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Baked Macaroni & Cheese

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When you are looking for an old fashioned, easy, comfort food, look no further than this Baked Macaroni and Cheese. It is the ultimate soul food!

 

Main image of baked macaroni and cheese for recipe. In a bowl with spoon scooping some out

 

This baked Mac and Cheese is creamy, cheesy, and has a rich, golden crunchy top. It is the food I always know my kids and guests will DEVOUR. Three plates full of easy baked Macaroni and Cheese? Sure! I know all the ingredients, and it is the ultimate fill them up food.

I love that I have all the ingredients in my pantry. It’s recipes like this that I keep right next to my stove for whenever I have people dropping by. An oven baked Macaroni and Cheese is quick to whip up and so easy too!

And did I mention that it tastes like a Southern baked Macaroni and Cheese? If you don’t live in the south and haven’t visited, trust me, you’ll love it. With such a big batch you’ll love all your leftovers too!

 

cheese sauce made with macaroni added in skillet.

 

Ingredients in Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • Salt: I love my sea salt, but I’ve said this before: use whatever salt you love and have. Salt is rarely, if ever, worth an extra trip to the store.
  • Macaroni Noodles: Elbow Macaroni noodles are a classic in this dish. But I’ve also found different shapes make fun additions to an Easter, Christmas, or Thanksgiving macaroni and cheese side dish.
  • Butter: Buuuuutttteeerrrr! I love my butter. Use real butter for best flavor.
  • Flour: The flour is what thickens up your sauce to make it that creamy consistency you know and love.
  • Milk: In order to make the sauce, you also need quite a bit of milk. It doesn’t matter which kind of milk you use in a recipe like this though.
  • Cheese: Macaroni and cheese. Without the cheese, your macaroni would be very sad indeed! Sharp Cheddar Cheese pairs wonderfully with the rest of the ingredients in the baked macaroni and cheese. 
  • Ritz Crackers: Instead of bread crumbs, use Ritz crackers. There is something so perfect about using Ritz crackers as a topping. They are already so buttery and crispy, the perfect addition to this easy recipe.

Pro Tip: The cheese in this recipe is a lot. Don’t double it for a cheesier recipe, trust me, it turns out perfect as is.

 

unbaked macaroni ready for oven.

 

How to Make Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • Make the Noodles: Combined with the salt, you’ll be boiling the noodles until al dente, or cooked but not too soft. Since you’ll be mixing and then baking them you want to be careful to not overcook them here.
  • Create the Sauce: Mix together the butter and flour, then the milk, salt, and cheese. During this process your roux is going to go through several stages. First very thick, then goopy, then thin, and finally creamy. Don’t panic. Follow the directions and let it do it’s thing. Sometimes art doesn’t look so good during the process. And this, my friends, is art.
  • Combine: The noodles and creamy cheese sauce get combined and the buttery Ritz crackers get sprinkled all over the top. It’s beautiful. And also, crushing Ritz crackers is my favorite part.
  • Cook: You want the top to be crispy and golden. It should take about 45 minutes and can be served fresh out of the oven.

Pro Tip: I love the extra crispy top. If you want your top less crispy, put some foil over it and bake that way. It’ll still taste wonderful but the top will be a bit softer.

 

casserole just removed from the oven, ready to eat.

 

What to Eat with Oven Macaroni and Cheese

Although filling and hearty, baked macaroni and cheese always seems so lonely by itself. Here are a few of my favorite go to sides:

 

fresh from the oven, a wooden spoon scoops out some macaroni

 

Can You Freeze Macaroni and Cheese

Here’s how you can freeze baked macaroni and cheese:

  • Prior to Baking: Follow the directions up until baking. Then wrap tightly and place in the freezer. This is the preferred method of freezing as it tends to be less grainy since it only gets cooked once, not twice. Allow to thaw in the fridge overnight before cooking and then cook according to directions. Or cook straight from the freezer but add an extra ten minutes or so to adjust for starting temperature.
  • After Baking: Bake the entire dish according to directions, shaving off a few minutes at the end. Dishes that are cooked twice tend to do better if they are slightly undercooked the first time. Cook straight from the freezer until hot.

