- dried elbow pasta 1 pound
- Butter 1/2 cup • 717 kcal
- All-purpose flour 1/2 cup
- Whole Milk 1 ½ cups
- Half and half 2 ½ cups
- Grated cheddar cheese 4 cups
- grated Gruyere cheese 2 cups
- Paprika 1/4 tsp
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Decadently cheesy, deliciously creamy, and oh-so comforting, this is the hands-down best homemade baked mac and cheese recipe around. The beauty of this simple recipe is that it's easy to prepare and boasts amazing flavor thanks to the mouthwatering blend of sharp cheddar and Gruyere cheese – something your friends and family are sure to love! There are endless variations to make, so you'll never get bored. Baked mac and cheese is a classic comfort food that every home cook should learn to master, and this best-ever recipe is just what you need to get started.
What's the Best Cheese for Baked Mac and Cheese?
The best types of cheese for homemade mac and cheese all comes down to your personal preferences. That said, you'll want to pick varieties that melt well. Cheddar, Gruyere, parmesan, goat's cheese, and cream cheese are a few great-tasting options.
Tips for Making the Best Homemade Mac and Cheese
– Elbow-shaped pasta is the traditional choice for baked mac and cheese, but mini shell pasta is just as delicious and is the perfect shape for catching the creamy cheese sauce.
– You can make baked mac and cheese ahead of time. Follow the recipe, let the mac and cheese cool completely, then cover and put in the fridge. Enjoy within 2 days.
– If you don't have half and half, cream works in this recipe, too. It'll give you an ultra-rich creamy mac and cheese.
– Serve mac and cheese as a tasty side dish or as a main dinner. As a main, it's excellent with green salads, roasted or steamed vegetables, or coleslaw. When serving up mac and cheese as a side, it's amazing with barbecue.
Delicious Baked Mac and Cheese Variations to Try
You can try a different mix of cheeses to create a new version of this classic recipe. Mozzarella, Colby, gouda, goat's cheese, and parmesan are all wonderful in this recipe. Don't use drier cheeses like feta because they won't melt as well.
Add chopped bacon, cooked sausage, or pancetta for an even tastier homemade mac and cheese.
Or toss in some fresh veggies like peas, broccoli florets, or leeks.
How to Store Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese Leftovers
Wrap the leftovers in cling film or transfer your mac and cheese to an airtight container. Store in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. To reheat, add a splash of milk, cover with foil, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 350°F.
How to Make Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese
Preheat your oven to 325°F.
Generously salt a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente, then drain and lightly coat with a small amount of olive oil.
Combine the cheeses then set aside 2 separate piles of 1 ½ cups each, leaving a third pile of about 3 cups.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, cooking for about 1 minute, stirring continuously. Gradually pour in the milk, stirring until smooth. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens, then remove the saucepan from the heat.
Add in the cheese, whisking until it melts. The sauce should be smooth.
Transfer pasta to a pour and coat with cheese sauce, stirring to combine. Scoop half of the pasta into a lightly greased baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 ½ cups of reserved cheese, then cover with the remaining pasta. Add the last 1 ½ cups of cheese.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
– Grate the cheese yourself – not only does it have better flavor, it'll also melt more easily.
– For a crunchier top, bake the mac and cheese at 350°F for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on your oven. Then broil it for 3 to 5 minutes until the cheese turns golden brown.