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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Great recipe . If I make it again I will make half of the Panko topping…. I found there was a lot left over
Allison S. says
Made this for the first time for my family and friends on Christmas. Everyone loved it and said it is a must for next Christmas. I shredded all the cheeses, that was key. Thanks for sharing this recipe.
Trish - Mom On Timeout says
I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it Allison! Merry Christmas!
Great recipe for a large group. Helpful instructions. Turned out perfectly!
I added bacon to the main dish and to the topping. Went over well at the Christmas Eve potluck we attended. Will make it again!i
First time I’ve ever made homemade mac & cheese. I am absolutely amazed at this recipe I made for family dinner on Christmas Eve! I used extra sharp cheddar, swiss, pepper jack, and parmesan cheeses. Instead of panko crumbs, I crushed up kettle style chips for the topping. FANTASTIC! Thank you for sharing this recipe!
First, love this recipe. Been making it rather regularly since I found it about a year ago. But, I will say that I use about 2 cups of smoked cheddar in mine, then the gruyere and sharp cheddar. So. Fricken. Good.
Now, reason for my comment/review…I’m planning on making this for my baby shower on Sunday. But I’m going to attempt to make it the night before, refrigerate it, then take it to the hall to be baked. I figure if I leave the panko off until I’m ready to bake it (to avoid soggy panko) and undercook the elbows just a tad more than al dente…then it should come out all right after being refrigerated for about 14-16 hours. I’m hoping, anyway. Because this stuff was a hit at my kids’ birthday party and there’s actually been requests for it for my baby shower. lol.
I doubt you’ll see this comment before tomorrow night, so I won’t bother asking if you think this method will work. But, I will update with if the refrigerate then bake next day method comes out alright or not. I’m tentatively hopeful.
Cannot wait to make this! Thank you!
Alexis F says
Ever since I found this recipe some years back, it has been a requirement for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas – EVERY YEAR. It is absolutely amazing. The only thing I add, bacon – of course! Just cut that yummy extra up before cooking it so you don’t have to try and cut/chop of greasy bacon later. Then add it in to the mixture before dumping into the cooking dish. Maybe next time I will try using pancetta.
I’ve made this recipe for several occasions. This year we have a one rack oven dedicated to the Turkey on Thanksgiving and want to know if you have any tips on setting this up in advance to bake while the Turkey is resting? I tried last year to set it up and add the bread crumb mixture when I was ready to bake but it didn’t have the same creamy consistency. Thank you in advance.
So easy and absolutely delicious will be keeping this one!
So good! I added some broccoli and it was delicious!
I have NEVER left a review on any recipe I’ve tried despite me cooking 4 meals a week every week. This recipe changed my life with how amazing it turned out. Enough so to come back and leave a review. I actually swapped a cup of cream with a cup of Oktoberfest beer and SHEEEEEEESH that was a game changer. The BEST Mac and cheese I’ve ever had. The beer wasn’t overpowering and really enhanced the cheddar flavor. This is def going into my recipie rotation
Tan y a says
Thank you for your recipe. I modified your version and blended it with another recipe. Homemade baked Mac and cheese is a favorite and excited to taste the blended version once it’s finished baking. Happy New Year!!
Trish - Mom On Timeout says
I’m so glad you enjoyed it!