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Macaroni and Cheese: the creamy comfort food for baked mac and cheese

Total time: 35 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 8 people
By Cookist
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This is the hands-down best homemade baked macaroni and cheese recipe around. Also known as mac and cheese in Canada and USA, it's decadently cheesy, deliciously creamy, and oh-so comforting. 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. It's something you can serve for a hearty dinner or as a holiday side dish – your friends and family will love it.

There are endless variations to make, so you'll never get bored – you can even make it on the stovetop. 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. Leave aside the usual packaged mac and cheese from the store, this recipe is much tastier.

What's the Best Cheese for Homemade 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.

Baked Mac and Cheese Ingredients

Elbow macaroni pasta – it's the traditional choice for baked mac and cheese. If you don't have it on hand, mini shell pasta is just as delicious and is the perfect shape for catching the creamy cheese sauce.

Cheddar and Gruyère cheese – make the casserole dish super cheesy and creamy.

Flour and butter – these two ingredients are essential to make a roux for the cheese sauce.

Milk and half-and-half – add more creaminess to the dish.

Paprika, salt and pepper – it's the perfect mix to season this casserole.

How to make Macaroni and Cheese

Making mac and cheese at home is easier than you might think. Start by cooking al dente the elbow macaroni in a pot with salted, boiling water. When done, drain the pasta.

Next, make the cheese sauce. In a saucepan over low-medium heat, combine butter and flour, then mix. Pour in the milk, half-and-half, 3/4 amount of Gruyère and cheddar cheese little by little, by stirring. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes or until thick like a condensed soup. Season with salt, pepper and paprika.

Now, it's time to assemble mac and cheese casserole. Scoop 1/3 macaroni in the bottom of the baking dish, then pour over 1/3 cheese sauce and stir well. Repeat again until you run out of ingredients. Top with cheese, then bake at 325°F for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven, let it cool and serve.

Tips for Making Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

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.

Can you make Mac and Cheese ahead of time?

Yes! 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.

Macaroni and Cheese Variations

For a crunchier top, you can add breadcrumbs and 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.

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.

For a seafood macaroni and cheese, add lobster.

You can even make it vegan.

How to store and reheat Baked Mac and Cheese

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.

Can you freeze Macaroni and Cheese?

Yes! You can freeze homemade macaroni and cheese for up to 6 months. Simply transfer the mixture in a zip-top freezer bag. Before serving, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight.

Ingredients

uncooked elbow macaroni pasta
1 pound
All-purpose flour
1/2 cup
Unsalted butter
1/2 cup
Whole Milk
1 1/2 cups
Half and half
2 1/2 cups
cheddar cheese, grated
4 cups
gruyère cheese, grated
2 cups
paprika (optional)
1/4 tsp
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

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 it.

Meanwhile make the roux for the cheese sauce in a saucepan. Melt the butter over medium heat.

Whisk in flour, by cooking for about 1 minute, stirring continuously.

Gradually pour in the milk, stirring until smooth. Season with salt, pepper and paprika. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens, then remove the saucepan from the heat.

Add in 3/4 amount of cheddar and Gruyère cheese.

Whisking until melted. The sauce should be smooth.

Scoop 1/3 macaroni pasta in the bottom of the baking dish, then coat it with 1/3 cheese sauce. Stir well and repeat until you form two more layers. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

Notes

Grate the cheese yourself – not only does it have better flavor, it'll also melt more easily.

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