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Baked Mac and Cheese

This Baked Mac and Cheese recipe is easy to make with a creamy 3-cheese blend and perfectly cooked macaroni. There is plenty of delicious cheese sauce with even more melted cheese on top. This makes a perfect dinner recipe or holiday side dish idea.

Optional additions include ham, bacon, chicken, or a crunchy Ritz cracker or breadcrumb topping!

Baked Mac and Cheese on a white plate with a fork on the side.

Baked Mac and Cheese

Nothing beats a casserole dish filled with this creamy 3-cheese Baked Macaroni. This recipe ensures that there is absolutely no shortage of that delicious cheese sauce. (It’s amazing how much sauce the macaroni continues to absorb when it bakes, but this recipe completely factors that in.)

I love the combination of cheddar, gruyere, and gouda, but the cheese combinations are endless. Feel free to keep it simple and stick to cheddar, or add in as many additional cheese combinations as you want! 

How to Make It

See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the flour and use a silicone spatula to stir continuously for 2 minutes. Add the milk/heavy cream in small splashes, stirring continuously. 

Let it heat through and thicken while you continue to stir for 5 minutes. Add the seasonings and hot sauce and remove from heat.

Making a roux and cream sauce with seasonings for Baked Mac and Cheese.

Gradually sprinkle in 4 cups of shredded cheese, stirring continuously until smooth. Meanwhile, boil the macaroni for 1 minute less than al dente. 

Making cheese sauce in a Dutch oven for Baked Mac and Cheese.

Combine the drained macaroni and the cheese sauce and transfer to a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. 

Macaroni and Cheese in a Dutch oven and in a casserole dish.

Top with 2 cups of shredded cheese and bake at 325° for 25 minutes. Broil at the end for a few minutes if desired, then serve!

Baked Mac and Cheese in a casserole dish before and after baking.

Make Ahead Method

  • Pro Tip: If making ahead, I recommend using a little less than the full pound of pasta to ensure that there is an extra abundance of cheese sauce, as the macaroni will absorb more of it during storage.
  • Assemble and Store: Cook the macaroni for 1-2 minutes less than al dente. Assemble the macaroni as outlined but do not bake. Let it cool completely, then cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Bake: Let it sit out for 30 minutes prior to baking, then bake at 325° for 30-35 minutes. Note that the consistency won’t be quite as creamy as when prepared and served immediately.

Pro Tips

  • Optional additions include diced ham, bacon, caramelized onions, steamed broccoli, shredded chicken, buffalo chicken, and more!
  • Pasta shells also make a great choice for this recipe instead of macaroni.
  • Make sure the base of the sauce isn’t too hot when the cheese is added, otherwise the dairy will separate and the consistency will be grainy.
  • Cheese options are endless, you can use any combination of cheddar, gouda, gruyere, mozzarella, Colby, and more.
  • I used Cracker Barrel Cheddar, Yancey’s Fancy Gouda (regular, not smoked), and Emmi Gruyere cheese as well as Frank’s hot sauce.
  • The hot sauce and mustard powder are flavor enhancers and can’t be tasted outright. The hot sauce doesn’t make it spicy.
  • For a crunchy topping: Combine 1 cup of crushed Ritz crackers and 2 tbsp. melted butter. Add it during the last 15 minutes of baking.

Storage

  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  • You can freeze leftovers, however they don’t restore quite back to their original consistency.

A casserole dish filled with Baked Mac and Cheese with a spoon scooping it up.

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Baked Mac and Cheese on a white plate with a fork on the side.

Baked Mac and Cheese

5 from 13 ratings
This Baked Mac and Cheese recipe is easy to make with a creamy 3-cheese blend and perfectly cooked macaroni.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon each: onion powder, pepper
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups shredded Gruyere
  • 1 cup shredded Gouda

