My creamy mac and cheese is the BEST according to my friends and family. It’s baked and is so cheesy and creamy from the combination of cheeses I use in the easy sauce. It will quickly become a favorite for you too.
The Best Creamy Mac and Cheese
Most everyone has their own favorite baked mac and cheese recipe. I have had quite a few favorites through the years. I have made a basic easy weeknight Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese and also made Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese. Even if you have your favorite, you will want to try this recipe because it is really the BEST creamy mac and cheese recipe. It makes for a great weeknight dish but is also a perfect holiday side dish. I serve it for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas as a side dish and it is always a hit.
To make this creamy mac and cheese recipe, you will want to start with a pound of pasta. I used the traditional medium sized elbow. Go ahead and use your favorite pasta. I find that the elbows and shells usually hold the creamy sauce the best. Cook your pasta according to the package directions but remove from heat and drain just before the pasta is fully cooked (al dente). Then quickly rinse your almost cooked pasta with cold water to stop it from cooking completely. Your macaroni will finish cooking during the baking process. If you cook the pasta too long, you will end up with a very soggy and overcooked macaroni.
For this baked mac and cheese sauce, we start with a roux (flour and butter). Making the roux may seem intimidating but it is really so simple. Just whisk constantly and it will be perfect. I used both milk and half and half in my sauce. When adding your milks, be sure to add them slowly. You will want to whisk nonstop as you add the milk and half and half as this will keep a smooth texture to the sauce.
When adding in your cheeses, be sure to add them gradually and use a spoon or spatula to blend it real well. You will want to add about a cup at a time to get your mac and cheese sauce nice and creamy. Mix it real well before adding it to your cooked pasta.
When adding your sauce to the cooled pasta, be sure to combine and coat all your macaroni. I added a generous layer of butter to the sides and bottom of my 9 X13 casserole dish to help prevent to much sticking. I then add 1/2 of my macaroni, then a layer of my reserved shredded cheese, more macaroni, and my final layer of cheeses on top. The cheese on top will bake and create a nice cheesy top layer.
What kind of cheese is best for creamy macaroni and cheese?
In the past, I always made our mac and cheese with a basic cheddar or sharp cheddar. My favorite was always with a white sharp cheddar cheese because that is what I grew up with. For this recipe, I decide to use some Gruyere cheese and some sharp cheddar cheese. I have made quite a few dishes with Gruyere and each one has been so rich and creamy. I knew it would be great in a baked mac and cheese. You are welcome to use mild or medium cheddar but you will not want to make this mac and cheese without the Gruyere cheese, it really makes it stand out from every other traditional mac and cheese recipes. Also, always shred your own cheese with a grater. You will not want to use pre-shredded cheese. If you do not shred your own, you will not get the oh so gooey creaminess that you get from the freshly grated cheese. If you would like to have an additional spice, go ahead and consider adding in a pepper jack or even a habanero cheese instead of the sharp cheddar.
What Topping is best for Homemade Mac and Cheese?
For this Homemade Baked Creamy Mac and Cheese, I did not add on a true crust topping. You can most definitely top it with a layer of Panko breadcrumbs or maybe even a Ritz cracker layer to make it extra crunchy. You could always top with bacon to add some additional flavor and crunch. If you like yours without a crust, you can cover your dish with foil before baking. I personally like a bit of cheesy crust that baking uncovered adds. When I make this version of creamy mac and cheese, I let the cheese be the star of the show. I sometimes let it get a bit crunchy by placing it under the broiler for a few minutes after it has finished baking.
How long do you bake mac and cheese?
This mac and cheese does not need to be in the oven baking for very long. I had ours baking for about 35 minutes at 325 degrees. If you want to make it quicker, go ahead and kick your temperature up to 350 degrees and cook for a bit less time. If you would like a crispy bubbly cheesy crust, go ahead and pop your dish under the broiler for just a couple additional minutes to make the crust on top a bit more crunchy/crispy.
Can you make mac and cheese ahead of time?
During the holidays, I made this dish ahead of time. I prepped everything but did not do the baking or broiling process. I had it covered in my fridge the day beforehand. I then pulled it out and let it sit on the countertop for about an hour before baking. It worked well.
Can you reheat baked mac and cheese?
If you have leftovers, I am sure the recipe would be fine for reheating. Just stir in a bit of milk before placing in the oven to reheat. We have never had any leftovers because everyone really thinks this is the BEST mac and cheese so they devour it. Be sure to leave us a comment if you have leftovers that you reheat to let us know the results of reheating.
What Ingredients are needed to make Homemade Creamy Mac and Cheese?
16 oz Elbow Macaroni
7 tbsp Salted Butter
1/2 cup Flour
2 cup Milk
2 cup Half and Half
8 oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese shredded
4 oz Gruyere Cheese shredded
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
1/4 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
How to make creamy mac and cheese
Preheat oven to 325.
Bring 5 cups of water to a boil over high heat.
Add dry pasta and 1/4 tsp salt.
Cook for 6-7 minutes.
Remove from heat, drain and rinse in cold water. Return to pot and set aside.
Heavily grease a large 9×13″ baking dish with butter and set aside.
Combine cheeses and mix well. Set aside.
Melt remaining butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Add flour, whisk to blend and continue whisking for about 2 minutes.
Gradually add in the milk and half and half, whisking constantly. Sauce should remain just below a simmer (if you stop whisking you see an occasional bubble).
Add remaining salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder and garlic powder.
Whisk to blend and continue whisking and cooking until sauce thickens (about 2 minutes).
Remove from heat.
Divide cheese in half.
Gradually add half of cheese to pan stirring constantly until melted and smooth.
Add cheese sauce to cooled pasta until it is well coated with the cheese.
Pour half of the macaroni and cheese into the prepared dish.
Divide remaining cheese in half.
Top with half of remaining cheese.
Add remaining macaroni and cheese to dish.
Top with remaining cheese.
Bake until bubbly and golden, about 35 minutes.
If you make this recipe, be sure to leave us a comment to let us know if you are a fan.
Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
- 16 oz Elbow Macaroni
- 7 tbsp Salted Butter
- 1/2 cup Flour
- 2 cup Milk
- 2 cup Half and Half
- 8 oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese shredded
- 4 oz Gruyere Cheese shredded
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Pepper
- 1/4 tsp Paprika
- 1 tsp Onion Powder
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- Preheat oven to 325.
- Bring 5 cups of water to a boil over high heat.
- Add dry pasta and 1/4 tsp salt.
- Cook for 6-7 minutes.
- Remove from heat, drain and rinse in cold water. Return to pot and set aside.
- Heavily grease a large 9x13" baking dish with butter and set aside.
- Combine cheeses and mix well. Set aside.
- Melt remaining butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add flour, whisk to blend and continue whisking for about 2 minutes.
- Gradually add in the milk and half and half, whisking constantly. Sauce should remain just below a simmer (if you stop whisking you see an occasional bubble).
- Add remaining salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder and garlic powder.
- Whisk to blend and continue whisking and cooking until sauce thickens (about 2 minutes).
- Remove from heat.
- Divide cheese in half.
- Gradually add half of cheese to pan stirring constantly until melted and smooth.
- Add cheese sauce to cooled pasta until it is well coated with the cheese.
- Pour half of the macaroni and cheese into the prepared dish.
- Divide remaining cheese in half.
- Top with half of remaining cheese.
- Add remaining macaroni and cheese to dish.
- Top with remaining cheese.
- Bake until bubbly and golden, about 35 minutes.