This easy baked mac and cheese recipe is the ultimate comfort food! It makes for a perfect Sunday night dinner with enough leftovers for the lunchbox the next day!
Watch my video demo of this Easy Baked Mac & Cheese Recipe!
How Do you Make Baked Mac and Cheese?
Baked Mac and Cheese is actually a very easy process. You will boil your pasta until “al dente”, you don’t want to over cook it since a baked mac and cheese will continue to cook the pasta in the oven.
Then you’ll make a classic cheese sauce by combining melted butter with flour, add milk simmer until thickened, season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and garlic and then add 3 different types of cheese for the best flavor! (see recipe below)
STEP #1: Boil Pasta
Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta once it is “al dente” and still has a bit of chew to it.
You don’t want to fully cook the pasta at this stage since it will cook further in the oven. It should just give a bit when piercing it with a knife. Overcooking it will result in a mushy mac and cheese!
Even though traditional mac and cheese is made with macaroni pasta, I really prefer to use the small shell pasta for this recipe. I think the shells provide a better vehicle for holding the sauce and cheese!
STEP #2: Make The Cheese Sauce
In a large pot you’ll melt the butter, whisk in the flour to form a paste, then slowly add the milk, whisking constantly until smooth and creamy. Season with garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
What is the best cheese to use for macaroni and cheese?
Personally, I think a 3-cheese combination is the best for Mac and Cheese. I like to use a combination of white cheddar for gooeyness, gruyere for flavor and parmesan for a little nuttiness.
Do You Put Egg in Baked Mac and Cheese?
Personally, I say no. The flour in the sauce thickens the cheese sauce and binds the mac and cheese together so there really is no need for egg in this recipe.
STEP#3: Toss The Pasta with Sauce
Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over the pasta and stir to combine. It will look like a TON of sauce, but it will get absorbed into the pasta as it bakes in the oven.
STEP #4: Make The Homemade Bread Crumbs
The finishing touch to this Baked Mac and Cheese is the homemade bread crumbs! It’s really what sends this dish over-the-top. It’s best to use a rustic bread for the breadcrumbs. Something like a boule or sourdough loaf.
Cut the bread into cubes and place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until large crumbs form. Set aside.
Your crumbs should be finely ground but still a bit crumbly so that they crisp up on top.
Transfer pasta mixture to a greased casserole dish. Top with the bread crumbs.
STEP #5: Bake!
Place in the oven at 375F and bake 20-25 mins until the mac and cheese in golden brown and the sauce is bubbling.
If you want your bread crumbs more “toasty” you can pop under the broiler for a few seconds two. Serve oven to table!
More Great Pasta Recipes!
- Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Baby Broccoli
- Spinach Ravioli and Sautéed Veggies
- Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage
- Homemade Lasagna
Please let me know if you make this recipe by leaving a rating and review below.
- 1 lb Pasta (450 g) (macaroni, shells, etc.)
- 8 tbsp (120 g) butter
- 6 ½ cups (1560 ml) milk
- ½ cup (60 ml) of flour
- 2 tsp (10 ml) salt
- freshly cracked pepper to taste
- ¼ tsp (1.25 ml) nutmeg
- ½ cup (60 g) grated white cheddar cheese
- ½ cup (60 g) grated gruyere cheese
- ¼ cup (22g) freshly grated parmesan cheese
- For Bread Crumbs:
- 2 cups (480 ml) thick rustic bread, cut into cubes
- 3 tbsp (45 ml) melted butter
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) fresh thyme, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- Grease a 9” (23cm) x 13” (32cm) casserole dish or gratin pan. Preheat oven to 375F (190C).
- Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain once pasta is “al dente” and still has a bit of chew to it. You don’t want to fully cook it in this stage since it will cook further in the oven. Set cooked pasta aside.
- In a large pot, melt the butter, whisk in the flour to form a paste, slowly add the milk, whisking all the while. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese. Set aside.
- To make the bread crumbs, place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until large crumbs form. Set aside.
- Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over the pasta and stir to combine. It will look like a TON of sauce, but it will get absorbed into the pasta as it bakes in the oven.
- Transfer pasta mixture to a greased casserole dish. Top with the bread crumbs. Place in the oven and bake 20-25 mins. Sauce will be bubbling and bread crumbs will be golden brown. If you want your bread crumbs more “toasty” you can pop under the broiler for a few seconds two.
- Serve oven to table!
You could also add 1 cup of cooked crumbled bacon to this for a fantastic baked mac and cheese with bacon recipe!
The best way to make this "ahead of time" is to make the sauce, cover and refrigerate, make the breadcrumbs, cover and refrigerate.
Then before serving just boil the pasta, toss with sauce and top with breadcrumbs and bake.
Making the pasta fresh and then baking right away assures your mac and cheese remains saucy. Otherwise if you make a day ahead, place in gratin dust and bake the next day, the pasta soaks up all the sauce and you'll have a dry mac and cheese.
To freshen up leftovers, portion a serving out into a bowl, add 1 tbsp of water on top and microwave. This will loosen the sauce and make for a better, saucier texture.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 86 Total Fat: 4g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 12mg Sodium: 84mg Carbohydrates: 8g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 4g