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Baked Mac and Cheese

close up shot of Baked Mac and Cheese being grabbed from a baking dish with a large spoon
This creamy, baked mac and cheese is made from scratch with a delicious sauce and tender noodles, topped with breadcrumbs in this simple, homemade dinner recipe.
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Table of Contents
  1. BAKED MAC AND CHEESE INGREDIENTS
  2. HOW TO MAKE THIS BAKED MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE
  3. HOW TO SERVE
  4. STORAGE
  5. MORE RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
  6. JUMP TO RECIPE

This baked mac and cheese takes a classic recipe and gives it a bit of an upgrade. With this great recipe, there’s all that creamy goodness you get with the original but there’s also a touch of crunch from the tasty breadcrumb topping.

Plus, there are so many other ways you can upgrade your classic mac n cheese recipes! Check out this idea for a chili mac for starters. Or if you want a recipe to pop in the crockpot while you are at work, this crockpot mac and cheese will be just what you need.

BAKED MAC AND CHEESE INGREDIENTS

You’ll need:

For the Mac and Cheese

  • 2½ cups large elbow macaroni
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2½ cups mild cheddar cheese, shredded (freshly grated if possible)
  • 2½ cups white sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

For the Topping

  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup herb panko bread crumbs

SUBSTITUTIONS AND ADDITIONS

CHEESE: You can swap the cheddar cheese for mozzarella or even Monterey Jack or pepper Jack cheese if you prefer. Or you can go for stronger types of cheese but remember, this will make the cheesy sauce taste stronger. Add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for even more cheesy goodness for this classic comfort food.

BREADCRUMBS: If you can’t find any herb-flavored breadcrumbs, use normal panko breadcrumbs, and add dried mixed herbs. Mix the two then use as per the instructions.

ADDITIONS: You can also add some meat or fish to the recipe to make it a little more filling. Chicken, shrimp, or mac and cheese with bacon are great ideas. You can also add extra nutrition by including broccoli or other veggies. Mix these in when you are mixing together the noodles and cheese together.

PASTA: You can use classic elbow pasta or if you like something a little thicker and more substantial, swap it for corkscrew pasta, known as cavatappi or cellentani. 

SPICE: Add a bit of spice to this already amazing dish. A dash of hot sauce, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes, or what about mixing jalapeno jack cheese into your cheese mixture instead of one of the cheddar cheese varieties to kick up the heat.

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HOW TO MAKE THIS BAKED MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE

PRO TIP:

If you’re serving a crowd, this recipe easily doubles or triples.

STEP ONE: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.

STEP TWO: In a large pot, cook macaroni according to package directions but cook it for 1 to 2 minutes UNDER al dente. It will continue cooking as it bakes later. Drain the pasta and drizzle the olive oil over it and toss it to keep it from drying out while you prepare the sauce. Set cooked macaroni aside.

STEP THREE: In the pot you just cooked the pasta in, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once butter is melted add in the flour and whisk for a minute.

PRO TIP:

Make sure you whisk constantly so that you don’t burn the flour.

STEP FOUR: Pour in the 2 cups of whole milk and whisk until all lumps are gone and the mixture is smooth. About 1 minute

STEP FIVE: Over medium-high heat, add the 2 cans of evaporated milk, salt, and pepper. Whisk until mixture is smooth and starts to boil and to thicken, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir often so it doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pot.

STEP SIX: Stir cheeses together in a large bowl.

PRO TIP:

It’s best to grate your own cheese rather than use the pre-grated version in the bag. That’s because it usually has an anti-caking agent on it which means it doesn’t melt as well.

STEP SEVEN: Stir in 4 cups of cheese into the pot and stir until cheese is melted.

STEP EIGHT: Remove from heat and stir in the cooked pasta.

STEP NINE: Pour pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. It will look a bit soupy but it will thicken as it cooks.

STEP TEN: Sprinkle the remaining one cup of shredded cheese over the top of the mac and cheese.

STEP ELEVEN: In a small bowl, mix together the panko bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle an even layer over the top of the macaroni and cheese.

STEP TWELVE: Bake mac and cheese for 20 to 25 minutes until cheese is bubbly and the top is golden brown.

STEP THIRTEEN: Serve hot.

HOW TO SERVE

This baked macaroni and cheese casserole dish is best served hot for that ooey-gooey cheesy goodness that is the sign of a really good mac & cheese. Add pull-apart garlic bread and caesar salad for a complete meal.

