How to Make Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Two recipes for creamy homemade macaroni and cheese – classic and deluxe – made from scratch. Essential comfort food for all.

A friend recently asked me for my homemade macaroni and cheese recipe, after a meal we shared together. Our combined six children had made short work of the baked casserole – no surprise there!

It was then I realized that I never use a recipe for homemade macaroni and cheese. I always cook by instinct – béchamel + pasta + cheese – each time adapting the recipe to use what I have on hand.

Well, it’s high time I share my method for homemade macaroni and cheese here on the blog. This has felt like the longest March absolutely ever and comfort food has seldom been so necessary.

How to Make Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

I’m going to give you two recipes today. One is for a classic homemade macaroni & cheese, a simple sauce with cheddar cheese. It’s a stovetop recipe that can be eaten straight out of the pot or baked up to get those oh-so-desirable crispy edges.

The second recipe is more of a deluxe version, with two kinds of cheese (minimum!) and crispy buttered breadcrumbs. My kids are not a fan of the crispy topping, so I usually finish theirs with an additional handful of cheese.

This is definitely a luxurious recipe, but if you’re looking for something containing vegetables that has a similar comfort factor, try my 10-Minute Creamy Cauliflower Capellini. It was always such a hit with my kids when they were toddlers.

Ingredients for homemade macaroni and cheese

You really only need five ingredients for a basic mac & cheese: butter, flour, milk, cheese and pasta. These will give you the ultimate comfort food – minus all the processed junk you get in boxed brands.

The best pasta shape for mac and cheese has lots of pockets and grooves that will pick up up all the cheesy sauce. Penne can be slippery. Elbow macaroni is too boring.

I adore cappelletti and seek it out for my homemade mac. This isn’t the stuffed version but a dried cappelletti from Garofalo that my local grocery store carries.

The fun Campanelle pasta is a fantastic choice and shells are great, too, so stock up on a few different styles in your pantry for some variety.

For the cheese department….I typically use cheddar punched up with a little parmesan. Realistically, though, I cook with whatever needs to be used up in my deli drawer.

A dab of cream cheese or ricotta…a hunk of aged cheddar…the last of the Gruyère – all are delightful melted together in a sauce.

The best time to make mac & cheese is after hosting a wine and cheese – you can use up all the bits and ends. Delicious!

Flavour Enhancers

I always add a spoonful of Dijon mustard and if I feel like it, a grating of nutmeg (this is classic Béchamel). Also delicious is a sprinkling of smoked paprika or a dash of Tabasco sauce. The cheese sauce is your blank canvas for adding more flavour!

Random-and-not-so-random add-ins

I get it. Mac and cheese is sacred for a reason, but sometimes I like to really round it out and turn it into a complete meal. Mini broccoli florets and asparagus tips are my favourite add-ins (rapini if I have it!). I boil them right alongside the pasta, tossing them into the pot in the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Do Ahead Macaroni and Cheese

These pasta bakes can be successfully frozen. Just cool them completely after Step 6, wrap tightly with foil or cling wrap and freeze. To serve, bake from frozen at 350F for at least 1 1/4 hours or until hot in the centre.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese: the Recipes

I hope you use these recipes in your kitchens and may they bring plenty of cheesy carb-loaded comfort to your family table.

Classic Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

A classic cheddar macaroni and cheese recipe; can be enjoyed wet (right off the stovetop) or baked for crispy edges.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Vegetarian
Essential Ingredient: Cheese
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 791kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 lb Cappelletti pasta or Orechiette

