Homemade Mac and Cheese

The cheesiest, CREAMIEST homemade mac n cheese you’ll ever make! Macaroni pasta covered in sharp cheddar cheese, melted into a warm cream sauce, and topped with a perfect panko crust. The whole family will definitely approve!

Macaroni and cheese is always a quick and easy go-to for dinner, especially when you cant think of anything to make. The kids never complain (because what kid doesn’t like pasta?), and they love it as much as our Creamy Penne Pasta and Fettuccine Alfredo.

Homemade Mac and Cheese on spoon in casserole dish

no whining at the dinner table

Macaroni and cheese is always a safe bet. The kids never complain about having mac and cheese for dinner, which means we avoid dinner table whining (I know you know what I’m talking about). 😉

We wanted to share our homemade version, which has become a family favorite. It’s a baked mac and cheese recipe that is easy, cheesy and so delicious! Have you ever made homemade Macaroni and Cheese? If not, today needs to be the day!

This recipe makes for a great dinner idea through out the year, but we even use it frequently during the holidays—it’s a fantastic side dish at big family gatherings!

homemade mac n cheese recipe in a red baking dish

How to Make Mac and Cheese:

This might take a little longer than boxed mac n cheese, but let me tell ya, the extra time and effort is SO worth it. Plus, most of the ingredients you need are ones you already have on hand, and the steps are simple.

PASTA. Begin by cooking pasta according to package directions, and set aside.

SAUCE. In a large saucepan, melt ½ c. butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic salt and pepper to taste. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking until smooth. Heat the mixture to a low boil until thickened. Remove from heat.

ASSEMBLE. Add the hot pasta to a greased 9×13″ baking dish. Then, sprinkle 6 cups shredded cheese over the pasta (yes, you can cut that down if you want). Pour the thickened cream sauce over the pasta and cheese. Let it sit until the cheese has melted and then stir together.

TOP & BAKE. Melt 2 TB butter over medium heat. Add in bread crumbs, stirring constantly until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Pour over the mac and cheese. Bake at 325° for 14-15 minutes. Serve warm, and ENJOY!

CROCK POT VERSION

To make Mac n Cheese an even easier dish you can make it in a crock pot. Pour your pasta in first cover them with your sauces and cheese. Cook on Low for 2-3 hours. For our favorite crock pot mac and cheese CLICK HERE

Cheesy Mac and Cheese sauce pouring in casserole dish

Recipe variations

This cheesy mac and cheese is simply the best. Here are some variations you can make, whether it’s changing up the cheese, using different kinds of breadcrumbs or adding ingredients like bacon.

CHEESE. You can get creative with the cheeses by changing the cheddar for a different cheese or blend 2-3 cheese together. A popular blend is equal parts mozzarella, cheddar and american.

Some other cheese that are good to use in a Mac n Cheese recipe include Parmesan, Sharp Cheddar, White Cheddar, smoked Gouda, Gruyere, Colby Jack, Gorgonzola.

TOPPINGS. Adding a topping gives the Mac and Cheese a simple finishing touch. If you don’t have breadcrumbs, or want to try something different, here are a few suggestions you might like: crushed ritz crackers, crushed Triscuits crackers, crushed corn flakes, or sliced almonds.

ADD-INS. If you want to get adventurous, try adding some of these items to change things up: cooked bacon bits, parmesan cheese, salsa or jalapenos, broccoli, roasted red peppers, diced ham, grilled chicken, cooked hamburger, chili flakes.

Best Mac and Cheese Recipe in casserole dish

Tips, Tricks, and FAQ

Why do you add flour into the mac n cheese? The technique for adding flour and butter to Mac n Cheese is called Roux. Roux is a thickening agent used for gravy, sauces, soups, stews. Roux is always made first, then the other ingredients are added.

When the Roux technique is added to Mac n Cheese, it not only thickens the dish, but keeps the cheese from separating and/or clumping together.

Why is my cheese grainy? Here are some tips to keep your cheese from getting a grainy texture: Use high quality cheese with natural ingredients. Grate the cheese yourself as opposed to buying pre grated cheese. Make sure you add the cheese AFTER the Roux sauce has thickened. Also, do not overheat the cheese.

Make Ahead. This can be really useful when you are planning for a larger holiday meal, family BBQ, or on a regular busy day. Prepare the Mac and Cheese according to the recipe. Before baking, cover the dish tightly and keep in the fridge for 1-2 days. When you are ready to use, bake as per recipe directions.

Freeze. If you know you plan to freeze the dish, make sure the pasta is cooked al dente. This pasta dish can be frozen for 2-3 months. When you’re ready to bake, you can thaw it in the fridge and bake according to the recipe directions, or you can put it directly from the freezer in the oven.

In the latter case, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the foil covered mac n cheese dish in the oven and bake until it’s hot in center (about 1 hour).

