Who doesn't love a delicious, creamy macaroni and cheese recipe? This easy baked macaroni and cheese is tried and true, and one of my absolute favorite recipes to make. The perfectly baked, crispy top, creamy pasta, what more could you ask for? I guarantee this will be your go-to recipe the second you taste it.
It's not one of those recipes that's just a holiday favorite, but it can certainly be used as an entrée for dinner, prepped for the freezer, or is a perfect meal to make for a family welcoming a new baby or new neighbors. I'm telling you this is the MAC that keeps on giving.
What do I need for this recipe?
This recipe calls for us to make a cheese sauce, rather than melting cheese and cream and butter into a pot of pasta. While that's obviously delicious, I find making a cheese sauce much more delicious.
- Pasta: Technically any pasta could be a mac and cheese, but I am super biased toward traditional elbow macaroni, shells, or a good corkscrew pasta such as fusilli. These types of short pasta catch the sauce well and hold onto flavor.
- Cheese: choosing a blend of cheeses will amplify this dish and give it the creaminess you want. Cheddar, parmesan, even white cheddar is my personal fav.
- Cream or half and half: adding just a touch of half and half or straight heavy cream will help thicken the cheese sauce to pour over the pasta. Trust me, do not skip this part.
- Stock: the stock, preferably either vegetable or chicken, is added to the milk as part of making the cheese sauce. It also adds another flavor profile too.
- Butter: two tablespoons of butter will help make the roux with the flour (to thicken the sauce as well).
- Flour: added to the melting butter in a large saucepan will make the paste you need for the roux prior to adding in the milk and stock
- Nutmeg: Here's where it gets fun! Nutmeg adds an additional flavor profile, but on a different level. It gives the entire recipe a warmth, a subtle spice, and really lifts the cheese flavor.
- Salt and pepper: I mean, of course you need a little of both here :). Whisk it into the cheese sauce before pouring over the pasta.
See the recipe card below for more information about quantities.
How do I make this pasta recipe?
The directions to making this easy baked macaroni and cheese is quite literally, easy. You'll be a pro at making this recipe in no time.
Step 1: Start by preheating the oven to 350°. For pasta other than regular durum, cook a minute under box recommendations. Strain pasta and rinse. Meanwhile, add the ¼ cup flour to a large deep pan. Throw in butter and begin to melt butter and stir until the mixture becomes a thick, creamy paste. To the pan, pour in the milk and stock. Stir the roux on a low flame with a metal whisk until it begins to thicken and bubble.
Step 2: Layer in cheese handfuls at a time, stirring to combine and melt cheese, adding more cheese as desired. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add in the cooked pasta and stir to coat. Turn off the flame and keep stirring until the pasta thickens. Prep an oven safe baking dish, pour in the pasta and sprinkle breadcrumbs.
Step 3: Bake for 15 minutes and then broil for two minutes or just until top noodles are golden and crisp, and the cheese is slightly browned. Serve immediately.
HINT: When boiling the pasta, cook it for a minute or two less than what the directions say. You'll be baking the pasta, so you don't want it to be overcooked.
Recipe Swaps and Substitutions
I would be remiss if I didn't offer you some substitution and swap options for this recipe, so that you can fully enjoy it, regardless of any dietary needs.
- Pasta - instead of using durum or regular flour penne, you can easily use gluten free penne.
- Cheese - swap the regular cheese used in this dish for dairy-free.
- Liquid - We use both milk and stock in this recipe, but you can use almond or coconut milk in place of the regular milk, and veggie stock instead of chicken.
Want to add some extra flavor? Here are a few ways you can create this recipe and make it your own with your own variations:
- Spicy - add a few red pepper flakes to the garlic and onion as it cooks.
- Topping - add ricotta dollops in between the mac and cheese, or top the entire bake with breadcrumbs before baking.
- Mini - make minature versions by baking in smaller ramekins for perfect portion sizes.
Ways to serve and pair this baked mac and cheese
Here are some of my favorite ways to make this recipe, and then pair it some other dishes to create a full meal or menu:
- Make my delicious juicy chicken cutlets with this on the side. Talk about comfort food!
- Roast some chicken thighs and pair with my brussel sprout salad to round out your meal.
- Add some delicious ground turkey from my ground turkey stuffed sweet potatoes into the baked mac and cheese for added protein and flavor ( follow directions for making the ground turkey, and skip the sweet potato part!)
How can I store this recipe? Can I freeze it?
All leftovers can be placed in a tightly sealed tupperware and placed directly in the fridge. This recipe is also freeze friendly, so if you want to make this dish for another day, simply prep the veggies and pasta, place into a tupperware and into the freezer it goes. When ready, you can defrost the pasta, top with the cheese and bake according to instructions.
Bake the pasta to melt the cheese, and then broil for just a minute or so to crisp up the top noodles and brown the cheese.
Hungry for More?
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
Did you like this recipe? Share it!
If you're just as in love with this recipe as I am, please share a comment below and rate it! Better yet, share this recipe with family and friends!! Thank you for being here!!
Easy Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 strainer
- 1 large pot
- 1 oven safe baking dish
- measuring cups and spoons
- 1 lb pasta
- 2 cups cheddar cheese
- 1 cup half and half or heavy cream
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Boil the pasta. For pasta other than regular durum, cook a minute under box recommendations. Strain pasta and rinse.
- Meanwhile, add the ¼ cup flour to a large deep pan. Throw in butter and begin to melt butter and stir until the mixture becomes a paste.
- Add in the milk and stock. Stir on a low flame until it begins to thicken and bubble.
- Layer in cheese handfuls at a time, stirring to combine and melt cheese, adding more cheese as desired. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
- Add in the cooked pasta and stir to coat. Turn off the flame and keep stirring until the pasta thickens.
- Prep an oven safe baking dish, pour in the pasta and sprinkle breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 15 minutes and then broil for two minutes or just until top noodles are golden and crisp, and the cheese is slightly browned. Serve immediately.