Homemade Mac and Cheese
See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
This Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipe is the ultimate comfort food! It’s exceptionally cheesy, creamy and so easy to make.
Why You’ll Love this Mac and Cheese Recipe
- Family Favorite. Mac and cheese is a crowd pleasing dish, and everyone at the table will agree that this is the best mac and cheese recipe! It comes out of the oven hot and bubbly with lots of ooey gooey melty cheese.
- Perfect Flavor! Using both sharp cheddar and sharp white cheddar in the cheese sauce gives this baked mac and cheese the best flavor. The cheese sauce is perfectly seasoned to be appealing to kids and adults alike.
- Main Dish or Side Dish. Mac and cheese is a satisfying dinner idea, served with a salad or Roasted Broccoli. Or, serve it as a side dish with Chicken Tenders, Baked Pork Chops or Crock Pot Ribs.
- Make Ahead Option. You can bake it right away, or prep the dish up to one day ahead of time and bake later.
Mac and Cheese Recipe Ingredients
- Elbow Pasta: Or use another short pasta shape, such as small shells.
- Sharp Cheddar and Sharp White Cheddar Cheese: Using a combination of cheeses gives the mac and cheese a more complex flavor. I like to use sharp cheddar because it’s more flavorful than medium or mild varieties.
- Butter and Flour: These combine to make a roux, which thickens the sauce.
- Milk: For the sauce. Use whole milk for a richer dish; use low fat milk to lighten it up.
- Seasonings: Salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder give the cheese sauce a more nuanced flavor. We’re using just a small amount of seasonings so that the flavor isn’t too strong.
How to Make Mac and Cheese
Cook the pasta. Then drain it and return it to the cooking pot.
Make the cheese sauce. First, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Then whisk in the flour and cook, whisking, for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook until thickened. Off the heat, stir in the seasonings and half of the cheese.
Combine pasta and cheese sauce. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir until combined.
Assemble. Pour half of the pasta with cheese sauce into a 9×13-inch baking dish. Top with cheese. Pour in the rest of the pasta and top with more cheese.
Bake, uncovered, at 375° F for 15-20 minutes, until hot and melty. Serve and enjoy!
Make Ahead Instructions
You can assemble this mac and cheese up to 1 day ahead of time, cover, and refrigerate. When you’re ready to bake it, let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes to take the chill off. Then bake, adding about 10 extra minutes to the bake time listed in the recipe card below.
- Vegetables. Add in a simple veggie side dish to make this mac and cheese a meal. Try Sautéed Green Beans, Sautéed Zucchini or Roasted Carrots.
- Salad: A crisp green salad and creamy mac and cheese are a perfect pair! We love this Spinach Quinoa Salad, Kale Salad and Arugula Salad.
- As a Side Dish: This macaroni and cheese recipe feeds a crowd as a side dish, and it’s a favorite for a holiday meal. Serve it with ham, turkey, Instant Pot Pulled Pork or Air Fryer Fried Chicken.
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Homemade Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese
- 16 ounces short pasta shapes, such as elbow macaroni or shells
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, about 2 cups, divided
- 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded, about 2 cups, divided
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk, low fat or whole
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with butter or cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
- Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions for al dente. Drain the pasta and place it back into the cooking pot.
- Meanwhile, combine the two cheeses in a bowl.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Continue whisking until lightly browned, 1-2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk. Continue cooking, whisking often, until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Whisk in the salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder. Then gradually stir in half of the cheese until melted. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir to combine.
- Pour half of the pasta with cheese sauce into the baking dish and sprinkle on ⅓ of the remaining cheese. Top with the remaining pasta. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the top.
- Bake 15-20 minutes, uncovered, until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted on top.
- You can assemble the macaroni and cheese up to 1 day ahead of time, cover, and refrigerate. When you’re ready to bake it, let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes to take the chill off. Then bake, adding about 10 extra minutes to the bake time listed in the recipe.