The best baked macaroni and cheese recipes are here, with tips for making the ultimate cheesy comfort food. Make some for dinner tonight!
With all the fancy kitchen appliances available these days, there are more and more ways to make cheesy pasta dishes.
Often the cooking method you choose will depend on your skill level and how much hands-on time you have.
However, absolutely nothing beats a giant pan of baked homemade mac and cheese!
Baking everything together results in a thick, creamy texture with a lightly browned crust. You can even add a breadcrumb topping that gets nice and crispy in the oven.
Plus, the flavors have a chance to combine and deepen in a way that just doesn’t seem to happen on the stovetop.
Using a slow cooker or Instant Pot can be great when you need to “set it and forget it,” but both methods are finicky and often produce mushy pasta and separated or gritty cheese sauce.
Tips for Making Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipes
While the specific shape doesn’t matter so much, the size of the noodle does.
Choose pasta with plenty of nooks and crannies for the cheese sauce like elbow macaroni, medium shells, or campanelle. Even rigatoni or rotini will work in a pinch!
Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese
Most importantly, choose flavors that you enjoy. It doesn’t matter how fancy your recipe is if you don’t like how it tastes!
Some cheeses melt better than others, so be sure to use at least one good melting variety. For bolder flavor, pick one or two kinds that have been aged.
- Sharp or white cheddar
- Cream cheese
Make Ahead Tips
There are several options if you want to make homemade mac and cheese in advance.
- Prepare without baking: Slightly undercook the pasta and rinse in cold water. Make the cheese sauce and let it cool, then combine the two and transfer to a baking dish. Wrap tightly with foil, refrigerate for up to 2 days, and bake as directed.
- Bake and reheat: Follow the recipe as directed and refrigerate. Use within 3 to 4 days for best results and reheat in the oven until bubbly and warmed through.
- Freeze: First, bake for slightly less time and allow the dish to cool completely. Cover in a layer of plastic and foil or transfer to a sealed container and freeze for up to 6 months. Remove the plastic, replace the foil, and bake straight from the freezer.
Don’t want your baking dish trapped in the freezer?
Line it with foil before adding the cheesy pasta. Once frozen, lift it straight out of the pan and wrap it in more foil.
Then, pop it right back in the pan when you’re ready to reheat!
4 Easy Recipes for Homemade Mac and Cheese
Taco Mac and Cheese with seasoned ground beef, savory tomatoes, and plenty of spices to make this Mexican-inspired dish a fun twist for taco night!
Lobster Mac and Cheese Get a little fancy by adding tender seafood to your favorite comfort food dish! Although it’s often found in fine dining restaurants, it’s actually quite easy to make at home.
Baked Mac and Cheese This recipe is a classic staple for a reason. Not only is it bursting with flavor, but the breadcrumb topping adds color and a pleasant crunch to every bite.
French Onion Mac and Cheese Caramelized onions add an extra depth of flavor to the rich cheese sauce used in this dish. Plus, it looks as good as it tastes and is sure to impress dinner guests!
Essential Tools For Making Baked Mac and Cheese
- 9×13 Baking Dish – This set is one of my favorites! The 9×13 is perfect for casseroles and the smaller size is awesome for making half a casserole recipe.
- Box Grater – As much as I love buying shredded cheese because I’m lazy, freshly grated cheese melts down so much better and creates a smoother recipe.
- Heavy Bottom Skillet – To help the sauce cook evenly, a wide skillet works best. Ideally, it should be more than 12 inches in diameter.
- Large Pot and Strainer to cook and drain the pasta.
With love from our simple kitchen to yours.
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Originally published February 2021
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