Baked mac and cheese is a beloved comfort food that has warmed hearts and homes for generations. Originating from Italy and popularized in the United States, this dish has become a staple at family gatherings, potlucks, and weeknight dinners. Its creamy, cheesy goodness combined with a crispy golden crust makes it an irresistible favorite among mac and cheese lovers.

Baked Mac and Cheese

Ingredients You'll Need


  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese (divided)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Optional Add-Ins for Variety:

  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Cooked bacon pieces
  • Chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme)

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Preparing the Cheese Sauce

  1. Melt the Butter: In a medium-sized saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of butter over medium heat.
  2. Make a Roux: Add 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour to the melted butter and whisk continuously for about 2 minutes. This mixture is called a roux and will thicken your sauce.
  3. Add Milk: Gradually pour in 2 cups of milk while continuing to whisk. Cook the mixture for about 5 minutes until it thickens.
  4. Incorporate Cheese: Add 3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese to the sauce and stir until fully melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Cooking the Pasta

  1. Boil Water: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Cook Macaroni: Add 2 cups of elbow macaroni and cook according to package instructions until al dente (firm to the bite). Drain the pasta and set aside.

3. Assembling and Baking

  1. Preheat Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Combine Pasta and Sauce: Mix the cooked macaroni with the cheese sauce until the pasta is well-coated.
  3. Assemble in Baking Dish: Pour half of the mac and cheese mixture into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese over the pasta. Add the remaining pasta mixture on top.
  4. Top It Off: Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs (if using) evenly over the top.
  5. Bake: Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and bubbly.

Variations and Add-Ins

Experiment with Different Cheeses:

  • Try a blend of cheddar, mozzarella, and Gruyère for a richer flavor.
  • Add a bit of blue cheese or goat cheese for a unique twist.

Flavor Enhancers:

  • Mix in cooked bacon pieces for a smoky flavor.
  • Stir in chopped fresh herbs like parsley or thyme for added freshness.
  • Sprinkle paprika or garlic powder into the cheese sauce for extra depth.

Serving and Storing


  • Serve the baked mac and cheese hot, straight from the oven. Pair it with a crisp green salad or steamed vegetables for a balanced meal.


  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven at 350°F (175°C) until warm, or microwave individual servings.


Baked mac and cheese is a versatile dish that invites creativity. Whether you stick to the classic recipe or experiment with add-ins and different cheeses, you're sure to create a dish that's comforting and delicious. Enjoy the process, and happy cooking!

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