Super Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese (Easy)

This Baked Mac and Cheese recipe is pure cheesy goodness! Perfect for a comforting dinner or as a special side dish. Plus, it’s a breeze to whip up using everyday ingredients. The recipe includes tips, tricks, and photos for making PERFECT baked mac and cheese.

cremiest baked mac and cheese in a bowl sprinkled with pepper over a marble surface with more plates on the background.

Super Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese: A Cheesy Delight!

Welcome to the world of comforting, soul-soothing goodness! Are you ready to embark on a journey filled with creamy indulgence and tantalizing flavors?

Say hello to our Super Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese recipe!

You’ve gotta try this Baked Mac and Cheese recipe – it’s all about that cheesy bliss! Whether you’re craving a cozy dinner or need an epic side dish, this recipe’s got your back. Plus, it’s a breeze to whip up using everyday ingredients. I’ve got all the hacks, secrets, and pics you need to nail that PERFECT baked mac and cheese. Trust me, it’s a game-changer!

What To Love About This Recipe

Let’s dive into why this mac and cheese recipe is an absolute winner:

  • Easy to Make: Simple steps and minimal effort make this dish a go-to for both novice cooks and seasoned chefs.
  • Fulfilling: With its rich, creamy texture and delightful cheesiness, it’s a dish that satiates both hunger and comfort cravings.
  • Flavorful: The blend of medium-sharp cheddar, raclette, or Gruyère cheese and a dash of spices creates a burst of flavor in every bite.
  • Simple Ingredients: With pantry staples like elbow macaroni, butter, flour, milk, and cheese, this recipe keeps it straightforward yet incredibly delicious.
  • Kid-Friendly: Perfect for pleasing the little one’s taste buds while still satisfying the grown-ups.
cremiest baked mac and cheese in a baking dish on a marble surface.

Ingredients You’ll Need, Substitutions & Notes

Ingredients needed to make mac and cheese over a marble surface.

Please check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for exact quantities and detailed instructions (scroll down).

  • Elbow Macaroni: The base of our dish, these pasta shapes are perfect for trapping the creamy cheese sauce.
  • Medium-Sharp Cheddar Cheese: Adds a bold, tangy flavor and ensures a gooey texture to the dish.
  • Second Cheese Choice: Combining two types of cheese contributes to creating a balanced and complex flavor profile and elevates the creaminess. I like to use Raclette or Gruyère Cheese for my second cheese choice. However, you can use any melty cheese you like. Read below for the best cheese options to make mac and cheese.
  • Butter: Essential for creating a roux, adding richness, and aiding in thickening the sauce.
  • All-Purpose Flour: Helps in thickening the cheese sauce to a velvety consistency.
  • Whole Milk & Heavy Cream: Combining these dairy wonders results in a luxuriously creamy sauce.
  • Seasonings: You’ll need dry mustard, salt, black pepper, and paprika. These spices add depth, enhance flavors, and provide a subtle kick to the dish.

Best Cheese Options to Make Mac and Cheese

When it comes to making mac and cheese, the choice of cheese significantly influences the dish’s flavor, creaminess, and overall appeal. Optimal cheese selection can provide depth and complexity to this classic comfort food. Here are my favorite cheese options when making mac and cheese:

  1. Cheddar Cheese: Sharp or extra-sharp cheddar is a popular choice for mac and cheese due to its robust flavor. It melts well and contributes a tangy, slightly nutty taste to the dish. You can also blend different ages of cheddar for a more complex flavor profile.
  2. Raclette Cheese: With a creamy texture and a slightly sweet and nutty flavor, raclette cheese melts beautifully and adds a luxurious creaminess to mac and cheese.
  3. Gruyère Cheese: Gruyère adds a rich, nutty flavor and has excellent melting properties. When combined with other cheeses, it can enhance the creaminess and elevate the overall taste of the dish.
  4. Fontina Cheese: Fontina is known for its mild, buttery taste and melts smoothly, contributing to a velvety texture. It pairs well with other cheeses and can add a lovely creaminess to the sauce.
  5. Parmesan Cheese: Adding Parmesan to the mix brings a sharp, salty flavor that complements other milder cheeses. It contributes depth and complexity to the overall taste of the dish.
  6. Moisture-Rich Cheeses: Cheeses with higher moisture content like Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, or even cream cheese can enhance the creaminess of the sauce.
  7. Smoked Cheese Varieties: Smoked cheeses like smoked Gouda or smoked cheddar can impart a delightful smoky flavor to your mac and cheese, adding a unique twist to the classic dish.
  8. Blue Cheese (for a Twist): For those seeking an adventurous flavor, a small amount of blue cheese can bring a bold and tangy kick to the dish.
  9. Other Cheeses: Don’t hesitate to experiment with different cheeses based on your preferences. Gouda, Havarti, Asiago, or even a touch of Brie can offer interesting flavor profiles to your mac and cheese.