Spoonful of Homemade Mac and Cheese

I never said this recipe was healthy, but oh man, is it good!! It’s full of cheese, and the Panko crumbs on top make it even more delicious!

what to serve with macaroni and cheese:

For more cheesy recipes, check out:

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Mac and Cheese Recipe

4.95 from 52 votes
The cheesiest, CREAMIEST homemade mac n cheese you'll ever make! Macaroni pasta covered in sharp cheddar cheese, melted into a warm cream sauce, and topped with a perfect panko crust. The whole family will definitely approve!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 10 people
Calories 666 kcal
Author Lil' Luna

Ingredients

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 4 c. milk
  • 6 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 TB garlic salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs

Instructions
 

  • Boil pasta according to package directions. In large saucepan, melt 1/2 c butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic salt and pepper to taste. Slowly pour in 4 cups milk, whisking until smooth. Heat to a low boil until thickened. Remove from heat.
  • Add hot pasta to a greased 9x13" baking dish. Sprinkle 6 cups shredded cheese over pasta. Pour the thickened cream sauce over the pasta and cheese. Let sit until the cheese has melted and stir together.
  • Melt 2 TB butter over medium heat. Add in bread crumbs, stirring constantly until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Pour over the mac and cheese.
  • Bake at 325 for 14-15 minutes. Serve warm.

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Recipe adapted from That Which Nourishes

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About the Author

Kristyn Merkley

My name is Kristyn and I’m the mom of SIX stinkin’ cute kids and the wife to my smokin’ hot hubby, Lo. My mom’s maiden name is Luna, and I’m one of the many crafty “Lil’ Lunas” in the fam. On this site I like to share all things creative - from recipes to home decor to gifts and home decor ideas. Welcome!

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Comments:

  1. 5 stars
    So I don’t like the flavor of garlic so I just took that out and used plain salt and pepper and this is the best macaroni and cheese recipe I have found by far and I’ve searched far and wide!! I actually have made this recipe for two different big company events (50-75 people each) and it was a hit and actually got me a round of applause at one!

  2. 5 stars
    Hey Kristyn! This is an amazing plus delectable recipe for foodies. I made it yesterday, and my kids were truly overwhelmed by the dish. As my family is a spice-lover, so I added some chili flakes and jalapenos along with Julian cut chicken in the pasta, too. I must say, this recipe is a new addition to my food diary. Thanks for this yummilicious share. ?

    1. Those are great additions 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing that. I’ll have to try that!

  3. 5 stars
    I added frozen broccoli so it messed with the melting process but I also added green Chili to the cream sauce and let it marinade for a bit cooked it at the recommended time gave everything an additional stir to make sure the cheese was mixed and melted throughout then added the bread crumbs after and cooked for another 5-8 min. To toast the breadcrumbs It turned out perfect!

    1. I personally would only keep up to a few days. It just dries out & we like fresh best. You can freeze it, too. If you know you plan to freeze the dish, make sure the pasta is cooked al dente. This pasta dish can be frozen for 2-3 months. When you’re ready to bake, you can thaw it in the fridge and bake according to the recipe directions, or you can put it directly from the freezer in the oven. In the latter case, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the foil covered mac n cheese dish in the oven and bake until it’s hot in center (about 1 hour).

  4. 5 stars
    I made this for the first time as a side dish for Thanksgiving 2020. It was a big hit! My 22 year old grandson is a huge Mac and Cheese lover! He was so happy and went back for a big second helping! The comments around the dinner table from everyone was that is was a a huge success!

    I did do the suggestion of using half cheddar and half another cheese. I chose Mozzarella and it was so yummy and creamy!

    This has now replaced all other Mac and Cheese recipes in my recipe box! If I could have given this more than 5 stars, I would have! Not only is it yummy and creamy but it was so easy!

  5. 5 stars
    My brother in law who never eats anything at holidays -ate this! And he took the leftovers home! So yummy!

  6. 5 stars
    You know a recipe is good when you mess up the first time & it still comes out super yummy! This is the first Mac & cheese recipe I’ve found that my dad actually loves!

  7. 5 stars
    This Mac and cheese was so good! I made it exactly as the recipe said for Thanksgiving as a side because I knew it was something that my kids would eat, and there was nothing left! My husband was sad, so I made it again the next night and added a little ham and steamed broccoli. It’s now a favorite among my family.

  8. 5 stars
    Made several batches for our high school football team and they couldn’t get enough of it. Thank you for such a yummy recipe.

  9. 5 stars
    I have made this mac and cheese multiple times. It works for a crowd, or just my family. It is so good and creamy. It is without a doubt the best mac and cheese recipe I have found!

  10. 5 stars
    We love this mac and cheese! So creamy and delicious. I love the method of mixing everything in the casserole dish. So easy! Thanks for the recipe!

  11. How long should I cook the white sauce?! I always wonder if I’ve cooked it long enough or not long enough? How thick do I want it to get? Thanks!

    1. You don’t want it super thick, more still of a liquid, so you can pour it over the pasta. It only takes a few minutes.

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