and fills each bite with melty cheese.

Cook pasta slightly under al dente regardless of shape. Stop cooking pasta 1 minute before al dente, the package’s recommended time. Baked macaroni and cheese keeps cooking in the oven. Soft pasta might become mushy.

Note: Cook pasta al dente if not baking this macaroni and cheese.
Mac and cheese sauce recipe.

Roux makes a wonderful cheese sauce. Easy butter-flour roux. Whisk melted butter and flour over medium heat until bubbling. When the roux is smooth and golden brown, whisk in cold or room-temperature milk (warm milk can clump) and bring to a slow simmer. Add cheese once the sauce thickens.

Stir constantly.

Macaroni and cheese depends on the cream sauce. Breaks. If you leave the pan or stop stirring while making the cheese sauce, it can scorch and curdle, resulting in a gritty sauce. Presentation will be poor, but tasting will be good.

Baked mac and cheese recipe

Macaroni and cheese doesn’t need baking. Serve this macaroni and cheese directly from the saucepan! Remove the panko-parmesan topping, add all the cheese to the sauce, mix well, and serve.

If you want that nutty, golden crunch on your macaroni, mix breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and melted butter and sprinkle it over your macaroni and cheese in an oven-proof skillet or baking dish. Bake at 350 F until golden brown and bubbling.

Macaroni and cheese lifespan?

Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate leftover macaroni and cheese for up to 4 days. Before microwaving macaroni and cheese, add milk or cream if desired.

Reheat tiny amounts in the microwave for 30 seconds each, stirring each time.

Avoid freezing leftovers. Homemade macaroni and cheese freezes poorly. It tastes great, but after freezing and thawing, the smoothness is gone, the pasta and sauce sometimes separate, and the mixture is gloppy.

Recipe: Best mac and cheese

Serves 4–6

Ingredients:

1 pound elbow macaroni or other tube-shaped pasta
olive oil
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar
2 cups shredded Swiss
6-tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3-cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chilled whole milk
1 cup chilled heavy cream
Salt and pepper

Topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups panko
  • grated Parmesan
  • 4-tablespoon melted butter

Instructions:

  1. 350 F oven. Oil or spray a 3- or 4-quart baking dish (I used a 3-quart baking dish).
  2. Stop cooking 1 minute before al dente. Drain, add olive oil, and stir. Cool.
  3. Grate and mix cheddar and Swiss cheeses for the cheese sauce. Reserve.
  4. Melt butter in a large saucepan or stockpot over medium heat. Whisk flour into melted butter. Whisk for 1 minute until smooth, bubbly, and golden brown.
  5. Cook and stir until bubbles emerge. After bubbles appear, stir for 2 more minutes to thicken the sauce. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper on low heat.
  6. Mix 2 cups of cheddar-Swiss cheese. After melting the cheese, add 2 more cups of the cheese blend and stir until smooth, thick, and creamy.
  7. Mix pasta. Half the pasta-cheese mixture goes into the baking dish. Top with the remaining spaghetti and cheese.
  8. Mix breadcrumbs, parmesan, and melted butter in a small bowl.
  9. Sprinkle it on the macaroni and cheese in the baking dish.
    Bake till golden brown and bubbling, 25–30 minutes. Serve.
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