Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

  • If you are looking for the most indulgent, decadent, creamy baked mac and cheese this is the recipe for you. It’s perfect for the holidays, family gatherings, or impressing guests.

    Baked mac and cheese……does it get any more comforting??? I think it’s safe to say it doesn’t. What child or even adult can say they hate it? And if you are looking for the best creamy baked mac and cheese recipe to serve at any gathering and get rave reviews this is the recipe for you!

    Overhead view of a plate of deliciously indulgent creamy baked mac and cheese.

    If you are looking for some more of my favorite comfort food dishes try this Old Fashioned Meatloaf. It’s tender and not dry at all! Have some chicken thighs on hand try this Chicken and Stuffing Casserole. Or if you are looking for a comforting soup give this Instant Pot Beef and Barley Soup a try!

    WHY YOU WILL LOVE THIS CREAMY BAKED MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE:

    I made this recipe after having a grueling week and looking for some easy comfort food to put everyone in a good mood. I wanted it to be over the top and impressive enough to serve guests. Well, my whole family cleaned out the entire dish and asked when I was going to make it again, lol! Needless to say, it has become a favorite and here’s why you will want to make it:

    • There are 3 different cheeses
    • It’s not dry but instead extra saucy
    • Super indulgent
    • Great flavor, not bland and flavorless
    • You can add in extras to take it even more over the top
    Overhead view of all ingredients needed to make mac and cheese.

    INGREDIENTS:

    PASTA: Use any small pasta. If you do use something other than elbow pasta be gentle stirring them in as they can break apart easier. Also, cook your pasta 3 minutes just before al dente so it doesn’t turn to mush while baking.
    BUTTER AND FLOUR: Used to make a roux and thicken the pasta dish
    SALT, PEPPER, GARLIC POWDER, ONION POWDER, MUSTARD: Used to flavor the pasta dish…..and no it will not taste like mustard.

    HALF AND HALF: I told you this was going to be indulgent! I don’t recommend subbing out the half and half for anything else and I used it to ensure it would be a creamy and not a grainy sauce. I know you can successfully make a baked mac and cheese using lighter dairy but so many people have problems with grainy sauces and this can be a factor….lighter dairy can curdle easier. And like I said earlier I was wanting to make an over the top indulgent mac and cheese.
    CHEDDAR, MOZZARELLA, GRUYERE CHEESE: This is my favorite trio of cheeses when making this mac and cheese. Feel free to swap out cheeses but be sure to use one easy melting cheese such as mozzarella or monterey jack. And PLEASE grate your own cheese. The pre-shredded cheeses are coated in an anti-caking agent which can also contribute to a grainy sauce.

    Three pictures showing how to make a roux.

    HOW TO MAKE A ROUX:

    MELT BUTTER: In a large pot melt the butter over medium low heat.

    ADD FLOUR: Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. This will cook the flour and remove the raw flour taste. For this recipe we are looking for a blond roux so don’t cook the flour much longer than 2 minutes.

    HALF AND HALF: Whisk in the half and half and keep whisking until the roux starts to thicken slightly. Remove from the heat.

    MAKE IT A CHEESE SAUCE!

    Now it’s time for the good stuff!! Stir in the cheese. And don’t worry about stirring it until all the cheese melts because it will finish in the oven. This also helps ensure the cheese isn’t overcooked which will cause it to separate and become an oily mess. Now time for the pasta! Gently fold in your pasta and pour into a 9×13 baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly and golden on top.

    Four pictures showing how to make the mac and cheese.

    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

    CAN I FREEZE THIS MAC AND CHEESE?

    No, this particular mac and cheese recipe doesn’t freeze well.

    CAN I MAKE THIS BAKED MAC AND CHEESE IN ADVANCE?

    Yes, but with a few changes. After cooking the pasta drain and return to the pan and toss with 2 tablespoons of butter. This will coat the pasta and help it from absorbing too much liquid and becoming mushy. Resume with the recipe and instead of baking cover with plastic wrap pressing the plastic wrap on the surface of the mac and cheese so it doesn’t form a film. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake as directed.

    HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT LEFTOVERS?

    Store completely cooled mac and cheese covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. This recipe is best the day it is made but if you do have leftovers reheat them gently in the microwave and stir often. It will not be the same consistency as the day you made it but it will still taste good!