STORAGE

IN THE FRIDGE: You can store mac and cheese in the fridge for 2 to 3 days, but it is best to do it before the breadcrumbs have been added. Otherwise, they tend to get a bit soggy. If you want to store it, stop at step five and cool down the pasta. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge.

IN THE FREEZER: The same applies to freezing the recipe. Stop at step five and allow the pasta to cool. Store it in an airtight container in the freezer for 1 to 2 months. Lift out and allow to defrost. Reheat in the pan then resume the recipe to add the breadcrumbs and bake in the oven.

You’ll love this baked version of this classic recipe. It still has the creamy homemade cheese sauce we all love but adds extra flavor and crunch with the breadcrumbs. That’s why it has become a Southern comfort food favorite!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I freeze this macaroni and cheese?

This easy mac and cheese recipe can be frozen for up to three months in an airtight container. For best results, wait to top with the breadcrumbs, otherwise, they will get soggy during freezing.

How do I spice up my mac and cheese?

Adding some hot peppers such as jalapeños, a dash of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, or a spicy cheese would be great ways to make your dish spicier.

Why did my cheese not melt properly?

If you are using pre-shredded cheese, it comes coated with an anti-caking agent. It is best for this recipe to shred your own cheese.

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close up shot of Baked Mac and Cheese being grabbed from a baking dish with a large spoon

Baked Mac and Cheese

5 from 15 votes
This creamy, baked mac and cheese is made from scratch with a delicious sauce and tender noodles, topped with breadcrumbs in this simple, homemade dinner recipe.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 10

Ingredients
  

Mac and Cheese

  • 2 ½ cups large elbow macaroni
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 24 ounces evaporated milk (12-ounce cans)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 ½ cup mild cheddar cheese shredded (freshly grated if possible)
  • 2 ½ cup white sharp cheddar cheese shredded

Topping

  • 4 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1 cup herb panko bread crumbs

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  • In a large pot, cook the macaroni according to package directions but cook it 1 to 2 minutes UNDER. It will continue cooking as it bakes later. Drain the pasta and drizzle the olive oil over it and toss it to keep it from drying out while you prepare the sauce. Set aside.
  • In the pot you just cooked the pasta in, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once butter is melted add in the flour and whisk for a minute whisking constantly so to not to burn the flour.
  • Pour in the 2 cups of whole milk and whisk until all lumps are gone and mixture is smooth. About 1 minute.
  • Over medium-high heat add the 2 cans of evaporated milk, salt, and pepper. Whisk until mixture is smooth and starts to boil and to thicken, about 8-10 minutes. Stir often so it doesn’t burn to bottom of pot.
  • Stir cheeses together in a large bowl.
  • Stir in 4 cups of cheese into the pot and stir until cheese is melted.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the cooked macaroni shells.
  • Pour into the prepared baking dish. It will look a bit soupy but it will thicken as it cooks.
  • Sprinkle the remaining one cup of shredded cheese over the top of the mac and cheese.
  • In a small bowl mix together the Panko bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until cheese is bubbly and top is golden brown.
  • Serve hot.

Video

Notes

TIP: If you’re serving a crowd, this recipe easily doubles or triples.
TIP: Make sure you whisk constantly so that you don’t burn the flour.
TIP: It’s best to grate your own cheese rather than use the pre-grated version in the bag. That’s because it usually has an anti-caking agent on it which means it doesn’t melt as well.

Nutrition

Calories: 593kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 108mg | Sodium: 919mg | Potassium: 422mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1089IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 662mg | Iron: 1mg
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  1. Jennifer says

    Is there a way to make this only a half of the pan size? This is always a hit in my house we just seem to always have to many leftovers 😂.

  2. lisa c says

    5 stars
    This was very good, owing, I believe to the use of evaporated milk along with regular milk, giving it extra richness, as well as the panko crumb topping. I did wing it a bit (using approximate quantities to sort of halve the recipe and using whatever cheese I had available), and everybody really liked it.

  3. Linda Peterson says

    Can this be prepared early in the day and reheated? If so, how long to reheat at what temperature? And will it still be creamy and not clumped?

    • Layne Kangas says

      Hi, Linda – it will not have the exact same fresh texture if you store it but it’s still good. I would wait to add the breadcrumbs until you’re ready to serve. I would heat at 350* for 15-25 minutes until it’s warmed through again.

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