Recipe Tips

  • Pasta: Slightly undercooking the pasta by a minute or two ensures it reaches the perfect texture and consistency after baking. It allows the pasta to maintain its shape, texture, and ability to absorb the cheesy goodness of the sauce without becoming overcooked or mushy during the baking process, resulting in a more enjoyable and well-balanced mac and cheese dish.
  • Use freshly shredded cheese: Grate your cheese for the best results. Pre-shredded cheese usually contains additives like anti-caking agents to prevent clumping in the packaging, which can affect its melting properties. As a result, freshly grated cheese creates a creamier and more consistent sauce when used in dishes like mac and cheese.
  • Avoid overbaking: To retain the creamy texture, refrain from leaving it in the oven too long.
  • Broil for 2-3 minutes: Achieve that irresistible golden cheesy top by broiling the dish at the end.
  • Experiment with cheese: Mix and match your favorite cheeses to create your unique flavor profile.

How to NAIL that smooth, dreamy cheese sauce

The type of cheddar you choose matters. Go for a top-notch aged cheddar for a richer taste and silky texture. Cheaper, milder cheddars might lack flavor and end up a bit gritty.

Freshly grated cheese is the MUST here. Skip the pre-shredded stuff from the store – grating it fresh makes all the difference. Trust me, it melts like a dream and blends evenly into the sauce.

Give your cheese a breather. I always grate it first thing, then let it come to room temp while I work on the white sauce. That way, it’s all cozy and ready to go when it’s cheese time.

Control the heat. To get that cheese to melt like a pro, keep the temperature low and steady (just like we prepped it and let it chillax earlier). When it’s go-time to add the cheese, take the sauce off the heat – it only needs to be warm enough to get that cheese melting. Keep it chill once the cheese is in.

Don’t over-stir! Once it’s all melted and glorious, don’t go crazy with the stirring. Mix in the noodles pronto, assemble it all in the pan, and pop it in the oven – that’s the ticket to cheesy perfection!

a serving spoon with the cremiest baked mac and cheese ever!

Stovetop Version

Don’t want to bake? Follow the recipe exactly, skip the baking part, and serve immediately. Make sure you boil your pasta as instructed in the packaging, and you’ll only need about 4 cups of cheese total.  There is no need to layer the pasta and cheese; just add all the cheese to the sauce, then combine it with the pasta.

Mac and Cheese Variations

  • Bacon: Crispy bacon crumbles add a smoky, savory punch to your mac and cheese. Simply cook bacon until crispy, then crumble it on top for that extra indulgence.
  • Diverse Toppings: Explore toppings like breadcrumbs, herbs, or even caramelized onions for a flavor boost.
  • Swapping Cheeses: Experiment with cheeses like mozzarella, gouda, or smoked gouda.
  • Herbs: Fresh or dried herbs like parsley, thyme, or rosemary can impart a burst of freshness and aroma. Chop them finely and sprinkle over the baked mac and cheese just before serving.
  • Caramelized Onions: Sautéed onions bring a sweet and savory dimension. Slow-cooked until golden brown and slightly caramelized, they add depth of flavor to every bite.
  • Spicy Kick: For those who love heat, add sliced jalapeños, red pepper flakes, or a drizzle of hot sauce to give your mac and cheese a spicy twist.
  • Truffle Infusion: Indulge in luxury by drizzling truffle oil or sprinkling truffle salt over the mac and cheese. It elevates the dish with its distinctive, earthy flavor.

My Favorite Toppings for Baked Mac and Cheese (2 Ways)

Toppings can take baked mac and cheese from delicious to extraordinary, adding layers of flavor, texture, and visual appeal. Here are some fantastic options to elevate your mac and cheese game:

1 – Classic Breadcrumb Crunch: A classic choice! Mix breadcrumbs with melted butter or olive oil for a crispy, golden topping. Panko breadcrumbs seasoned with herbs or Parmesan cheese create an extra crunchy texture. Here is how I make it:

  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter, melted (or olive oil)
  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of black pepper

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs. Cook while stirring until the breadcrumbs are light golden brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste if desired.

2 – Crackers Topping: Toppings made with crackers add a delightful crunch and flavor contrast to mac and cheese. You can use Saltines, Ritz, Club, or Town House.

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 cup roughly crushed crackers
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the panko crumbs and crushed crackers. Cook while stirring until the breadcrumbs are light golden brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste if desired. Remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese.

Storing and Freezing Instructions

Store: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Freeze: For freezing any leftovers, transfer portions to freezer-safe bags or containers and enjoy within three months for optimal taste. Allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake until warmed through. Please keep in mind that freezing the cheese sauce might change the texture, so your mac and cheese might not be as smooth as you expected.

