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Best Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe – An Easy Side Dish Recipe

I have tried many macaroni and cheese recipes, but this by far is the BEST Baked Mac and Cheese that I have ever made.

Not only is it creamy and delicious, but it has just the right balance of texture between the noodles and the cheese sauce.

It is a fantastic side dish recipe that can compliment a classic barbecue meal of Pulled Pork, Smoked Brisket, or Baby Back Ribs. Although, it is also so simple to make that it could be served at dinner with a hamburger or hot dog as well.

However, many of us also find this classic dish on the table of many holiday meals, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter as well.

baked mac and cheese
Homemade baked mac and cheese – the perfect side dish recipe for just about any meal, including holidays!

And beyond popular belief, making homemade macaroni and cheese is not difficult to do. All it takes is a simple homemade cheese sauce that is prepared in less time than the pasta takes to boil.

Then toss it all together, put it in a baking dish and top it with shredded cheese. And within 20 minutes, you will be enjoying a classic, homemade side dish fit for any occasion!

Baked Mac and Cheese

INGREDIENTS

Elbow pasta
Unsalted butter
All-purpose flour
Whole milk
Half and half
Freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Freshly shredded Gruyere cheese
Salt
Ground black pepper
Paprika

INSTRUCTIONS

The first step in making this recipe is to preheat the and grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  

If you do not have a rectangular 9 x 13 inch baking dish, you could use a 3 quart oval baking dish to cook your mac and cheese.

Set the baking dish aside and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil add the pasta and cook 1 minute less than the package instructions for al dente consistency.  

The pasta is going to continue to cook while it is being baked in the oven. Therefore, you want the noodles a little firmer than you would want if you were only boiling them.

Drain and place the almost cooked noodles in a large mixing bowl. You can drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top of the noodles and toss to coat.

This will help prevent the noodles from sticking to each other while you prepare the cheese sauce. Set the bowl with the noodles aside.

macaroni noodles draining
Be sure to cook the pasta one minute less than what the package directions call for al dente consistency. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven so that the noodles become nice and tender.

Grate The Cheese

While the noodles are boiling grate the cheese. When the cheese is grated put both varieties in a large bowl and toss to mix.

Divide the cheese in two even piles. One half of the cheese will be used for the baked mac and cheese sauce. And the remaining half will be divided and used in the inner layer and for the topping.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted add the flour and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk and cook for approximately 1 minute. Slowly pour in the milk while continually whisking until incorporated. Add the half and half and continue to whisk constantly until smooth.  

Continue to heat, whisking frequently until the mixture is nice and thick. The mixture should be able to coat the back of a spoon when dipped.

Remove the sauce from the heat and add salt, pepper and paprika, stir. Slowly add 1/2 of the shredded cheese and continue to stir until completely melted.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir until fully coated. Pour half of the pasta in the prepared baking dish. Top with half of the remaining cheese. Then top that with the remaining pasta and top with the remaining cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until cheesy is bubbly around the edges and the top has turned light golden brown in color.

Remove the baking pan from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.

shredded cheese blend
The most important step in this recipe is shred your own cheese. Store-bought shredded cheese contains an anti-caking agent that doesn’t allow the cheese to melt properly.

How To Store Leftovers

If you have any baked mac and cheese leftovers, let the mac and cheese cool completely. Then cover and place in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Unfortunately, pasta doesn’t freeze well. Therefore, I would not recommend freezing any leftovers.

Make Ahead Instructions

The great thing about this dish is that you can save yourself time on the day that you want to serve it by making it a day or two in advance.

Simply follow the instructions on how to prepare the dish, but do not bake it. Then cover and place in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

When you are ready to bake it, allow the dish to come to room temperature before placing it in the oven.

Make It Even Better

Now you have the recipe on how to make the best baked mac and cheese. However, depending on the occasion, you may want to take this to a new level by adding in a few ingredients.

Here are some of my favorite ways to spruce up this iconic side dish recipe:

  1. Add diced bacon crumbles before baking and top with diced green onions when serving.
  2. Stir in some diced ham before cooking to make it a complete meal.
  3. Feeling fancy? Add bits of lobster or crab and you have yourself a gourmet meal!
  4. Top the macaroni and cheese with a mixture of Panko breadcrumbs and melted butter for an irresistible crunchy topping.
  5. After baking, place the pan in a smoker along with your ribs, chicken wings or whatever you are smoking. The smoky flavor is perfect for a barbecue!
bacon mac and cheese
One of my favorite additions to mac and cheese is to stir in crumbled bacon before baking, and then sprinkle diced green onions on top!

Other Delicious Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipes

Enjoy! Mary

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Yield: 10 servings

Baked Mac and Cheese

baked mac and cheese

Creamy, homemade mac and cheese that is simple and easy to make. The perfect side dish recipe for any holiday meal or group gathering.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. elbow pasta
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 1/2 cups half and half
  • 4 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups freshly shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 9x13" inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil add the pasta and cook 1 minute less than the package instructions for al dente consistency.  Drain and place in a large mixing bowl, set aside.

  3. Grate the cheese and put in a large bowl and toss to mix. Divide the cheese in two even piles. Approximately 3 cups for the sauce, 1 1/2 cups for the inner layer, and 1 1/2 cups for the topping.

  4. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted add the flour and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk and cook for approximately 1 minute. Slowly pour in the milk while continually whisking until incorporated. Add the half and half and continue to whisk constantly, until smooth.  

  5. Continue to heat, whisking frequently until the mixture is nice and thick. The mixture should be able to coat the back of a spoon when dipped.

  6. Remove the sauce from the heat and add salt, pepper and paprika, stir. Slowly add 1/2 of the shredded cheese and continue to stir until completely melted.

  7. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir until fully coated. Pour half of the pasta in the prepared baking dish. Top with half of the remaining cheese. Then top that with the remaining pasta and top with the remaining cheese.

  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until cheesy is bubbly around the edges and the top has turned light golden brown in color.

    Option: If you want a crunchier topping, place under broiler for 3-4 minutes, watching carefully so that the cheese does not burn

    Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

Recipe provided by Make Your Meals

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 769Total Fat: 56gSaturated Fat: 33gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 167mgSodium: 1167mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 37g

Nutritional Information is to be used as a general guideline only . Nutritional calculations will vary from the types and brands of the products used.

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