Baked macaroni and cheese doesn’t have to be complicated with layers of ingredients to be the soul-warming food you crave. This version has pleased crowds, small families, kids and picky eaters alike–give it a try and you’ll see why.
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Sometimes you buy that glowing yellow macaroni in the box. Your kids like it, but it glows like the kryptonite they used in the old Christoper Reeve Superman movies. That’s not normal people. And I hate to break it to you, but there’s nothing real in that box either. I hate feeding it to my kids and I dare say that you hate it too.
But I can also guess you don’t know many other alternatives. Sure, you can get a box of Velveeta and melt that over some noodles. That works too…I love Velveeta. But if you’re looking for the real deal, the old school, the way your grandma might have made it–this is it.
And just so you know, aside from the baking, this dish took 15 minutes and only two pans to make. One for boiling the pasta and a good enameled cast iron pan for the sauce and the baking cuts down on dishes. Since I don’t have a dishwasher. But don’t get me started on that again. You CAN make this on a week night.
How can I dress up my macaroni and cheese?
This baked macaroni and cheese may be the most versatile dish ever. Add in some red pepper for kick, any cheeses you like (Fontina is glorious in here), add veggies like broccoli and chopped chicken and it’s a one-dish meal even. Or BACON. Hello. Yeah. Make some garlic bread crumbs for the top if you want some crunch and throw those on. It’s really endless.
Can I make this macaroni and cheese ahead and bake it when I’m ready?
Yes you sure can. Just let it cool down, put some plastic wrap right against the surface of the mac and cheese (to keep it from forming a skin) and stick it in the fridge. If you have a few minutes to bring it out and let it warm slightly before you bake it, do that. But if you can’t, just bake it till the center is hot and the edges are bubbling.
I’ve never made macaroni and cheese–I’m scared I’ll mess it up! Do you have any more tips?
Feel like you may still need some help? Jump over to this post for the juicy details: 18 Secrets to the Richest, Creamiest Mac and Cheese You’ll Ever Eat–it’s filled with every tip and trick you’ll need to make your version the star of the table. I hope you can use this basic dish in a ton of ways. Around here, it’s sharp cheddar and Swiss.
- 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni shells or cavatappi
- 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 cups milk not skim
- 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 2 cups of shredded cheese I like sharp cheddar and Swiss
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil; add a generous sprinkling of salt the pasta.
- While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a skillet or pot large enough to hold the pasta when it's done.
- Add the flour and stir over medium heat until the mixture is lightly browned; 1-2 minutes.
- Add the milk and whisk to remove any lumps and add the salt and pepper.
- Cook over medium-high heat until the sauce thickens and starts to bubble. About 6 minutes.
- Stir in the cheese and whisk until smooth and melted. Turn off the heat.
- When the pasta is almost done but still firm, drain it and add to the sauce.
Stir the pasta into the sauce and bake in a greased 2 quart dish (or an 8x8 pan works pretty well) 20-25 minutes until browned and bubbly. You can also skip baking it if you want it super creamy and just put it under the broiler to brown the top (keep an eye on it) and then serve.
The thinner the dish, the less the bake time. I used a cast iron skillet and mine was done in 25 minutes. A thicker dish like a 2 quart casserole will take 40 minutes.
To make ahead, cool the pasta and cheese sauce once they have been mixed together, cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to bake. Up to two days. Bake until hot in the center and bubbling around the edges.
There are a couple of affiliate links here just so you know–maybe if we all band together I’ll earn enough to get myself an actual real dishwasher!