This is the Best Mac and Cheese recipe ever! I’m not kidding guys.When I put this in my mouth the first time, I literally stopped to shout hallelujah. Okay not really, but I’m telling you it is SO CREAMY AND SO CHEESY and so worth it. Originally published August 24, 2016.
Table of Contents
- This is literally the Best Mac and Cheese Recipe EVER
- Why this is the Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
- How to make the Best Mac and Cheese
- What are the 3 best cheeses for mac and cheese?
- How to serve Gourmet Mac and Cheese
- Best Mac N Cheese Recipe storage
- Best Mac and Cheese Recipe FAQs
- Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Recipe
This is literally the Best Mac and Cheese Recipe EVER
I take my food photographs on the porch for the best light. My neighbor Tyrone is always coming over to see what I’ve made (and hoping for a taste of course). He came over when I was taking pictures of this recipe and said, “Oh, I make the BEST mac and cheese.”
I said “No, Tyrone. This Mac and Cheese is better than yours.”
And that’s how this happened:
Here we are at our block party last weekend. I was like, Tyrone, if you seriously think your macaroni and cheese is better than mine, then we need to put this to a vote. So we each brought a pan to the block party and made people pick which one they liked better. Despite an entire week of trash-talking me, I DESTROYED HIM. See those 2 X’s for his version? One was a pity vote from me.
The recipe is from my awesome friend Hannah. One night I stayed home sick (first trimester blues) on a night that the Young Women at church were having an activity (Hannah and I are their counselors). They made this recipe and doorbell ditched me a big bowl of it.
Eric brought it to me and when I smelled it I almost lost my lunch. But then the next day I was in the mood for it (being pregnant is SO WEIRD). I tried it and could not believe how amazing it was. I had never had baked mac and cheese like this!
Why this is the Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
Want to know the secret? The recipe calls for a half pound of cheese to be layered in between the saucy noodles. See this cheese stretch? HALF A POUND GUYS:
I went to a restaurant a while back and had their macaroni and cheese. Here’s how they described it on their menu:
Mac & Cheese $8
bacon / hella cheese / bread crumbs
I’m a purist, so you won’t find any bacon in this recipe, but when Hannah told me that there was a half pound of cheese layered in the center, I definitely thought of this menu description. It’s perfectly appropriate. ALL THE CHEESE.
If you love mac and cheese as much as I do, you’ve probably tried a lot of different versions. The blue box stuff, the baked kind, the creamy stovetop version, even mac and cheese in a crockpot. And you know–you KNOW–they are not all created equal.
For me, the best macaroni and cheese means:
- tender elbow macaroni (never mushy, no other pasta substitutes)
- a borderline insane amount of cheese
- no add-ins (get outta here peas!!)
- a simple, creamy sauce
- the lightest topping of buttery breadcrumbs
This is what I have created. It is my blessing and my burden. I get to eat this mac and cheese, which is one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth, AND I know how to make my ideal mac and cheese anytime I want. Once you try it…it’s hard to stop thinking about it!
How to make the Best Mac and Cheese
Here’s a quick overview of how to make this recipe. Full instructions can be found in the recipe card below!
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8 pan.
- In a 3 quart pot, boil the macaroni according to package instructions. Omit any salt or fat called for. Drain and return to the pot. (If your cheese sauce is not close to being ready, add 1-2 teaspoons of oil so your pasta doesn’t stick.)
- Meanwhile in another small pot, melt 1/4 cup butter. Once it is hot, whisk in the flour. Cook for 1 minute, whisking, until it is bubbly.
- Slowly stir in the cream and milk. Stir the whole time until it is thick. Add salt and pepper and stir for 1 more minute.
- Remove from heat and gradually stir in the shredded mozzarella and cheddar.
- Stir the cheese sauce into the cooked macaroni, then pour half of the mac and cheese into the prepared casserole dish.
- Add the 1/2 pound layer of cheese slices. Pour the other half of the mac and cheese on top and spread.
- In a small bowl, melt 1/4 cup butter. Stir in the bread crumbs. Spread the mixture on top of the mac and cheese.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350.