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Pro tip: Shred the cheese from a block. It will melt and taste much better than packaged shredded cheese. See notes for brand of cheese that I use.
  • Prep Work: Shred the cheese and toss to combine. Reserve 2 cups for the top of the macaroni and use the remaining 4 cups for the cheese sauce. Measure out remaining ingredients before beginning.
  • To Cook the Macaroni: Begin boiling salted pasta water for the macaroni while you prepare the cheese sauce. Add the pasta to the boiling water right around when you are letting the cream sauce reduce/thicken, before adding the cheese. Refer to the package and cook it for 1 minute less than al dente. Set a timer to avoid overcooking the macaroni.
  • For the Cheese Sauce: Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Use a silicone spatula to stir in the flour. Continue to stir for 2 minutes, it should start to turn a light brown. Add the heavy cream/milk in small splashes, stirring continuously. (If you add it too quickly you’ll “break” the roux and the sauce will be thin.)
  • Let it heat through and thicken while you boil the macaroni. Stir continuously during this time.
  • Add the seasonings and hot sauce. Remove from heat.
  • Gradually sprinkle in 4 cups of shredded cheese. Stir continuously until smooth and combined. If it seems too thick, add a splash of milk.
  • Once the macaroni is cooked, drain it and add it to the warm pot you boiled it in. Pour the cheese sauce on top and stir to combine. Transfer to a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. Top with remaining 2 cups of cheese.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. If desired, broil at 450 for 3 minutes to brown the top. Serve!

Notes

Pro Tips:
  • Optional additions include diced ham, bacon, caramelized onions, steamed broccoli, shredded chicken, buffalo chicken, and more!
  • Pasta shells also make a great choices for this recipe instead of macaroni.
  • Make sure the base of the sauce isn't too hot when the cheese is added, otherwise the dairy will separate and the consistency will be grainy.
  • Cheese options are endless, you can use any combination of cheddar, gouda, gruyere, mozzarella, Colby, and more.
  • I used Cracker Barrel Cheddar, Yancey's Fancy Gouda (regular, not smoked), and Emmi Gruyere cheese as well as Frank's hot sauce.
  • The hot sauce and mustard powder are flavor enhancers and can't be tasted outright. The hot sauce doesn't make it spicy.
  • For a crunchy topping: Combine 1 cup of crushed Ritz crackers and 2 tbsp. melted butter. Add it during the last 15 minutes of baking.

Storage:
  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  • You can freeze leftovers, however they don't restore quite back to their original consistency.

Nutritional information is per serving, this recipe makes 10 servings. Note that the nutritional information shared is an estimate.

Nutrition

Calories: 677kcal, Carbohydrates: 42g, Protein: 27g, Fat: 44g, Saturated Fat: 27g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 11g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 138mg, Sodium: 694mg, Potassium: 294mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 1454IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 661mg, Iron: 1mg
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38 comments on “Baked Mac and Cheese”

  1. This mac and cheese was chron-dizzle! Best I have ever made. Ended up using smoked gouda and gruyere and it was delish and not overly smoky. Thank you!

  2. This recipe was very easy to follow and turned out SO good and creamy. The three recommended cheeses worked so well together and the seasonings all complimented perfectly. Will be using this recipe for my Mac from now on 🙂 

    • I am so happy to hear that Mary!! I feel the same way, I’m in love with this one. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review, I really appreciate it! 🙂 -Stephanie

  3. Our family has made baked macaroni and cheese as long as I can remember. It was my Dads and now my sons favorite dish. I have made your recipe twice now, and it is by far our favorite! Thank you for sharing this recipe, your inspiration, great tips and detailed instructions!

  4. I had my daughter & son n law make this recipe for thanksgiving dinner this year and ommmmggggosh it was SO good! We all loved it and are going to make it again for Christmas dinner but make sure there’s more made so we can all have 2nds or 3rds lol super happy I found this recipe, thank you for sharing it! 🙂

    • You’re very welcome Lisa! I’m so happy to hear such great comments! I usually make some extra too so I can make my daughter easy dinners. Thanks so much for the great comments and review!💗

  5. Big hit at Thanksgiving!

  6. I’m really confused as the ingredients call for 3 types of cheese and the instructions only list cheddar?

    • Hi Heather, the instructions don’t single out cheddar, it refers to everything as cheese and the prep work calls for shredded and combining the 3 varieties together. “Prep Work: Shred the cheese and toss to combine. Reserve 2 cups for the top of the macaroni and use the remaining 4 cups for the cheese sauce. Measure out remaining ingredients before beginning.” -I hope that helps!

  7. We made this for Thanksgiving as well. It was a straight HIT! Everyone had it gone, was the only dish with no leftovers!! 

  8. Wow wow wow. Made this for Thanksgiving today! I taste tested it when I got it out of the oven and thought it was so creamy and cheesy. I brought it over to my parents and my family loved it and couldn’t stop saying how good it was! I will definitely be making this more often!!! Great recipe! 

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