This easy baked mac and cheese recipe is a Cheese Knees Signature! It’s made with a roux-based cheese sauce and a perfect breadcrumb topping.
This baked mac and cheese recipe is one of our favorites. It’s creamy, cheesy, and oh-so-satisfying. We love making this for the holidays because it serves a crowd and is delicious next to mains like turkey roulade.
The method is simple: make the mac and cheese sauce, cook the macaroni, and prepare the breadcrumb topping. Then, bake it in the oven and top it with even more cheese!
What You Need for Baked Mac and Cheese
- Cheddar cheese: you will need around 3 cups of freshly shredded cheddar cheese.
- Macaroni noodles: we used elbow macaroni noodles, but feel free to use any kind of noodle that you would like.
- Butter: butter makes everything better and is a necessary ingredient to make a roux.
- All-purpose flour: a simple all purpose flour is perfect for this recipe. If you would like to make this recipe gluten free you can use a 1 to 1 baking gluten free bakingflour.
- 2 % milk or heavy cream: 2% milk is perfect for this recipe but if you want to make your mac extra decadent you can use heavy cream.
- Salt: don’t skip the salt, it enhances flavors of all the ingredients.
- Granulated garlic (or garlic powder): garlic powder adds a ton to this recipe. If you want to change things up you can also use onion powder.
- Buffalo hot sauce: we used Franks
#1 tip for baked mac and cheese
Freshly shredding your cheese for this recipe is crucial. Already shredded cheese has preservatives on it and you will get your best results by shredding your own!
Best Cheese for this Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe
We originally tested this recipe with 16 oz. cheddar gruyere cheese. It’s creamy and slightly aged and has great flavor! Other cheeses that we’ve use in this recipe:
- White cheddar cheese
- Sharp cheddar cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Gruyere cheese
- Use different cheeses, such as a cheddar blend, Monterey Jack, Colby, or Swiss.
- Add vegetables, such as steamed broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots.
- Skip the breadcrumb topping or use ritz crackers instead.
- Use gluten-free flour and gluten-free noodles.
- Use a different type of pasta, such as shells or penne.
How to Store Baked Mac and Cheese
Store this baked mac and cheese in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3-5 days.
Reheating Mac and Cheese
The key to reheating mac and cheese is to add a little moisture (milk works great!) since the noodles continue to absorb moisture even after they’re originally cooked, and to reheat low and slow to avoid the cheese breaking down and changing texture.
Oven directions: If you have time to reheat your mac and cheese in the oven, that is a great method! Simply add a little milk (start with a tablespoon, and go up from there depending on how much mac you’re reheating!), and stir thoroughly before covering an oven-safe dish and placing in the oven at 350°F.
You’ll need 10-20 minutes of reheating time, depending on how much mac you’re reheating.
Baked Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb. macaroni noodles
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups 2 % milk
- 16 oz. white cheddar cheese freshly shredded (~3 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
- 1-2 tablespoons buffalo hot sauce we used Franks
- 2 oz. white cheddar cheese shredded
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- First, preheat the oven to 350ºF and spray a large casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Next, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the uncooked macaroni noodles and salt to the water and stir.
- Let pasta cook until it’s just under al dente so that they are a little crunchy. They will continue cooking in the oven. Strain noodles and set aside.
- Next, prepare a roux by heating a large pot or dutch oven over medium/high heat. Add butter. When the butter is melted add flour and whisk until the butter and flour form a crumble. Slowly add milk to the pot, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk the roux over medium/high heat for about 4-6 minutes or until the roux thickens.
- When the roux is thick, remove from heat and add the cheddar gruyere cheese. Whisk until the cheese has melted.
- Transfer the cooked macaroni noodles to the casserole dish and spread out evenly. Then, pour the cheese sauce on top, add hot sauce, and mix to combine.
- Next, prepare breadcrumb topping by mixing together shredded cheese and breadcrumbs. Then, add in melted butter and mix again.
- Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top of mac and cheese in the casserole dish, making sure everything is covered.
- Bake at 350ºF for around 20 minutes or until the top turns golden brown.
- Top with fresh parsley and enjoy!
Tips & Notes
- Our favorite cheese to use in this baked mac and cheese is Woodriver Creamery Cheddar Gruyere.