Classic baked mac and cheese

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Classic baked mac and cheese is a comfort food favorite. The cheesiest sauce mixed with pasta, layered with tomatoes & cheese makes this an instant winner.

Classic baked mac and cheese

Mac and cheese is the kind of recipes mothers across the world fall back on when they need to feed their families because a) it’s easy and cost effective and b) there are very few people who can say no to a good macacaroni cheese.

My mom used to make an intensely cheesy macaroni and cheese when I was little. She grated an entire block of cheddar into the bechamel sauce before adding cooked pasta and layering with sliced tomatoes and even more cheese. I remember how excited I would get when macaroni and cheese was for dinner. Can you blame me?

Classic baked mac and cheese

How do you make old fashioned baked mac and cheese?

The best mac and cheese is made with a bechamel sauce mixed with par-boiled pasta before baking. Mix butter and flour in a medium saucepan to form a roux then whisk in milk. Season with salt, pepper and spices then add grated cheese and stir until smooth. Stir in par-cooked pasta (it will continue cooking while baking) and cream then layer with sliced tomatoes and more cheese. Bake until golden brown then allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

What are the best cheeses for baked mac and cheese?

Strong flavored cheese work well in Mac and cheese as you want to be able to get the most flavor without using tons of it. Good melting cheeses like mozzarella, raclette and fontina are good for adding that ooey-gooey cheesiness to baked macaroni and cheese. The best cheese for macaroni and cheese are:

  • Strong, mature cheddar. 
  • Gruyère.
  • Parmesan.
  • Aged Pecorino.
  • Havarti.
  • Raclette.
  • Fontina.

How do you make mac and cheese tasty?

Bechamel sauce is a blank canvas for flavor and you can add delicious flavor to macaroni cheese by seasoning the sauce with good, strong cheese and spices that compliment the flavor of the cheese. Cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, mustard and nutmeg all work exceptionally well in a cheese sauce.

Classic baked mac and cheese

5 from 5 votes
Classic baked mac and cheese
Classic baked mac and cheese
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

Classic baked mac and cheese is a comfort food favorite. The cheesiest sauce mixed with pasta, layered with tomatoes & cheese makes this an instant winner.

Course: Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: baked mac and cheese, mac and cheese, macaroni and cheese
Calories: 575 kcal
Author: Alida Ryder
Ingredients
For the cheese sauce
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2-3 cups milk
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1-2 tsp mustard powder depending on preference
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups grated mature cheddar
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
For the baked mac and cheese
  • 1 kg macaroni par-cooked + reserve 1 cup of cooking water
  • ¾ cup whipping/heavy cream
  • 2-3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 6 tomatoes thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF.

  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour.

  3. Whisk until smooth then slowly pour in the milk, a little at a time. (I always reserve approximately ½ cup milk. Some flours will absorb more/less liquid so you might not need all of it and sometimes after adding cheese I like to thin out the sauce just a little with the remaining milk.)

  4. Whisk continuously until the sauce is thick then turn down the heat, add the spices and allow to simmer, stirring, until the sauce is thick and cooked through (this takes around 7-10 minutes on a gentle heat).

  5. Once the sauce is cooked (the sauce will be completely smooth tasting with no flouriness) remove from the heat and add the cheddar and Parmesan. Stir until melted then season to taste. 

  6. Combine the cheese sauce with the pasta then add the cream and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Stir and add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to thin out the sauce. You want the mac and cheese to be very creamy before going into the oven. 

  7. Layer the macaroni with the sliced tomatoes and remaining mozzarella, seasoning every layer of tomatoes. 

  8. Place in the oven and allow to bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crispy. 

  9. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. 

Recipe Video

Nutrition Facts
Classic baked mac and cheese
Amount Per Serving
Calories 575 Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 14g 22%
Saturated Fat 8g 40%
Cholesterol 39mg 13%
Sodium 303mg 13%
Potassium 535mg 15%
Total Carbohydrates 84g 28%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Sugars 7g
Protein 24g 48%
Vitamin A 25.9%
Vitamin C 12.3%
Calcium 33.5%
Iron 11.2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Showing 10 comments
  • Katie
    Reply

    Most delicious macaroni recipe I’ve tried. It was so creamy and cheesy and my family loved it.

  • Hannah
    Reply

    I loved the tomatoes layered into the mac and ontop. They added so much to the finished dish.

  • Karin
    Reply

    Made this recipe for dinner last night and it was the best macaroni and cheese our family has ever had. The sauce is so tasty and the extra cream really makes the whole thing so delicious. Our new favourite.

  • Aimee
    Reply

    I am SO into casseroles right now and baked mac and cheese is just a great classic. Love this recipe!

  • Reply

    Always a winner of a comfort food dish at our house Alida! This looks amazing!

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