Homemade Baked Mac And Cheese
There is absolutely nothing I love more than cheese. And when you add pasta to it? Fuggetaboutit.
Mac and cheese is one of those recipes that can take on so many different forms. I love it anyway I can get it but baked mac and cheese is my very favorite and Ill tell you why The topping. I use breadcrumbs for my topping occasionally, but, a Panko topped mac and cheese is just that much better.
I mix in Parmesan, butter, and paprika with the Panko so it crisps up beautifully and gets a nice golden brown color when this amazing homemade mac and cheese is baked.
Im going to be honest here. When I make mac and cheese, its the mac to cheese ratio that I am most concerned about. I love it when the mac and cheese is oeey gooey and the cheese sauce is just so creamy. GIMME.
With all this cheese going on in this macaroni and cheese recipe, I need a little help from my KitchenAid Deluxe Stand Mixer and its handy dandy Fresh Prep Slice/Shredder attachment. I picked up this beauty at Walmart this past week and I am in LOOOOOVE. I was torn between the options: SILVER | COBALT | PISTACHIO. But, when I pictured them in my kitchen, I knew I had to go with the cobalt its just stunning!
I use my stand mixer about 954 times each week. Being a food blogger and mom means Im in my kitchen a lot baking up goodies and whipping up amazing dinners like this homemade baked mac and cheese. I am always, always looking for help in the kitchen and the Kitchen Aid Deluxe Stand Mixer is the answer.
To Bake Or Not To Bake:
You dont have to bake the mac and cheese in this recipe. Everything gets fully cooked and is essentially ready to eat after the cheese and noodles are added. However, I love the extra gooeyness that comes when the cheese is baked and I think baking it adds a level of sophistication you just dont get without.
The Ultimate Macaroni And Cheese
When one thinks about their favorite comfort food, I would argue that macaroni and cheese likely falls at the top for many. Everything about it oozes comfort. Tender pasta enveloped in a creamy and cheesy sauce, sometimes topped with a thick layer of extra cheese or breadcrumbs. Some are baked to a bubbling oblivion, while others are simply finished on the stove top. However you make it, one thing is certain. Its absolutely divine!
Well, let me say this: most recipes out there are delicious, while others may fall flat. Its a dish that requires a few key steps to yield the creamiest and dreamiest results. When I set out to make the ultimate macaroni and cheese recipe, I thought of one person and one person alone that could help me in this feat.
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Make The Cheese Sauce
While the macaroni is cooking, make the cheese sauce. It’s really easy but there are a few notes that we’ll go over to ensure your success!
Make a Roux
This homemade mac and cheese sauce starts with a roux. What is a roux? It’s a mixture of fat and flour that is used to create thick sauces. Start by melting the butter and then adding the dry ingredients .
Use a whisk to combine the ingredients until the mixture is homogenous . Let it cook for about 60 seconds before moving on!
Add wet ingredients.
After the roux has cooked for 60 seconds, add the milk and whisk the mixture really well. Add the sour cream or Greek yogurt and whisk again. At this point the mixture will be fairly runny. Cook over medium heat whisking every 10-15 seconds until the sauce starts to thicken.
Do NOT let this mixture boil! If you do you may end up with a mac and cheese sauce that is too thick. Once the sauce has thickened enough to stick to a spatula, turn the heat to low. Then it’s time for the next step…
Add the cheese & whisk until smooth
Add the cheese and whisk until the sauce is smooth and all the cheese is melted. This will take 1-2 minutes over low heat. At this point it is important to taste the cheese sauce and adjust the salt/garlic according to your tastes!
Variety Of Ways To Make Mac And Cheese
Another thing you can do is make a white sauce with Monterey Jack cheese and buttermilk. For extra gooey sauce, mix in some mozzarella cheese.
I normally use butter, but you can also use olive oil. This does alter the flavor a bit, but we like it.
Whatever macaroni and cheese recipe you use, make sure you have a recipe card for it in case you want to make it again. Otherwise, you might forget what you did.
Start with either regular macaroni or one thats gluten-free. Many of the national brands make pasta for people who cant tolerate wheat or wheat products.
I like to make mine in a large pan, Dutch oven, or casserole dish so I can have plenty of leftovers. However, if youre feeding a lot of people, you might not have any left.
If you want to mix something into the mac and cheese to cut back on the carbs and increase the nutrition, consider using butternut squash or cauliflower. For the cheese sauce, you can use cream, regular milk, skim milk, or almond milk.
