The BEST Homemade Mac and Cheese of your LIFE. Outrageously cheesy, ultra creamy, and topped with a crunchy Panko-Parmesan topping, this mac and cheese recipe is most definitely a keeper. I used three different cheese and a homemade cheese sauce to take this macaroni and cheese recipe over the top. Love cheesy recipes? Make sure to try this Lazy Day Lasagna and Cheesy Kielbasa Rice and Broccoli Skillet next week for dinner!
This post is sponsored by Walmart and SheKnows Media.
Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese
There is absolutely nothing I love more than cheese. And when you add pasta to it? Fuggetaboutit.
Mac and cheese is one of those recipes that can take on so many different forms. I love it anyway I can get it but baked mac and cheese is my very favorite and I’ll tell you why… The topping. I use breadcrumbs for my topping occasionally, but, a Panko topped mac and cheese is just that much better.
I mix in Parmesan, butter, and paprika with the Panko so it crisps up beautifully and gets a nice golden brown color when this amazing homemade mac and cheese is baked.
I’m going to be honest here. When I make mac and cheese, it’s the mac to cheese ratio that I am most concerned about. I love it when the mac and cheese is oeey gooey and the cheese sauce is just so creamy. GIMME.
With all this cheese going on in this macaroni and cheese recipe, I need a little help from my KitchenAid Deluxe Stand Mixer and it’s handy dandy Fresh Prep Slice/Shredder attachment. I picked up this beauty at Walmart this past week and I am in LOOOOOVE. I was torn between the options: SILVER | COBALT | PISTACHIO. But, when I pictured them in my kitchen, I knew I had to go with the cobalt – it’s just stunning!
My sister had bought me the pasta maker attachment years ago and it’s used A LOT so I was excited to pick up the shredder attachment on this last trip to Walmart because, I mean, come on. You guys know that I’m all about the cheese. But it’s not just for shredding cheese you guys! We’ve already used it to make the hash brown crust on this quiche too. What a time saver!
I use my stand mixer about 954 times each week. Being a food blogger and mom means I’m in my kitchen a lot baking up goodies and whipping up amazing dinners like this homemade baked mac and cheese. I am always, always looking for help in the kitchen and the Kitchen Aid Deluxe Stand Mixer is the answer.
You’re going to find all the features you know and love including a tilt-head design to easily add ingredients, 10 speeds to thoroughly mix, whip, and knead ingredients, and it comes with the coated flat beater, coated dough hook, and the wire whip.
There are 10 hub powered attachments including a spiralizer, food grinder and citrus juicer. SO much fun to be had you guys!
Tips for the Best Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese
- Use block cheese and shred, do not buy the pre-shredded cheese. The pre-shredded cheese is great for so many things but not macaroni and cheese. It’s coated and won’t melt properly. You need to shred it yourself for the best result.
- Cook your pasta to slightly less than al dente, about one minute shy is perfect. The reason is that this is baked mac and cheese so the pasta will continue to cook in the homemade cheese sauce in the oven. You don’t want soggy macaroni.
- I used elbow pasta but really, any tubular past will work.
- This mac and cheese recipe starts with a roux. The roux is super important to getting the creamiest cheese sauce of your life. Here is what you need to look for:
- The roux (equal parts butter and flour) is whisked together until bubbly and golden.
- Whisk in cold milk – not warm – to prevent the flour from clumping.
- Cook the roux until you see bubbles on the surface and then continue cooking for an additional 2 minutes before adding the cheese.
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese: What Kind of Cheese Should I Use?
I honestly use different cheese combinations almost every time I make this mac and cheese recipe but the one I always come back to is sharp cheddar and Gruyere. If you can’t find Gruyere, Jarlsberg Swiss cheese is the best substitute. Other cheese that work: mozzarella, jack cheese or pepper jack for a little zip, American and Velveeta as well for a creamier cheese sauce. This baked mac and cheese uses 6 cups of cheese so just
To add even more flavor to my homemade mac and cheese, I add Parmesan to the Panko topping – so good!
Make sure to try out these favorites too!
- The Ultimate Chicken Fried Steak and Gravy
- Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Root Beer BBQ Sauce
- Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches
- One Pot Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup
- Slow Cooker Shrimp Boil
I sure hope you give this a try and please, let me know what you think in the comments below!
How To Make Homemade Mac and Cheese
The BEST Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese
- 16 oz elbow macaroni, cooked (or other tubular pasta)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 2 cups Gruyere cheese shredded
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
- 4 tbsp butter melted
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a large 3 qt or 4 qt baking dish and set aside.
Combine shredded cheeses in a large bowl and set aside.
- Cook the pasta one minute shy of al dente according to the package instructions. Remove from heat, drain, and place in a large bowl.
- Drizzle pasta with olive oil and stir to coat pasta. Set aside to cool while preparing cheese sauce.
- Melt butter in a deep saucepan, dutch oven, or stock pot.
- Whisk in flour over medium heat and continue whisking for about 1 minute until bubbly and golden.
