How Do I Bake Macaroni And Cheese

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Homemade Baked Macaroni And Cheese

How to Cook Macaroni and Cheese | Dad, How Do I?

Heres the thing about a good Baked Macaroni and Cheese: It has to be both crispy and creamy.

I want a super crispy topping and crispy baked edges , but I want the noodles inside to still be super cheesy and creamy.

I am not here for a dry mac and cheese. Thats just a disappointment.

But I am proud to say that this recipe hits that balance.

Creamy and super cheesy noodles? Check!

Crispy, buttery panko topping? Check!

And while this recipe does take a bit more time than making a stovetop mac, the extra step of baking it is well worth it.

Can I Keep Mac And Cheese Overnight

Mac and cheese can be made ahead, spooned into a baking dish and stored, covered in the refrigerator, for two days. Cold macaroni and cheese may take a little longer than 30 minutes in the oven to be fully heated and cooked through. You can also freeze stovetop or baked mac and cheese for up to two months.

Crock Pot Mac And Cheese

The Chunky Chef09/05/2019

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Highly requested from my readers, this mac and cheese is made entirely in the slow cooker! No boiling pasta, no making a cream sauce, and no standing over a hot stove. Perfectly creamy and packed with flavor, this dish is great to take to a potluck, have as a holiday side dish, or even a fun family dinner!

Looking for other non-traditional crockpot recipes? Check out my No Boil Crockpot Mashed Potatoes, Crockpot Meatloaf, Crockpot Chicken Lo Mein, and Crockpot Spaghetti Casserole!


Here it is the recipe youve been asking for! Youve LOVED, and continue to love, my Baked Mac and Cheese recipe some of you have even won awards in cooking competitions using that recipe. But we all love a great slow cooker recipe, and Ive been busy developing the PERFECT crock pot mac and cheese recipe. One that yields an ultra creamy sauce, doesnt get too thick, and one that tastes every bit as delicious as the OG baked mac and cheese.

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Building The Sauce With Bechamel

You complete the white sauce, or bechamel, by whisking milk into the roux until you have a smooth sauce. High-fat milk products, like whole milk and half-and-half, yield creamier sauces that are less likely to separate. Simmer the sauce but make sure it remains creamy and consistent to prevent separation.

How To Make The Best Baked Macaroni And Cheese:

Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

This recipe is the best because its SO easy to make. No fussing with making a roux or a cheese sauce.

Here are the simple steps:

  • Preheat oven and spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray for easy clean up.
  • Cook pasta as directed on the package for al dente texture .
  • While the macaroni cooks, combine most of the cheese with the flour, ground mustard, and pepper.
  • When the pasta is cooked and drained, mix it with the cheese mixture.
  • Place in greased pan, and pour milk over macaroni. Top with remaining cheese and dot with butter. Cover with foil.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, taking foil off after 30 minutes if desired for a crisper top.
  • Most milk should be soaked up by the time it is done cooking, but we find it best to let this sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
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    How To Store Leftover Macaroni And Cheese

    While its best served fresh from the oven, the leftovers are still so dang good. Wrap them tightly and store them in the fridge. Theyll keep there for 5 to 7 days or so.

    It can be frozen too- just thaw it in the fridge and reheat it as follows:

    In the microwave, for short, 20-second bursts on full power, stirring after each, until warmed through. Or, in the oven, covered, on very low heat until melty.

    Best Freezer Mac And Cheese

    The way you prepare your mac and cheese also makes a difference. While you can successfully freeze any type of mac and cheese, preparing what’s called a “make ahead” mac and cheese may give you a better finished product that’s less grainy after you reheat your mac and cheese.

    To prepare the make ahead mac and cheese, all you have to do is add some cream cheese into your cheese sauce mixture when you’re cooking it. You may also want to decrease the amount of flour a little bit, since the cream cheese will thicken it a little bit and reducing the flour will help prevent graininess when reheating.

    Another helpful tip that comes from cooking instructor Linda Carucci in an interview with the Washington Post is to cook the pasta al dente if you’re planning to freeze it and reduce the amount of pasta you use. Carucci says that this can help prevent mushiness and dryness after freezing mac and cheese, since the pasta will be firmer and there will be less to absorb the cheese sauce.

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    How To Thaw And Cook Unbaked Frozen Mac And Cheese

    When baking uncooked mac and cheese after freezing, you do not have to thaw it. Thawing it will decrease the cooking time, however, you can just place the frozen dish into the oven to work its magic if you are not in a hurry for it to cook.

    Step 1: Preheat the Oven

    Preheat the oven to 375 °F .

    Step 2: Defrost

    If you are cooking the mac and cheese after freezing, skip this step and go straight to step 3.