Make Ahead Instructions

Make Ahead: You can make this creamy baked mac and cheese recipe 1-2 days ahead of time. Prepare the recipe as directed, let it cool completely, cover it with foil, and transfer it to the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Then, when ready to bake it, remove it from the fridge, let it come to room temperature, and bake.

Freeze the Whole Pan Before Baking: Make the entire dish, but freeze before baking.  Allow it to cool completely in the pan, cover it well with plastic wrap and foil, and store it in the freezer for 2-3 months.  Allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake until warmed through and the cheese is bubbly on top. Please keep in mind that freezing the cheese sauce might change the texture, so your mac and cheese might not be as smooth as you expected.

How to Reheat Mac and Cheese

Reheating mac and cheese while maintaining its creamy texture and cheesy goodness can be achieved with a few simple methods. Regardless of the method you choose, adding a bit of extra moisture (milk or cream) can help retain the creaminess of the mac and cheese. Avoid overheating, as it can cause the dish to become dry or lose its original texture.

Here are the best ways to reheat your beloved mac and cheese:

Oven Method:

Preheat your oven to around 350°F (180°C). Place the mac and cheese in an oven-safe dish. Add a milk or cream splash to restore moisture if it seems a bit dry. Cover the dish with foil to prevent excessive drying while allowing the heat to warm the dish evenly. Heat in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until it’s thoroughly warmed. Remove the foil for the last few minutes to allow the top to crisp up slightly.

Stovetop Reheating (my fave):

Use a non-stick skillet or saucepan on low to medium heat. Add about 1/4 cup of milk or cream per serving. Place the mac and cheese in the skillet and stir frequently to distribute heat evenly. Cover the pan occasionally to help create steam and retain moisture. Heat until the mac and cheese is warmed through.

Microwave Method:

While this is the quickest option, it requires a bit more attention to prevent drying out. First, place the mac and cheese in a microwave-safe container. Add about 1/4 cup of milk or cream per serving and mix it in to revive moisture. Microwave in short intervals, stirring between each session. This helps distribute the heat evenly and prevents hot spots. Check the consistency and heat frequently until it’s thoroughly warmed.

Regardless of the method you choose, adding a bit of extra moisture (milk or cream) can help retain the creaminess of the mac and cheese. Avoid overheating, as it can cause the dish to become dry or lose its original texture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Raclette cheese?

Raclette is a type of Swiss cheese that is great for melting. While this makes it a favorite for the modern fondue pot, pouring melted Raclette over food actually dates back to the 13th century! This semi-soft cheese is made from raw cow’s milk and then aged for 6 months to produce a rich, fruity, savory flavor. 

What is the best cheese for homemade Mac and Cheese?

The best cheese for homemade Mac and Cheese is usually a combination of cheeses. We love Cheddar and Raclette cheeses together, but nutty Gruyere is also easy to melt. Other classics include Mozzarella, Gouda, Smoked Gouda, Swiss, Monterey Jack, Colby, and Colby Jack cheeses.

Can I use gluten-free pasta for this recipe?

Absolutely! You can substitute with your favorite gluten-free pasta without compromising on flavor.

How can I make this dish more spicy?

Add a pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to dial up the heat according to your preference.

cremiest baked mac and cheese in a bowl sprinkled with pepper.

More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love!

Recipe Card 📖

cremiest baked mac and cheese in a bowl sprinkled with pepper over a marble surface.

Super Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

64569017466b70122dc3c6f02423c7db?s=30&d=mm&r=gOriana Romero

This Baked Mac and Cheese recipe is pure cheesy goodness! Perfect for a comforting dinner or as a special side dish. Plus, it’s a breeze to whip up using everyday ingredients. The recipe includes tips, tricks, and photos for making PERFECT baked mac and cheese.

Prep Time 20 minutes

Cook Time 15 minutes

Total Time 35 minutes

Servings 8 servings

Ingredients 

Classic Breadcrumb Topping (optional)

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 325° F (165°C). Grease a 3 qt  (9×13-inch) baking dish and set aside.

  • Fill a large pot about three-fourths full with water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Season generously with salt. When the water is boiling, add the elbow macaroni. Cook according to the package directions, subtracting 1 to 2 minutes from the suggested time. Don’t overcook because the pasta will finish cooking in the oven. Drain well and set aside.

  • In a medium bowl, combine the sharp cheddar cheese and raclette or Gruyère cheese. Set aside.

  • To the same pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and quickly whisk. Cook for about 1 – 2 minutes, whisking frequently.

  • While constantly whisking, add in half of the milk. Stir until it begins to thicken, and then add the rest of the milk, all the heavy whipping cream, mustard, 1 ½ teaspoon salt, black pepper and paprika. Continue to stir and heat until the mixture is glossy and lightly thickened.

