This Baked Macaroni and Cheese is everything you want in a good mac and cheese recipe. Gooey cheese, perfectly cooked noodles, and a savory breadcrumb topping make this a winning recipe for any weeknight rotation.
This is the last macaroni and cheese recipe you will ever need! The gooey cheese sauce coats the noodles perfectly and the breadcrumb topping gives the dish just the right amount of texture. Baking your mac and cheese is the key to a bubbly, creamy dish.
The best part of my baked mac and cheese recipe is how easy it is to customize! Using a blend of three cheeses allows you to switch things up and try different combinations. You can use pepper jack cheese for more spice or use gouda for a creamier, more savory cheese sauce. The cheese is the most complicated part of this dish and it comes together in less than 15 minutes, making this a great recipe for busy weeknights!
Table Of Contents
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Creamy and Cheesy Comfort: People love baked mac and cheese for its creamy, cheesy goodness.
- Ultimate Comfort Food: It's a comforting and indulgent dish that brings nostalgia and warmth.
- Customizable: You can customize it with various ingredients like bacon, breadcrumbs, or veggies.
- Great Leftovers: Reheats well, often enjoyed even more the next day.
- Macaroni Noodles—Can be replaced with your favorite kind of pasta.
- Salted Butter—Works with the flour to create a slurry that will help thicken the cheese sauce.
- Flour—Acts as the second half of your slurry mixture.
- Cheese Blend—A flavorful mix of cheddar cheese,white cheddar cheese, and parmesan cheese.
- Milk—Serves as the base in the cheese sauce, helping make it nice and creamy.
- Panko Bread Crumbs—Gives your mac and cheese a delicious crunchy topping.
Popular Substitutions and Variations
One of our favorite things about this dish is how easy it is to customize. From cheeses to pastas, we love coming up with new ways to make this classic dish. Here are some of our favorites:
- Try switching out the white cheddar for pepper jack cheese for a nice kick in your dish. You can also add a few drops of hot sauce to your breadcrumb topping.
- For an even more gooey dish, omit the bread crumb topping and instead top the mac and cheese with two cups of extra shredded cheese.
- Switch up what kind of pasta you use. Bow tie and rotini are two of our favorite substitutions.
- Add some extra flavor to your cheese sauce by sprinkling in a pinch of paprika, garlic powder, and white ground pepper.
How to Make Baked Macaroni and Cheese
1. Gather ingredients and then cook, drain, and set aside your pasta.
2. Melt butter in a large pot. Once the butter is completely melted, add the flour to create a thick slurry. Add the cheese and milk. Whisk the mixture until the cheese is fully melted.
3. Transfer the noodles and cheese sauce to a large baking dish and fold to combine.Sprinkle the breadcrumb topping over the mac and cheese.
4. Bake until the topping is golden brown and the mac and cheese is bubbly. Serve and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
Because we want to develop a crunchy layer with the breadcrumbs, it is not necessary to cover your baking dish. Leaving your dish uncovered will also cause the top layer of noodles to become a little firmer than the noodles at the bottom of the baking dish. That being said, you are more than welcome to cover your mac and cheese with tin foil if you would like! Doing so will not change the cook time or overall flavor of the dish.
It is important to pre-cook your noodles before baking your macaroni and cheese. Uncooked noodles will absorb moisture from the cheese sauce, leaving you with a dry dish. Your baked mac and cheese will also take longer to coo
There are two main reasons that your mac and cheese might not be as creamy as you would like. The first is that you are overbaking your mac and cheese. Overbaking your dish will cause the cheese sauce to lose moisture and become a little dry. Using pre-shredded cheese can also prevent your sauce from being creamy. Store-bought pre-shredded cheese often contains a chalky coating to prevent it from sticking together. Using freshly shredded cheese will help keep your sauce nice and creamy.
- Other pastas you can use include shells, rotini, and bow tie. While you are more than welcome to use any pasta you would like, we recommend sticking to smaller sized pastas to keep the cheese sauce evenly distributed.
- The sharpness of the white cheddar helps amplify the flavor of the other two cheeses, ensuring the flavors aren’t muted as the dish bakes.
- The breadcrumb topping gives this dish a nice crunch. If you only have regular panko crumbs then you can add about ½ tablespoon of Italian seasoning. Panko breadcrumbs will give your dish a more noticeable crunch, but regular italian breadcrumbs can be used as well.
- It is important to make sure that the flour and butter are fully combined. When the flour is fully incorporated with the butter, the mixture acts as a base for your cheese sauce.
How to Store and Reheat Your Leftovers
You can store your leftover mac and cheese in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can either cover the baking dish with plastic wrap or transfer your leftovers to an airtight container. Reheat your leftovers by cooking a single serving in the microwave for about 45 seconds. It is important to note that the mac and cheese will not be as creamy when reheated.
You can freeze your macaroni and cheese for up to two months after it has been baked. We like to prepare our mac and cheese in a disposable baking dish when we know we are going to freeze it. Cook your frozen macaroni and cheese in the oven for 20 minutes at 400°F. Make sure the dish is covered with tin foil to prevent the dish from burning.
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Baked Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound uncooked macaroni noodles
- ½ cup salted butter divided
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup white cheddar cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup panko style breadcrumbs
- Cook your pasta according to package directions. Drain the noodles once they are fully cooked and set them aside. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and whisk in the flour to create a slurry. Once the butter and flour are homogenous, stir in the milk until combined. Add the cheeses. Stir the mixture for about five minutes over medium heat until the cheese has completely melted.
- Add the cheese sauce to a 9x13 inch pan along with the cooked noodles and fold to combine. You can also add the pasta to the pot you melted the cheese in if the pot is big enough. Do what works best for you.
- Melt the remaining butter in a small bowl and then stir in the bread crumbs. Whisk the two ingredients together and then sprinkle the breadcrumbs over your mac and cheese.
- Bake the mac and cheese for 25 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy!
- Store your leftover mac and cheese in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can either let the pan cool and then cover it tightly in plastic wrap or transfer your leftovers to an airtight container.
- Other pastas you can use in this recipe include shells, rotini, and bow tie. Any smaller sized pasta will work great!
- The sharpness of the white cheddar helps amplify the flavor of the other two cheeses, ensuring the flavor isn’t muted as the dish bakes.
- The breadcrumb topping gives this dish a nice crunch. If you only have regular panko crumbs and you'd like to make them seasoned, you can add ½ tablespoon of Italian seasoning to the crumb topping.
- You can substitute the panko crumbs for regular breadcrumbs; however the top of the mac and cheese will have a more subtle crunch.
- It is important to make sure that the flour and butter are fully combined. This acts as the base of your sauce and will ensure that it thickens properly. You don’t want any clumps of dry flour in your slurry.