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • On the stovetop, melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed braiser (a cooking vessel halfway between a pan and a pot) over medium heat. The brasier should be both stovetop and oven safe because we're going to do everything in one pot. A Dutch oven works too. When the butter is bubbling, dump in the flour and whisk vigorously until smooth. Cook this paste, called a "roux", for 1 minute, whisking slowly.
  • Slowly pour 2 cups of milk into the roux and whisk to combine. This will take a few minutes – don't rush it. You want to whisk until there are no lumps and it's a smooth sauce. Whisk in the Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, followed by the remaining milk.
  • Over medium-low heat, bring this cream sauce (now called a béchamel) to a simmer, whisking occasionally. Take care not to let it burn; use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the pot. It will thicken slightly. Stir 2 1/2 cups of grated cheese (reserving 1/2 cup for the top) into the sauce and remove from heat.
  • In rapidly boiling, salted water, cook the pasta 1 minute less than the package directions (about 8 minutes). Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Drain pasta well in a colander.
  • Tumble the pasta into the béchamel sauce and stir to coat the pasta thoroughly. At this point you have stovetop mac & cheese and you can dish it into bowl.
  • For baked mac & cheese, sprinkle the remainder of the grated cheese on top of the pasta. Place on the middle shelf of the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes until the sauce is bubbling around the edges. Serve hot!

Notes

For extra flavour, use aged cheddar cheese and use a combination of both cheddar and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Nutrition

Calories: 791kcal | Carbohydrates: 76g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 117mg | Sodium: 856mg | Potassium: 538mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 1260IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 687mg | Iron: 2mg

Deluxe Baked Macaroni and Cheese

The ultimate baked macaroni and cheese recipe with a crispy Parmesan-breadcrumb topping.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Vegetarian
Essential Ingredient: Cheese
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 903kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb Cappelletti pasta or Orechiette
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs or panko
  • 2 Tablespoons salted butter melted

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • On the stovetop over medium heat, melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed braiser (a cooking vessel halfway between a pot and a pan). The braiser should be both stovetop and oven safe because we're going to do everything in one pot. A Dutch oven works too. When the butter is bubbling, dump in the flour and whisk vigorously until smooth. Cook this paste, called a "roux", for 1 minute, whisking slowly.
  • Slowly pour 2 cups of milk into the roux and whisk to combine. This will take a few minutes – don't rush it. You want to whisk until there are no lumps and it's a smooth sauce. Whisk in the Dijon mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper, followed by the remaining milk.
  • Over medium-low heat, bring this cream sauce (now called a béchamel) to a simmer, whisking occasionally. Take care not to let it burn; use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the pot. It will thicken slightly. Stir cheddar cheese and 3/4 cup of parmesan cheese into the sauce and remove from heat.
  • In rapidly boiling, salted water, cook the pasta 1 minute less than the package directions (about 8 minutes). Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Drain pasta well in a colander.
  • Tumble the pasta into the béchamel sauce and stir to coat the pasta thoroughly. At this point you have deluxe stovetop mac & cheese and you can dish it into bowl to enjoy.
  • For baked mac & cheese, keep going. In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs and melted butter. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the creamy pasta.
  • Place the pot on the middle shelf of the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and the breadcrumbs are browned. Serve hot!

Notes

For extra flavour, use aged cheddar cheese and use a combination of both cheddar and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Nutrition

Calories: 903kcal | Carbohydrates: 86g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 46g | Saturated Fat: 28g | Cholesterol: 127mg | Sodium: 1121mg | Potassium: 559mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 1473IU | Calcium: 754mg | Iron: 3mg

Turn It Into A Full Carb-Fest

For additional pasta recipes…check out my Carb-Lover’s Pasta Recipe Round-up.

And should you find yourself around a campfire, definitely try my One-Pot Campfire Macaroni and Cheese.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

Subscribe For Free!

Like reading this post?
Get more delivered to your email inbox.

Comments

  1. Nummers! We all need little daily “vitamins” of cheese and chocolate these days! Thanks for all of your recent posts on all your social – so very encouraging and greatly appreciated xo

  2. 5 stars
    I love cooking and i’m grateful that you shared your recipe to us.Thank you so much.

  3. 5 stars
    I really enjoyed this and my family liked it too! I out a spin on it to add some veggies and added onion and broccoli was still really good!!

Speak Your Mind

*