- Gradually whisk in the milk and heavy cream until nice and smooth. Continue whisking until you see bubbles on the surface and then continue cooking and whisking for another 2 minutes. Whisk in salt and pepper.
- Add two cups of shredded cheese and whisk until smooth. Add another two cups of shredded cheese and continue whisking until creamy and smooth. Sauce should be nice and thick.
- Stir in the cooled pasta until combined and pasta is fully coated with the cheese sauce.
- Pour half of the mac and cheese into the prepared baking dish. Top with remaining 2 cups of shredded cheese and then the remaining mac and cheese.
- In a small bowl, combine panko crumbs, Parmesan cheese, melted butter and paprika. Sprinkle over the top and bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
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Okay so I hardly ever leave comments but after making two batches of this Mac & Cheese for a party AND both batches being completely devoured I felt it deserved a note.
I followed the directions to the letter both times, easy to follow and clearly written.
This is a delicious recipe and cant wait to experiment with different cheeses to switch it up.
This is my new favorite for all things Mac & Cheese!!
Grandkids loved this! They had been asking for Mac and Cheese and were surprised when I told them I didn’t use a box 🙂 I started my roux by sweating some finely chopped onions. I also added some cubed ham in the middle with the cheese layer. I used whatever cheese we had in the fridge….medium cheddar, mozzarella and Colby. I also added a few shakes of smoked paprika to the cheese mixture before adding the elbow macaroni.
We will make this again!
Jordan B says
My kids are, naturally, Mac n Cheese aficionados. This was a HIT! I added pancheta, but didn’t need it. Thank you!
Trish - Mom On Timeout says
Love the idea of adding Pancetta – yum!
I made this recipe, no tweaks or additions/subtractions or substitutions, and my notoriously picky in-laws finished it off and asked for the recipe. I have been trying to satisfy these people for years! I just know that this will be the dish I am asked to bring to family gatherings from now on. Yay!
I also add some Gorgonzola to mine. As well as 4 slices of Kraft American cheese. ( no Gruyère – but will try it next time). I also use Cabot extra sharp ( the black wrapped block at Costco) which is amazing for mac n cheese. It adds a little kick to it. Granted it is more for an ‘adult’ Mac n cheese. First time I brought some over to my neighbour he ate the whole bowl… cold!😂 He loved it so much.
The way I do it is I make my sauce first then cook pasta. Once pasta is ready butter your dish first , then add half of the pasta, half the sauce, remaining pasta and remaining sauce. Stir gently et voilà!
Absolutely delicious!!! This Is my quick go to mac and cheese. The bread crumbs make a great topping. It’s become my go to mac and cheese recipe for my family. The recipe Is easy to follow. Two thumbs up!
Recipe looks great and I am planning to make it this weekend. For your Roux you use 1/3 cup of flour, is that that spoon and leveled or is that packed?
Trish - Mom On Timeout says
Spooned and leveled Keven, thanks!
Judy chiu says
Do you mix the Gruyère & the sharp cheddar cheese together before adding to the pot?
Trish - Mom On Timeout says
I do yes. You can just kind of sprinkle them on at the same time though, it’s not an exact science 🙂
Alicia M says
I love this recipe! I use a mixture of different cheeses but this is now my go to recipe for delicious mac n cheese.
Betsy J says
The absolute bomb! Loved this recipe. Can’t even say how much. Never made Mac n cheese myself before, but after moving to the south it’s practically expected. Most I’ve tasted are pretty bland. Now I know it’s a comfort food, but still…boring! But this pan of cheesy deliciousness- this will make Mama and ‘em all kinds of jealous! And I am CERTAINLY no talented chef. And with my lack of culinary skills, and a super sketchy oven that is basically on appliance hospice, I managed to pull it off. Trust me look no farther than this recipe. And it goes without saying that I followed the recipe exactly. People like myself have learned not to go rogue. Sharp cheddar and gruyere all the way. Thank you!
Once you’re cooking longer, you’ll learn that it’s impossible not to tweak to your (& your families) tastes. Recipes are guidelines, not law. That’s ok, it’s completely different when someone changes the entire recipe, then blames the author/cook when it fails,lol.
This was by far the best mac and cheese recipe I have ever made. This is a keeper!
Kary P. says
I made this for Easter dinner and my family loved it! They couldn’t get enough. My daughter said it was “like upscale steak house mac and cheese.” I will definitely be making it again!
Trudy Bognar says
Just made this for our Easter dinner..OMG it was delicious!! I have my own Mac and cheese but wanted something different. Lets just say I’ll make this one again.thanks so much??
First time making homemade Mac n cheese. To be honest. I was skeptical. The cheese sauce looked way to runny to work out. But it came out of the oven perfect! The noodles were perfect texture the cheese in the middle was gooey and stringy! Delicious! Thank you.
Made this for Easter 2022. Great instructions for the sauce. I’ve made similar recipes for Mac n cheese. This by far and wide is the best! Thank you. A keeper.
Trish - Mom On Timeout says
I appreciate this Jennifer, thank you!