Best Mac and Cheese Recipe: Macaroni and Cheese is a classic and rich, creamy, and cheesy deliciousness topped with crunchy topping that will satisfy all your taste buds and cheese cravings. It is a perfect comforting dinner recipe or crowd-pleaser side dish for holiday dinner.
The Best Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese - American Food
Mac and cheese is one of the popular American foods which is now world famous. All the buffet lunches and dinners at restaurants I visited in the United States had mac and cheese as a common dish.
You will see millions of recipes online, and there is no right or wrong. Every family or individual has their own way of making it. This is what my family loves, and I have been following this recipe for a long time now.
The best mac and cheese recipe you will make. The sauce is made on the stovetop, mixed with pasta, and baked. So this is a stovetop, oven-baked version of mac and cheese.
I have used three combinations of cheese (which keeps changing based on what is available in my pantry), homemade cheese sauce, and topped with bread crumbs, Parmesan, and butter. The bread crumbs and Parmesan topping give your dish a crunch and make it super tasty.
Macaroni au gratin is a fancy way of saying this classic mac and cheese. A perfect recipe for weekday dinners, holiday gatherings, potlucks, or even lunch boxes.
Mac and Cheese Ingredients
Macaroni: Traditionally used pasta to make mac and cheese. If unavailable, use any tubular pasta.
Cheese: A star ingredient that makes your macaroni cheesy, creamy, and rich. Use any cheese that is available in your pantry. Some of the best cheeses include cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, mozzarella, pepper jack, gruyere, smoked gouda, swiss, monterey jack, colby jack, or even American and Velveeta for a creamier cheese sauce.
Milk: Help make a cheesy sauce to coat the pasta.
Butter: For flavor and richness.
Flour: To create roux. Thickening agent for your sauce.
Spices: Garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, mustard powder, or any seasonings of your choice.
See the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
How to make mac and cheese?
If you are a beginner or want to try this creamy cheese macaroni and cheese, you will have to follow these simple steps.
- Boil the pasta and drain.
- Mix the shredded cheese in a bowl.
- Make the cheesy sauce by combining butter, flour, and milk, heavy cream.
- Add half of the shredded cheese and cooked pasta and toss.
- Transfer half of this to a baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese, followed by the rest of the mac and cheese.
- Top it with panko bread crumbs for the additional crunch. Bake, serve, and enjoy.
Tips to make homemade best mac and cheese recipe
Grate or Shred Cheese: Block cheese works best for mac and cheese. For satisfying and rich flavors, always use a combination of different cheeses. In the recipe below, I have used Cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan cheese. You can also include cheeses like mozzarella, pepper jack, gruyere gouda, swiss, monterey jack, colby jack.
Cook Pasta: Cook the pasta 1 to 2 minutes less than the package instructions (to ensure you don't get soggy mac and cheese), drain and drizzle the pasta with olive oil, and stir to coat the pasta. I have used Elbow Macaroni. Feel free to use any tubular pasta for the recipe.
Make Roux: While pasta is cooking, in a saucepan, melt butter. Add flour and continue to whisk on medium heat for a minute until it is bubbly and golden.
Make Sauce: Add cold milk, cream, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, whisk, and continue cooking on medium heat for another 2 to 4 minutes. Add half of the shredded cheese and whisk until smooth. The sauce will be thick and smooth.
Toss the Pasta: Add the cooked pasta and stir until the pasta is coated nicely in the cheese sauce.
Bake Macaroni and Cheese: Pour half of the macaroni and cheese onto the baking dish. Top remaining shredded cheese followed by remaining mac and cheese.
Prepare the Panko Parmesan Topping: In a small bowl, combine butter, bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle all over the mac and cheese. Bake this for about 25 to 30 minutes until golden and bubbly.
Stovetop mac and cheese
If you do not want to bake the pasta, it is completely ok. Cook the pasta until al dente. After making roux and adding milk and cream, Instead of adding half the cheese, add all the cheese to the sauce and mix. Toss the pasta. Serve and enjoy.
- Once you arrange the pasta in the baking dish, do not bake. Tightly cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days.
- Let it sit on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes before baking.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbly.
Any leftover macaroni and cheese can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days. But remember, the creaminess will be less. It is creamy and cheesy only when it is freshly baked.
If you want a vegan version, then use any dairy-free milk (coconut, soy, almond, or cashew milk). Otherwise, you can use heavy cream, sour cream, cream cheese, or simply pasta water.
You can use any cheese available in your pantry, from cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan cheese to mozzarella, pepper jack, gruyere, smoked gouda, swiss, monterey jack, colby jack, or even American and Velveeta for a creamier cheese sauce.
More easy and simple pasta recipes
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Best Mac and Cheese Recipe | Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese Ingredients
- 2 cups Elbow Macaroni (uncooked, approx 8 oz)
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- 3 tablespoon Butter
- ¼ cup All purpose flour
- 1 ½ cup Whole milk (cold)
- 1 cup Heavy cream
- 2 cups Sharp cheddar cheese shredded (8 oz)
- ¾ cup Swiss cheese shredded
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- ½ teaspoon Garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon Onion powder
- Salt and Pepper , to taste
Mac and Cheese Toppings
- 2 tablespoon Butter melted
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- ¾ cup Panko crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set aside 9-inch x 9-inch baking pan.
- Combine cheddar cheese, swiss cheese, parmesan cheese and keep it aside.2 cups Sharp cheddar cheese, ¾ cup Swiss cheese, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
- Cook the pasta 1 to 2 minutes less than the package instructions, drain and drizzle the pasta with olive oil, and stir to coat the pasta.2 cups Elbow Macaroni, 1 tablespoon Olive oil
Making of simple creamy, cheesy mac and cheese sauce
- Melt butter in a saucepan. Add all-purpose flour and whisk on medium heat for one minute until bubbly and light brown.3 tablespoon Butter, ¼ cup All purpose flour
- Add milk, cream, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, whisk and continue cooking on medium heat for another 2 to 4 minutes.1 ½ cup Whole milk, 1 cup Heavy cream, ½ teaspoon Garlic powder, ½ teaspoon Onion powder, Salt and Pepper
- Add half of the shredded cheese and whisk until smooth.
- Add the cooked pasta and stir until the pasta is coated nicely in the cheese sauce.
Bake macaroni and cheese
- Pour half of the mac and cheese onto the baking dish.
- Top remaining shredded cheese followed by remaining mac and cheese.
- In a small bowl, combine all the topping ingredients )butter, parmesan cheese, bread crumbs). Sprinkle all over the mac and cheese.2 tablespoon Butter, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, ¾ cup Panko crumbs
- Bake this for about 25 to 30 minutes until golden and bubbly.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
- Block cheese works best for mac and cheese. For satisfying and rich flavors, always use a combination of different cheeses.
- Cook the pasta for 1 to 2 minutes less than the package instructions (this is to make sure that you don't get soggy mac and cheese),
- Add seasonings of your choice. Try adding a pinch of nutmeg, which will enhance the flavor of your final dish.
- Use any tubular-shaped pasta.
- Add crispy bacon, sauteed onions, garlic, jalapeno, mushrooms or drizzle truffle oil for a unique taste.
- After adding cheese, whisk slowly until smooth to prevent from clumping.
- If you do not want to bake, you can still make the macaroni and cheese on your stovetop.
- Leftovers will not be creamy and cheesy like the ones when they are freshly baked. So add a splash of milk or cream before heating if desired.
Note: We originally posted this simple and best mac and cheese recipe in June 2019. It has now been modified in Sep 2023 with Expert Chef Tips, FAQs, Storage Instructions, etc.