When I make a mac and cheese casserole, sometimes I top it with a mixture of shredded cheese and bread crumbs. But not always. Plain ol shredded cheese works just fine all by itself.
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How To Avoid Grainy Cheese Sauce:
- The type of cheddar makes a difference. High quality aged cheddar cheese will give you a stronger taste and smoother texture. More mild and inexpensive cheddar cheeses will have less flavor and almost a grittier taste.
- Use fresh grated cheese. Pre-shredded store-bought cheese will not melt the same as freshly grated cheese, and grating the cheese helps it melt smoothly and evenly in the sauce.
- Bring the cheese to room temperature. I like to grate the cheese very first, before moving forward with the recipe. That allows it to sit at room temperature while I prepare the white sauce.
- Use low heat. In order for the cheese to melt properly and smoothly we want it to have gradual changes in temperature . When its time to add the cheese to the white sauce, remove the sauce from heat and let it cool for a few minutes. It only needs to be warm enough to melt the cheese.
- Dont over-stirthe sauce once the cheese has melted. Add the noodles and quickly assemble in pan and put into the oven.
Creamy Baked Mac And Cheese
The Chunky Chef09/30/2019
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This baked mac and cheese is a family favorite recipe, loved by both children and adults. It uses a combination of cheeses, layered in the dish as well as melted into a rich and creamy cheese sauce, for the ultimate in cheesy deliciousness! Perfect for a comforting dinner or as a holiday side dish!
BAKED MAC AND CHEESE
Baked mac and cheese. Its nearly the universal comfort food, and there are SO many variations! In fact, I almost didnt post this recipe, as there are SOOOO many mac and cheese recipes available, and most people already have their favorite way of making it.
Of course, theres no right way or wrong way, so Im here sharing the way I like to make my mac and cheese .
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Cooking Tips For Baked Mac And Cheese
- Boiling the pasta cook the pasta less than you normally would. I like to boil my elbow pasta for between 4 and 5 minutes. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven, and you dont want it to get mushy.
- Use room temp liquids if you can cold liquids generally take longer to thicken than warmer ones. I usually set my milk and half and half out while the water for the pasta is coming up to a boil.
- The cheeses use your favorites! Our personal favorites are the cheddar and gruyere used in this recipe, but you can be very creative with the cheese selection here. Mozzarella, gouda, smoked gouda, swiss, monterey jack, colby jack, colby. There are plenty of reader comments down below the recipe that talk about the cheeses they used!
- Shred your own I know its a pain, and its SO tempting to use the pre-shredded cheese in the bags. But those bags of cheese contain a starchy substance that keeps the cheese from clumping which also prohibits it from melting as well as it should.
Making Mac And Cheese Ahead Of Time
- Make as directed , transfer to baking dish and cool completely. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate 1-2 days ahead.
- Before baking, let dish sit on counter for 30 minutes.
- Bake at recipe temperature for 25-35 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
As a caveat, this recipe, as with most mac and cheese recipes, loses some of its creaminess when made ahead. This dish has been tested when made right away, which yields the best results.
I would increase the amount of sauce slightly if you need to make this recipe ahead of time.
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How To Store Macaroni And Cheese:
After baking, this baked macaroni and cheese can be stored in the refrigerator covered for 3-4 days.
When reheating, the best option is to heat in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375. Bake in a buttered or lightly oiled baking dish, covered with foil, for about 15-20 minutes until heated through.
I do not recommend freezing this dish since the sauce can separate and be temperamental when trying to reheat.
The Best Cheeses To Use For Mac And Cheese
The type of cheese you use can make or break your mac and cheese sauce.
Take a moment to think about the best mac and cheese youve ever had. Perhaps youd describe it as ooey-gooey, creamy or cheesy. At its worst, mac and cheese is grainy, stringy or greasy. The type of cheese you use can make or break your sauce. But perhaps the name itself is a misnomer. The ideal mac and cheese needs more than one kind of cheese.
When youre cruising down the cheese aisle, two factors to consider are meltability and flavor. Generally, young and processed cheeses melt smoothly but taste bland when theyre mixed with a few pounds of pasta. Aged and funky blocks are tricky melters but add a lot of complex cheese flavor to the dish. This dichotomy explains why mac and cheese recipes often call for not one, but several types of cheese.