    To defrost your macaroni and cheese in the microwave before cooking it, you need to ensure it is in a microwave-safe dish. Remove the foil. Use the defrost setting on the microwave which is equal to 30% power. Check the dish after seven minutes and continue to defrost for a few more minutes, if needed.

    Once thawed, cook it in the oven straight away.

    Step 3: Cover With Foil

    Whether frozen or thawed, remove any cling film wrapping from your dish and cover the top with foil only. Set the dish on a baking tray to prevent any cheese or juices from melting or dripping onto the base of the oven.

    Step 4: Bake

    Make sure the oven is heated completely to 375 °F before placing the mac and cheese inside to cook. Bake the foil-covered dish for 25 to 50 minutes depending on the size of the dish and whether it has been thawed.

    Step 5: Remove Foil and Bake

    Step 6: Remove and Cool

    Once the top is golden brown, remove the mac and cheese from the oven. Switch the oven off. Let the dish cool for a few minutes before serving as it will be piping hot.

    Variations Of Mac And Cheese

    Creamy Macaroni and Cheese Recipe | How to Make Mac N Cheese | Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
    • Bacon if you love bacon, feel free to add some crispy, crumbled bacon to the topping, or even inside the mac and cheese as well!
    • Stovetop if youd prefer not to bake this mac and cheese, you dont have to! Make sure you boil your pasta until al dente , and youll only need about 3 3 1/2 cups of cheese total. No need to layer the pasta and cheese, just add all the cheese to the sauce, then combine with the pasta.
    • Different Toppings Im a huge fan of the cheese layer on top, since it gets nice and crispy, but we also love tossing 1 cup of panko with 2 Tbsp of melted butter and using that as a topping. 1 cup of crushed Ritz crackers with 2 Tbsp of butter work amazingly well too!
    • Different Baking Times the recipe calls for a lower baking temperature and time, but most of the time I find myself adjusting that based on my familys tastes. I like to bake this mac and cheese at 350 F degrees for 30 minutes, then broil for 2-3 minutes to get that glorious cheesy crust.

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    Tips For The Best Macaroni And Cheese Youll Ever Eat

    Feel like you may still need some help? If you have time, jump over to this post for the juicy details: 18 Secrets to the Richest, Creamiest Mac and Cheese Youll Ever Eat or focus on these tips:

    Never stop stirring your milk once it hits the pan. If your skillet is too hot or you walk away and for a minute you could scorch the white sauce and it will curdle. It doesnt really hurt the taste, but it will look sort of clumpy. Some readers have called it grainy. It only takes 5 minutes. Just hang out and stir until that sauce is thick enough to coat the back of your spoon.

    Use good cheese in your baked macaroni and cheese. That means avoiding bagged, pre-shredded cheeses because they contain cellulose that can in some cases cause your cheese not to melt as it should. -And speaking of cheese, you have so many options! My favorite is sharp cheddar and Swiss.

    -Try to choose a melting cheese and a flavor cheesefor the best flavor and texture in your baked macaroni and cheese.

    Do taste as you go. Taste your cheese sauce before you add your pasta. Is it bland? That can be because of the cheese you used or even the kind of salt you seasoned with. If it doesnt have enough flavor, add a pinch more salt, stir it in and taste it again until it suits you.

    -Feel free to add more pasta if you want to. Some people say that this recipe doesnt have enough noodles in it, but Ive never had that problem. And yes, you should cook your pasta before adding it to the cheese sauce.

    How To Measure Pasta For This Recipe

    Sometimes a reader or two has had an issue with how much pasta this recipe needs. This recipe is written by volume and sometimes people think that since a cup is 8 ounces that they can simply use 12-16 ounces of pasta or go by the weight of the dry pasta written on the box.

    Youll end up with problems if you do this. Please follow the volume instructions and measure your pasta dry in a measuring cup meant for dry items . Small pastas like ditalini or little wagon wheels can go up to about 2 cups and be fine in the recipe, and large ones like bow tie or cellentani can as well. If you will stick to elbow pasta until you get the hang of things youll be better off.

    Ive made this recipe with every pasta shape on the market and if you will measure in cups, your recipe will be just right.

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    Homemade Macaroni And Cheese Ingredients:

    • Butter
    • Flour
    • Milk
    • Cheese
    • Cream Cheese: I use this to help make the cheese sauce a bit creamier and a little more stable, not as likely to break when reheated and the macaroni and cheese reheats nicer, its not as greasy.
    • Seasoning: garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, salt and pepper.
    • Elbow Noodles: I typically use small elbow noodles, but you can use large also.

    Easiest Baked Macaroni And Cheese

    Cheddar and Brie Baked Mac and Cheese

    Rachel GurkPosted:

    This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

    Easiest ever baked macaroni and cheese this is a go-to recipe of many of my readers and it will become the same for your family!

    No, really.

    This is the easiest ever macaroni and cheese! And so delicious!

