Homemade baked macaroni and cheese is pure comfort food, just like grandma used to make. This baked mac and cheese recipe is easy to make and uses a delicious homemade creamy cheese sauce and is topped with crunchy bread crumbs. I’ll show you how to make good old fashioned baked macaroni and cheese that’s a true classic!
We love our Crockpot macaroni and cheese and know you do too, so we thought we had better provide a baked version as well!
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Everyone remembers “momma’s” homemade, old fashioned baked macaroni and cheese. Topped with crunchy bread crumbs and filled with creamy, cheesy elbow macaroni noodles. Comfort food at its finest, mac and cheese is a family favorite that every loves.
Related – our Panera Mac and Cheese is the bomb!
We totally agree and decided it was time to share our grandma’s baked mac and cheese recipe. This recipe is easy to make and the results are positively amazing. We top ours with bread crumbs, but you can simply leave them off if you prefer. But it wouldn’t really be old fashioned mac and cheese without those crunchy little gems!
Ingredients for baked macaroni and cheese
- Elbow macaroni – we are partial to Barilla brand but you can use your favorite.
- Butter – salted or unsalted is fine, and yes you can substitute margarine if you like.
- Flour – regular all purpose flour is best, unbleached or regular works.
- Milk – we like to use whole milk as it really helps with the creamy texture, but you can use skim, 1% or 2% instead.
- Heavy cream – I urge you not to substitute this if you can avoid it, it really helps to create a creamy mac and cheese!
- Cheese – We think that the combination of extra sharp cheddar cheese and Colby Jack cheese tastes the best, but if you have favorites by all means, use them! We also grate our own cheese as the bagged shredded cheese has an anti-caking agent on it that can make your mac and cheese grainy.
- Seasonings – we use salt and pepper to taste in our cheese sauce, and paprika to season the bread crumbs.
- Panko bread crumbs – you can use regular bread crumbs, but they are usually much smaller, almost a dust. Panko are crunchier and bigger and just darn delicious.
Helpful kitchen tools:
- 13×9 baking pan or casserole dish
- Medium saucepan
- Wire whisk
- Cheese grater
- Wooden spoon
How to make baked macaroni and cheese
There aren’t a lot of steps to this easy recipe.
- Preheat oven and spray the baking pan
- Cook elbow macaroni and add to baking dish
- Make the cheese sauce and pour over cooked macaroni
- Season the breadcrumbs sprinkle them over the macaroni mixture
- Bake in the oven
This casserole recipe uses pre-cooked elbow noodles, so get a pot of water boiling first. While the water is boiling, preheat your oven and spray your baking pan with cooking spray.
While the pasta is cooking, make the cheese sauce. This is done by making a simple roux from butter and flour. After melting the butter you will whisk the flour in, then add in the milk and cream. The cheese is then added to the hot milk mixture and stirred until it melts.
When the elbow macaroni is done, drain off the water and add the drained pasta to your baking pan. Pour that scrumptious cheesy sauce over the macaroni noodles.
We season our breadcrumbs with paprika and then sprinkle them over the top of the cheese covered macaroni. If you lightly spray the bread crumbs with the cooking spray, it will help the crumbs stay crispy (thanks grammy!).
All that’s left to do is to bake it for 20 minutes, or until the sides are bubbly. Mmmmmm.
Your bread crumb topping should be a lovely golden brown. If it’s not, you can turn the oven up to broil and pop the dish back in for a couple of minutes. But make sure you watch it, broiling takes only a minute or two and your crumbs could burn quickly!
See? I’m sorry, I know your stomach is growling now… so is mine! This baked macaroni and cheese recipe is a wonderful choice for potlucks and parties as it serves 8 people as a meal and even more as a side dish.
I hope you enjoy this delicious family recipe for easy baked macaroni and cheese. The homemade cheese sauce is the absolute best and creates a deliciously, creamy end result. Enjoy!