    Overhead view of entire pan of baked mac and cheese fresh from the oven. Garnished with fresh parsley and black pepper.

    THE PERFECT ADD INS TO CHANGE UP THIS BAKED MAC AND CHEESE:

    • Bacon! Cook bacon until crisp, crumble and stir in with the cheese.
    • Spinach: Stir in fresh spinach with the cheese.
    • Other vegetables: Stir in cooked chopped vegetables of choice with the cheese. (onion, bell pepper, broccoli, califlower are all great choices!)
    • Chopped or shredded cooked chicken
    • Looking for that crunchy breadcrumb topping?? Mix 1 cup panko (breadcrumbs) or crushed ritz crackers with 2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle over the mac and cheese after pouring it into the 9×13 baking dish. Can also mix in desired herbs and garlic with the topping.
    Two pictures: One showing a spoon pulling up a big serving of mac and cheese with the cheese pulling behind. The second picture is an overhead view showing the mac and cheese on a plate.

    WHAT TO SERVE WITH CREAMY BAKED MAC AND CHEESE:

    This mac and cheese can be a stand alone dish. Serve it with a fresh salad or steamed green vegetable of choice. Don’t choose anything heavy as this is a very rich dish.

    If you are using it as a side dish serve it with just about any American main dish. Main dishes like these Homemade Sloppy Joes, Beer Can Chicken, Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken, or this Homemade Oven Roasted Rotisserie Chicken. Really any roasted meats or bbq pair beautifully with mac and cheese. I wouldn’t serve this with soups, Asian, or extremely light summery mains.

    If you are thinking about serving this with a holiday meal try it with this Sweet Potato and Stuffing Turkey Roulade, Beer and Butter Turkey (it’s so juicy!!), or this Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Glazed Ham.

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    Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
    Prep Time
    15 mins
    Cook Time
    25 mins
    Total Time
    40 mins
     

    If you are looking for the most indulgent, decadent, creamy baked mac and cheese this is the recipe for you. It's perfect for the holidays, family gatherings, or impressing guests.

    Course: Main Dish
    Cuisine: American
    Keyword: baked mac and cheese, creamy mac and cheese
    Servings: 8
    Calories: 903 kcal
    Author: Malinda Linnebur
    Ingredients
    • 1 pound (453g) elbow macaroni
    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • cup (45g) all purpose flour
    • ½ teaspoon each: salt, onion powder, garlic powder, prepared mustard
    • cups (830ml) half and half
    • pepper to taste
    • 1 pound (453g) cheddar, shredded
    • 1 pound (453g) mozzarella, shredded
    • 5 ounces (150g) gruyere, shredded
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions until 3 minutes less than fully cooked. Drain pasta and add back to pot.

    2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan melt the butter over medium low heat. Once melted whisk in the flour, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, prepared mustard and pepper, and cook for 1 minute.

    3. Slowly whisk in the half and half and cook while whisking until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheeses. Don't worry about the cheese completely melting it will when baked. Fold on the cooked pasta. Pour into 9×13 baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly and golden on top.

    Recipe Notes
    1. STORAGE: Store completely cooled mac and cheese covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. This recipe is best the day it is made but if you do have leftovers reheat them gently in the microwave and stir often. It will not be the same consistency as the day you made it but it will still taste good! 
    2. MAKE AHEAD: Yes, but with a few changes. After cooking the pasta drain and return to the pan and toss with 2 tablespoons of butter. Resume with the recipe and instead of baking cover with plastic wrap pressing the plastic wrap on the surface of the mac and cheese so it doesn’t form a film. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake as directed. 
    Nutrition Facts
    Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
    Amount Per Serving
    Calories 903 Calories from Fat 504
    % Daily Value*
    Fat 56g86%
    Saturated Fat 34g213%
    Trans Fat 1g
    Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
    Monounsaturated Fat 16g
    Cholesterol 177mg59%
    Sodium 863mg38%
    Potassium 386mg11%
    Carbohydrates 56g19%
    Fiber 2g8%
    Sugar 3g3%
    Protein 44g88%
    Vitamin A 1661IU33%
    Vitamin C 1mg1%
    Calcium 998mg100%
    Iron 2mg11%
    * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the information shown is just an estimate.


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