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    Freezing Mac And Cheese

    There are two ways of freezing mac and cheese. You can either freeze it after it’s baked or you can prepare your mac and cheese, but freeze it before baking. If you freeze it before baking, it tends to come out creamier and less grainy when it’s time to cook it because it hasn’t been heated up twice. Either way, the process for freezing your mac and cheese is almost identical.

    Prepare your recipe according to the recipe’s instructions and transfer your macaroni and cheese to a freezer-safe glass dish. If you want to bake your macaroni and cheese before freezing, cook it now per the instructions, but shave a few minutes off. According to the University of Georgia Extension, foods that you’re planning to reheat should be slightly undercook before freezing.

    Once your mac and cheese is done cooking, allow it to cool completely and then cover it tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer. If you’re freezing the macaroni and cheese before baking, skip that part and cover with plastic wrap right after transferring the mac and cheese to your dish. Transfer your dish to the freezer and freeze. According to PBS, you can keep frozen macaroni and cheese for up to three months.

    Can I Freeze Macaroni And Cheese

    I get asked that a lot and my answer is always no. As the pasta and cheese sauce sit, it will thicken and when you thaw it and bake it, the creamy consistency is just gone. Its thick and gloppy. Plus if you freeze it and its still a bit warm, water crystals will form and then thaw into your dish and could make it separate when you bake it. Besides, its so fast to make, theres not really a reason to freeze your macaroni and cheese.

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    Why Bake Macaroni And Cheese And Do I Have To

    No. You donât have to bake your macaroni and cheese.

    The reason why I love to bake macaroni and cheese is to get that crisp baked cheese layer on top. Itâs my favorite part!

    Do you have to bake your macaroni and cheese? No. But you would need to adapt this recipe slightly so that you donât have as much sauce.

    Weâre making this macaroni and cheese VERY saucy, since it will be baked, which makes the noodles absorb more of the sauce than a typical stovetop recipe.

    Or you could simply add more noodles. This amount of sauce works perfect for 12 ounces of macaroni noodles if youâre interested. Otherwise, your macaroni will drown in all that cheese sauce.

    Finishing The Ultimate Make

    How to make Baked Macaroni & Cheese

    Once the cheese sauce was ready, I added the cooked macaroni. I stirred the mixture until the macaroni was nicely coated.

    Then, I poured the macaroni into a greased casserole dish.

    I topped the macaroni and cheese with additional Cheddar cheese and sprinkled on the Panko breadcrumbs. Finally, I dotted the top with some butter.

    At this point, I covered the macaroni and cheese and refrigerated it for the next day. I could have gone ahead and baked it at this point as well.

    The next day, I baked the macaroni and cheese in a 375° F oven for about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, it was hot and bubbly, and the top was golden brown.

    The Ultimate Make Ahead Macaroni and Cheese was out of this world. It was creamy, cheesy, and full of flavor. Yum!

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    Can I Refrigerate Before Baking

    Yes, you can refrigerate macaroni and cheese before you bake it. This make-ahead mac and cheese is a great option for meal prep. Do all the cooking whenever you have the time and bake it right before youre ready to eat.

    To refrigerate before baking, you will complete all the steps up to putting the mixture in the pan. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate for up to two days. When youre ready to bake it, pull the mac out of the fridge while the oven is preheating and top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan.

    You will need to bake the macaroni and cheese casserole a little longer since itll be cold. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until heated through.

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    Tips For The Best Homemade Baked Mac And Cheese

    • Use block cheese and shred, do not buy the pre-shredded cheese. The pre-shredded cheese is great for so many things but not macaroni and cheese. Its coated and wont melt properly. You need to shred it yourself for the best result.
    • Cook your pasta to slightly less than al dente, about one minute shy is perfect. The reason is that this is baked mac and cheese so the pasta will continue to cook in the homemade cheese sauce in the oven. You dont want soggy macaroni.
    • I used elbow pasta but really, any tubular past will work.
    • This mac and cheese recipe starts with a roux. The roux is super important to getting the creamiest cheese sauce of your life. Here is what you need to look for:
    • The roux is whisked together until bubbly and golden.
    • Whisk in cold milk not warm to prevent the flour from clumping.
    • Cook the roux until you see bubbles on the surface and then continue cooking for an additional 2 minutes before adding the cheese.

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    How To Freeze Mac And Cheese

    Mac and cheese can be frozen either before baking, or after it has been cooked. Freezing the dish before baking results in a creamier dish once cooked as it has not been heated up twice. Doing this, however, is only possible if you are making an extra batch for future catering.

    If you need to freeze leftovers from an already cooked batch, that is perfectly fine too. Creamy versions of mac and cheese are ideal for freezing as they have more sauce keeping the pasta moist when reheating.

    Who would want to send any cheesy goodness to the bin when it can be enjoyed again by simply preserving it in the freezer?

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