More Macaroni and Cheese Recipes
Oh we love, love, love different kinds of mac and cheese around here! Be sure to try my Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, it’s one of my favorites. And if you want a full fledged meal with meat, the Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta is just the thing. One of my favorite twists on macaroni and cheese is this Rotini, Peas and Cheese, and this super quick Stovetop Mac and Cheese is great for a quick lunch!
More Side Dish Recipes
- Roasted Asparagus
- Broccoli Casserole
- Glazed Carrots
- Twice Baked Potatoes
- Crispy Roast Potatoes
- Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts
- Creamed Corn
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
IMPORTANT - There are often Frequently Asked Questions within the blog post that you may find helpful. Simply scroll back up to read them!Print It Rate It
- 16 oz elbow macaroni cooked
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- Preheat oven to 350. Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Put cooked macaroni in 9x13 pan.
- In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. When butter has melted whisk in flour and cook about 30 seconds, whisking continuously.
- Slowly whisk in milk and heavy cream
- Add in cheese and stir until melted and creamy.
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Pour cheese mixture evenly over macaroni.
- In a small bowl combine bread crumbs and paprika. Sprinkle over macaroni
- Lightly Spray bread crumb topping with cooking spray oil, this will help it stay crispy
- Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes until the macaroni and cheese is bubbling and the topping is golden brown.
- Serve warm!
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Jim Armstrong says
Absolutely amzaingly YUMMY!!!!! Definitely a crowd pleaser! My family can’t get enough of this dish!
Mary-Ellen Cronan says
This has become my “go too “ dinner when I have my 5 granddaughters overnight! They love it! My husband and I do too! So easy and delicious! Thank you!!
I used cheddar, colby jack and gruyere cheese and it came out delicious. Will definitely make it again. Easy to follow recipe and everyone loved it.
I made this for dinner on April 2, 2022. I used about 3c medium cheddar & about 1c smoked cheddar, both grated. I also added in a half package of cream cheese & about a cup of diced Velveeta, before adding the pasta. I used a 410g box of Barilla pennette (smaller than penne). I seasoned with several grinds of Smoky Sriracha Sea salt & some Schezwan peppercorns. It’s silky cheesy with a bit of smoky heat 😋. Our company loved it, as did my hubby (who usually only eats the boxed mac & cheese!).
I made it ahead of time, and actually thought I had too much sauce to pasta ratio, but once I cooked it for about 45 minutes, it was perfectly creamy! I served it with some baked chicken drumsticks & a spinach salad.
This recipe is 100% on my do-over list — it’s so versatile!
Can This be made the day before and then put it in the oven the next day with the breadcrumbs….How much salt and pepper do you recommend?
Hi, Did you end up making it the day before? If so, did it turn out good? I’m trying to figure the same thing out! :)
It was a big hit at our pre Christmas brunch. Delicious
James Lamarche says
If I add scollops should I cook the before or will the cook in the mixture while in the oven
Amanda Formaro says
I’m guessing you may want to add the smaller bay scallops (vs the larger sea scallops)? Bay scallops only take a few minutes to cook and when over-cooked, they will become chewy and rubbery. Definitely don’t precook – and even adding them uncooked to the baked mac and cheese could yield chewy little scallops throughout. I’d recommend serving the scallops on the side, or cook them separately and stir them in at the end just before serving. Hope that helps!
Should I cook the macaroni before putting in the oven to cook or will it cook in the oven?
Amanda Formaro says
Yes, it states in the ingredient list of the printable recipe card that the noodles should be cooked :)
I for the sauce, I subbed a half cup of (i used sharp cheddar) sharp with some fresh grated parm, and added peperika with white pepper and salt into the sauce. Fyi if the sauce tastes flat it usually needs more salt. Also i did the whole sauce on low heat to not break the fat.
For the topping i did italian breadcrumbs with some parm cheese, and did a low broil for 10-15 min to brown. Loved the recipe with adjustments.