  • Turn off the heat and whisk in half the cheese mixture. Continuously stir for 3 – 4 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is glossy.

  • Gently fold the cooked macaroni into the cheese mixture; mix until completely coated with the cheese. Pour half of the cheesy pasta evenly into the prepared pan. Add half the remaining cheese mixture, followed by the other half of the cheesy pasta, and finally top with the remaining cheese mixture.

  • Bake for 13 – 15 minutes or until bubbly and melted. The last 2 minutes, turn on the broiler and lightly brown the top to your liking. Serve immediately while hot.

For the Topping (optional)

  • Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat.Stir in the breadcrumbs. Cook while stirring until the breadcrumbs are light golden brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste if desired. Add the topping mixture to the mac and cheese just before baking. Read more topping ideas in the blog post.

 
Cheese: For this recipe, I used Cheddar and Raclette cheese. You most likely can find Raclette cheese in Whole Foods or any other gourmets grocery store or online here. The raclette cheese I used came sliced, so I just took the slices and shredded them. 
Store: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Freeze: For freezing any leftovers, transfer portions to freezer-safe bags or containers and enjoy within three months for optimal taste. Allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake until warmed through. Please keep in mind that freezing the cheese sauce might change the texture, so your mac and cheese might not be as smooth as you expected.
Make Ahead: You can make this creamy baked mac and cheese recipe 1-2 days ahead of time. Prepare the recipe as directed, let it cool completely, cover it with foil, and transfer it to the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Then, when ready to bake it, remove it from the fridge, let it come to room temperature, and bake.
Freeze the Whole Pan Before Baking: Make the entire dish, but freeze before baking.  Allow it to cool completely in the pan, cover it well with plastic wrap and foil, and store it in the freezer for 2-3 months.  Allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake until warmed through and the cheese is bubbly on top. Please keep in mind that freezing the cheese sauce might change the texture, so your mac and cheese might not be as smooth as you expected.
Stovetop Version: Don’t want to bake? Follow the recipe exactly, skip the baking part, and serve immediately. Make sure you boil your pasta as instructed in the packaging, and you’ll only need about 4 cups of cheese total.  There is no need to layer the pasta and cheese; just add all the cheese to the sauce, then combine it with the pasta.
Reheat Mac and Cheese:

  • Oven Method: Preheat your oven to around 350°F (180°C). Place the mac and cheese in an oven-safe dish. Add a milk or cream splash to restore moisture if it seems a bit dry. Cover the dish with foil to prevent excessive drying while allowing the heat to warm the dish evenly. Heat in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until it’s thoroughly warmed. Remove the foil for the last few minutes to allow the top to crisp up slightly.
  • Stovetop Reheating (my fave): Use a non-stick skillet or saucepan on low to medium heat. Add about 1/4 cup of milk or cream per serving. Place the mac and cheese in the skillet and stir frequently to distribute heat evenly. Cover the pan occasionally to help create steam and retain moisture. Heat until the mac and cheese is warmed through.
  • Microwave Method: While this is the quickest option, it requires a bit more attention to prevent drying out. First, place the mac and cheese in a microwave-safe container. Add about 1/4 cup of milk or cream per serving and mix it in to revive moisture. Microwave in short intervals, stirring between each session. This helps distribute the heat evenly and prevents hot spots. Check the consistency and heat frequently until it’s thoroughly warmed.

 
Recipe Tips:

  • Pasta: Slightly undercooking the pasta by a minute or two ensures it reaches the perfect texture and consistency after baking. It allows the pasta to maintain its shape, texture, and ability to absorb the cheesy goodness of the sauce without becoming overcooked or mushy during the baking process, resulting in a more enjoyable and well-balanced mac and cheese dish.
  • Use freshly shredded cheese: Grate your cheese for the best results. Pre-shredded cheese usually contains additives like anti-caking agents to prevent clumping in the packaging, which can affect its melting properties. As a result, freshly grated cheese creates a creamier and more consistent sauce when used in dishes like mac and cheese.
  • Avoid overbaking: To retain the creamy texture, refrain from leaving it in the oven too long.
  • Broil for 2-3 minutes: Achieve that irresistible golden cheesy top by broiling the dish at the end.
  • Experiment with cheese: Mix and match your favorite cheeses to create your unique flavor profile.

 
Read the whole post for more tips and tricks, variations, step-by-step photos, and more.
 
 Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

 

Please note that nutritional information is a rough estimate, and it can vary depending on the products used.

Nutrition

Calories: 848kcalCarbohydrates: 57gProtein: 37gFat: 52gSaturated Fat: 31gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 156mgSodium: 1260mgPotassium: 362mgFiber: 2gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 1628IUVitamin C: 0.02mgCalcium: 945mgIron: 1mg

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Course dinner

Cuisine American

Calories 848

Keyword pasta recipe

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