Easiest ever baked macaroni and cheese – this is a go-to recipe of many of my readers and it will become the same for your family!
This is the easiest ever macaroni and cheese! And so delicious!
About this easy baked macaroni and cheese:
This baked macaroni and cheese is made like Grandma used to make it, the old fashioned, baked in a casserole dish style. If you’re looking for a creamy, non-baked recipe, you’ll probably love this copycat Panera mac and cheese or Instant Pot macaroni and cheese.
I just love this baked macaroni and cheese, though. It’s a little bit chewier, with lots of great cheddar cheese flavor, and I especially love the way the top crisps up in the oven.
Plus it’s so easy! You just boil pasta, mix with grated cheese, a couple tablespoons of flour, and seasonings, put it in a casserole dish, and pour the milk over it. That’s it! No messing with white sauces or tricky steps. No getting four pots and pans dirty!
You can prep this macaroni and cheese ahead of time and keep it in the fridge overnight. It’s ready to bake when you want it!
Baked mac and cheese is a total crowd pleaser. This is a great recipe for busy weeknight meals but also for entertaining. Perfect for potlucks!
Enjoy one of our family’s favorite meals! I grew up eating this macaroni and cheese and it was always a special day when my mom prepared it. Now I love serving it to my family and I especially love how easy it is to prepare. I’m sure you will too!
What you need to make baked mac and cheese:
Really simple ingredients in this one, and lots of room to adapt the recipe to make it your own. For this macaroni and cheese recipe, you’ll need:
- Elbow Macaroni – other shapes will work, as will whole wheat pasta. We haven’t tested this with a grain-free pasta, but it would probably work. Of course, the texture would be slightly different.
- 1 pound of shredded cheese – we like extra sharp cheddar, but you can use many types of cheese. We always recommend shredding your own cheese fo the best texture (plus it’s cheaper), but pre-grated will work in a pinch.
- Flour – this helps the mac and cheese thicken up.
- Ground mustard – this is totally optional but it adds depth to the flavor. You can also use dijon mustard if you don’t have ground mustard.
- Milk – whole, 2%, skim…they’ll all work
- Butter – helps you get that golden brown top on the macaroni and cheese!
- Salt and Pepper – always! You won’t need a lot of salt since cheese is salty.
How to make the best baked macaroni and cheese:
This recipe is the best because it’s SO easy to make. No fussing with making a roux or a cheese sauce.
Here are the simple steps:
- Preheat oven and spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray (or rub with butter) for easy clean up.
- Cook pasta as directed on the package for al dente texture (don’t forget to salt your water!).
- While the macaroni cooks, combine most of the cheese with the flour, ground mustard, and pepper.
- When the pasta is cooked and drained, mix it with the cheese mixture.
- Place in greased pan, and pour milk over macaroni. Top with remaining cheese and dot with butter. Cover with foil.
- Bake for 45 minutes, taking foil off after 30 minutes if desired for a crisper top.
- Most milk should be soaked up by the time it is done cooking, but we find it best to let this sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
What kind of cheese is best for macaroni and cheese?
For this recipe, sharp cheddar is best (I use extra sharp) – it provides this macaroni and cheese with the maximum amount of flavor.
Can you make this macaroni and cheese with pre-grated cheese or do you have to grate your own?
Grate your own cheese for best results. Pre-grated cheese contains additives to prevent clumping in the bag but that also means the cheese shreds don’t melt as well. However, if all you have is pre-grated cheese, don’t worry, your mac and cheese will still be tasty.
Breadcrumbs on the top would be good if that’s how you like mac & cheese!
Should I cover mac & cheese with foil when baking?
I like my top extra crispy. If you do not, I’d recommend covering with foil for at least the first 30 minutes, or up until the entire time.
Can baked macaroni and cheese be made ahead?
This can be prepped in full a day ahead (aside from baking) and baked prior to serving. If you have leftover mac and cheese, heat it in the microwave at medium heat. Watch out, it heats up quickly!
Can I use whole wheat pasta in this mac and cheese?
Whole wheat pasta is awesome in this, and is the way I usually make it.
- 1 package (16 oz) elbow macaroni
- 1 pound (16 oz) sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (4 cups)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
- 2 cups low-fat milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray or grease a casserole dish or a 9x13 pan.
- Cook macaroni as directed on the package in salted water until tender, drain.
- While macaroni is cooking, combine 2 and 1/2 cups of cheese with flour, pepper, and ground mustard.
- In a large bowl, combine cheese and flour mixture with hot macaroni and stir to combine. Pour into the greased pan. Pour milk over macaroni. Top with remaining cheese. Dot with butter. Cover with aluminum foil.
- Bake for 45 minutes (taking the foil off after 30 minutes if desired) or until firm and golden brown. You want to make sure there isn’t a lot of runny milk in it still, poke a knife in the middle if necessary. Some will soak in as it cools but it should be mostly absorbed.
- (Optional) Let sit for 10 minutes before serving to further firm up.
- Whole wheat elbow macaroni can be substituted.
- Use sharp or extra-sharp cheddar for best results.
- If desired, add 3 tablespoons minced onion.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
Looking for more macaroni and cheese? I have you MORE than covered!