This easy baked mac and cheese recipe is the ultimate comfort food! It’s one of my favorite Pasta Recipes that makes for a perfect Sunday night dinner. The best part? You’ll have enough leftovers for the lunchbox the next day!
Next to Homemade Pasta Sauces, I think Homemade Mac and Cheese is totally worth the effort! It will taste 10x better than anything you’ll get out of a box!
If you’re a true Mac and Cheese fan, you might also like my Bacon Mac and Cheese Bites. Betcha can’t eat just one!
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Why You Will Love This?
- Baked Mac and Cheese is actually a very easy process. You will boil your pasta until “al dente”, you don’t want to overcook it since a baked mac and cheese will continue to cook the pasta in the oven. So this makes the process quicker!
- It allows for topping with homemade breadcrumbs which makes Mac and Cheese ALL the better!
- It freezes well allowing you to set aside individual portions for a quick weeknight meal!
Step #1: Boil Pasta
Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain the 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 will result in a mushy mac and cheese!
Macaroni vs. Shells?
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. Simmer the sauce until it thickens.
What is the best cheese to use for baked 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 Need to Add an Egg?
Personally, I say no. I know there are folks who will disagree with me on this one, but I find 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.
There’s nothing worse than a dry mac and cheese and this compensates for the fact that the liquid will get absorbed into the pasta as it bakes. The pasta also needs liquid in order to cook through so the extra sauce takes care of both!
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 rustic bread for the breadcrumbs. Something like a boule or sourdough loaf.
Once you fall in love with homemade breadcrumbs, you’ll want to put them on everything! They are also fantastic on my Baked Zucchini Gratin casserole!
Cut the bread into cubes and place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until large crumbs form. Set aside.
Getting the Right Texture for Homemade Breadcrumbs
Your crumbs should be finely ground but still a bit crumbly so that they crisp up on top. For this reason, I like to also include the crust of the bread since that will create some really delicious, crunchiness to your bread crumb mixture.
Step#5: Transfer to a Baking Dish
Make sure your oven-safe casserole dish is well greased and then top with the bread crumbs. Don’t be timid, load them on there! You’ll thank me after it’s baked! It will seem like a lot, but once you serve the portions, everyone always wants more of the breadcrumbs.
Step #6: Bake!
Place in the oven at 375F and bake 20-25 mins until the mac and cheese is 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
- Homemade Pasta Sauces worth the Effort
- 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 at 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. All the sauce to simmer until thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
- Then 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. The 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.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 86Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 84mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 4g