But there is one go-to that you’ll almost always see. An overview of Food Networks mac and cheese roundup reveals that most recipes have one type of cheese in common: sharp Cheddar. Sharp Cheddar especially the inexpensive, mass-market block you can buy at the supermarket strikes just the right balance between meltability and flavor. Consider it your base cheese. If you dont want to buy three different types of cheese and rack up the grocery bill, its completely fine to use Cheddar on its own. Just stay away from the pre-shredded kind, which often contains additives like cornstarch that interfere with silky melting.
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Special Equipment For This Recipe
- Instant Pot I recently upgraded to this model and I love it!
BE SURE TO SCROLL DOWN TO CHECK OUT OTHER READERS COMMENTS FOR TIPS AND REVIEWS.
AND DONT FORGET, IF YOUVE MADE THIS RECIPE, LEAVE A COMMENT AND PLEASE GIVE IT A STAR RATING LETTING ME KNOW HOW YOU ENJOYED IT!
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @the_chunky_chef on Facebook and Instagram!
Variations Of Mac And Cheese
- 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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How To Make The Creamiest Macaroni And Cheese
Youre only looking at six ingredients . Itcan even be made in under 30 minutes .
I love that you can keep this as a quick stovetop mac and cheese or slide it into the oven to get bubbly and browned. I love it both ways.
Were going to call this our basic mac and cheese not because it isnt incredibly delicious, but because its the perfect base for other variations. Take a look below for some suggestions.
To make our go-to macaroni and cheese, you will need the following:
Perfect Mac And Cheese In 5 Steps:
Read Also: How You Make Macaroni And Cheese
How Can I Dress Up My Macaroni And Cheese
This baked macaroni and cheese may be the most versatile dish ever. Add in some red pepper for kick, any cheeses you like , add veggies like broccoli and chopped chicken and its a one-dish meal even. Or BACON. Hello. Yeah. Make some garlic bread crumbs for the top if you want some crunch and throw those on. Its really endless.
Best Baked Mac And Cheese
The most important thing to do is make some amazing macaroni and cheese. This baked mac and cheese casserole is one that I make often. In fact, its my absolute favorite mac and cheese. Or you can add other ingredients and make this mac and cheese with ham.
There are so many different ways to make macaroni and cheese. You can use all cheddar cheese or add feta cheese for extra flavor. You can even use parmesan, but if you do, I recommend mixing it with cheddar to balance the strong flavor.
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Macaroni And Cheese Variations
This recipe is easy to adapt to other variations. Here are some of our favorites:
Baked Mac and Cheese: Once the pasta and cheese sauce are combined, add it to a baking dish and bake with a little more cheese and breadcrumbs sprinkled on top. We shared this Baked Macaroni and Cheese a while back.
Garlic Mac and Cheese: Fresh garlic and roasted garlic are excellent in this recipe. Add either to the butter just before adding the flour. For fresh, Id use 2 to 3 cloves. For roasted garlic, you can increase to 6 cloves or more. See our recipe for making roasted garlic.
Use a Variety of Cheeses: Cheddar isnt the only cheese to use. Try easy melting Gruyere, Fontina or Monterey Jack. For more flavor, a bit of parmesan or pecorino cheese is lovely, and for a more adult dish, try blue cheese!
Spiced Macaroni and Cheese: Mustard , nutmeg, and a pinch of cayenne pepper are classic additions to the cheese sauce. Smoked paprika is also delicious.
Broccoli Mac and Cheese: A kid favorite! Stir roasted broccoli or steamed broccoli into the pot before serving. Heres how we make roasted broccoli.
Lighter Mac and Cheese: Swapping half of the cheese sauce for pureed cauliflower cuts calories and still tastes incredible.
Special Equipment Used In This Recipe
- Box Grater remember, the best mac starts with freshly shredded cheese!
BE SURE TO SCROLL DOWN TO CHECK OUT OTHER READERS COMMENTS!
AND DONT FORGET, IF YOUVE MADE THIS RECIPE, LEAVE A COMMENT AND PLEASE GIVE IT A STAR RATING!
Post has been updated in September 2019 with new photos and additional information.
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @the_chunky_chef on Facebook and Instagram!
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How To Make The Ultimate Macaroni And Cheese
The components of a great macaroni and cheese are simple. Youll need the following ingredients to get started:
Depending on the type you make, you may be adding other ingredients, but these are the critical 4 that every great macaroni and cheese recipe will include.
There are two basic ways to prepare this classic comfort: you can bake it, or you can make it directly on the stovetop. Both are equally delicious, yet a few things set them apart.