Baked macaroni and cheese will stay good in your freezer for up to three months.

You can also make the mac and cheese the day before you plan to eat it and then wrap tightly, place in the fridge, and then bake it the next day according to directions.

 

side view of a bowl of macaroni.

 

More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love…

Baked Macaroni and Cheese is really one of those delicious foods that your family will eat over and over and over. It’s good for company, holidays, main dishes, or as a side. Enjoy it any way you like, but I know this dish will definitely be a keeper!

 

Yield: 10 Servings

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

bowl of mac n cheese with spoon scooping some out.

When you are looking for an old fashioned, easy, comfort food, look no further than this Baked Macaroni and Cheese. It is the ultimate soul food!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups Elbow Macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup Ritz crackers, crushed

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Fill a large pot with water and add 1 Tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil.
  3. Stir in the macaroni and cook uncovered until pasta is cooked through but firm to the bite. (about 8 minutes depending on your stove). Turn burner off, remove from heat and drain.
  4. In a separate large skillet {or dutch oven}, combine 1/4 cup of butter, and flour over medium to low heat until a thick paste is created.
  5. Slowly add all the milk to the flour paste mixture, 1/4 cup at a time stirring well to incorporate each time before adding the next 1/4 cup so that the roux stays creamy and smooth. DON'T PANIC at this stage. Your mixture will become thick and goopy first then will thin out. Just keep adding the milk 1/4 cup at a time and mixing well after each addition and you'll get a perfect roux.
  6. Add salt and cheddar cheese (1 cup at a time) and stir until cheese has melted and sauce has thickened.
  7. Pour noodles into the cheese mixture, stir to combine and then pour the entire mixture into a 9x13 casserole dish. {If using dutch oven, just bake in dutch oven, no need to dirty another pan!}
  8. Mix the melted butter & crushed Ritz crackers together. Sprinkle on top of Macaroni.
  9. Bake in oven for 45 minutes until top is golden.
  10. Serve Immediately

Notes

Per reader comments, the cheese in the recipe IS DOUBLED from the original recipe. So do NOT double again. 🙂 The original recipe called for 2 cups.

Nutritional Information is estimated, not exact.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 570Total Fat: 34.3gSaturated Fat: 18.5gCholesterol: 80mgSodium: 1388mgCarbohydrates: 44.5gFiber: 1.6gSugar: 8gProtein: 20.1g
Originally Posted: February 24, 2014

Photos & Text Updated: October 23, 2018

Photos & Text Updated: May 12, 2021

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Lisa

Monday 27th of May 2024

This is the only mac and cheese I make. My favorite

chefwolfe

Monday 13th of May 2024

Love this recipe so tonight I'm making it but going to add chopped lobster tails for an elegant dinner with a side salad. Can't wait for dinner 🤤

Monica

Sunday 26th of December 2021

If I do 32oz/2lbs of elbow pasta, would I just do 3x more for each ingredient as this recipe only calls for 8oz of elbow pasta. Thanks

Janelle

Sunday 26th of December 2021

Correct! However it wont need to bake for longer. As long as your pan (or pans are big enough, baking time should remain the same. Good luck!

Coco O

Monday 15th of November 2021

Do you use unsalted butter or salted?

Janelle

Monday 22nd of November 2021

I use salted butter for everything. I like to be a little crazy in the kitchen.

Missy Cash

Thursday 7th of December 2017

Making this for my family tonight for the 3rd time! Will be making it again in a few weeks for a party. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe!

Janelle

Monday 11th of December 2017

Missy, I'm so happy to hear that you love this Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe! Thank you so much for your comment, you've brightened my day!!

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