Oh and just in case you thought this wasn’t decadent enough, it calls for CREAM in place of some of the regular milk. We may be dying young, my fellow Americans, but we will die happy. Fat and so, so happy.
What are the 3 best cheeses for mac and cheese?
Any truly standout mac and cheese is going to require the following cheeses:
- Cheddar (for flavor). And make it SHARP. Nothing comes close in the flavor category. I’d say “change my mind” but I truly don’t believe you can.
- Mozzarella (for melt). You need a melty cheese to make mac and cheese work, and mozzarella is ready to step up. Some people use Velveeta. I am not against Velveeta in any way, but I prefer the mild flavor and gooey melt that mozzarella adds here.
- YOUR favorite cheese (for layering). I know, technically this isn’t just one thing. Mac and cheese tastes like just one thing: the cheeses you put in it. If you love Monterey jack, this is the part where you should layer it in. If you are crazy about cheddar and just want more, then yes, do it, add more! Note that some cheeses don’t melt as well (like parmesan, pecorino romano, or feta), so save those for another dish.
How to serve Gourmet Mac and Cheese
This mac and cheese is so rich and creamy that it’s practically begging for a fresh salad or green veggie on the side. Here are some of my favorites!
Green Salad with Feta and Beets << if you hate chopping this salad is for you. Super easy!
Strawberry Cucumber Salad with Honey Balsamic Dressing << this dressing is so refreshing.
Pineapple Spinach Salad << I’m addicted to pineapple. So fun in a salad.
Spinach Bleu Cheese Salad (with Copycat Zupas Poppyseed Dressing) << cinnamon candied almonds, fresh berries, and homemade dressing?? Yes please.
Easy Oven Roasted Broccoli << garlicky, lemony, converts even broccoli haters.
Bacon and Broccoli Salad << one of my all time favorites! Great crunchy contrast.
Best Mac N Cheese Recipe storage
To store the baked mac and cheese, simply cover it with the lid to your pan or plastic wrap/tinfoil to keep it from drying out. You can rewarm a large portion in the oven at 350 or individual servings can just be microwaved (covered, so grease doesn’t spatter).
If you’d like to make this ahead of time, you can assemble it (without the crumb topping) ahead of time (1-2 days), and store it in the fridge (covered). Add the crumb topping and then bake when you are ready to serve. You will have to bake it longer if you put it in the oven cold, around 30-40 minutes.
Can I freeze mac and cheese?
Yes, mac and cheese freezes without a problem. Just make sure that you’ve cooled it completely and that you freeze it in your desired serving size (the whole thing, a multi-serving portion, or individual slices). You’ll want to make sure that it’s tightly covered so it doesn’t dry out and get freezer burned. When you’re ready to serve it, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator and then heat as described above (oven or microwave).
Best Mac and Cheese Recipe FAQs
Mac and cheese can get dry for a few different reasons. Here are my tips for how to keep your mac and cheese moist!
Add cream to the sauce. The extra fat in heavy cream keeps more moisture in the mac and cheese than milk alone.
Use the right cheeses. If you try to make mac and cheese with Parmesan, it just won’t work. Don’t get me wrong–I love Parmesan–but you need moist, melty cheese like mozzarella and monterey jack in mac and cheese.
Grate your own cheese. I know it’s tempting to buy the pre-shredded stuff to save time, but the anti-caking agents in pre-shredded cheese keep it from melting as completely as the cheese grated from a fresh block.
Add a solid layer of cheese. It’s not just my obsession with cheese (ok, it’s MOSTLY that, but it’s not ALL that). Adding that solid cheese layer in the middle blocks air flow and prevents the mac and cheese from drying out as fast.
Some people like to add things to their mac and cheese, like bacon (smart) or peas (why).
But if you ask me, the best mac and cheese goes ALL IN on the cheese. It’s kind of the point! If you’re using a variety of flavorful cheese–and you’re using enough of it–there’s really not much improvement to be made. I add salt, pepper, and nothing else–no cayenne, no paprika, no secret ingredients. It’s mac and it’s cheese and it’s perfect just the way it is.
Guys, I love spices. I really do. I love curry and tacos and Cuban mojo pork. I love Thai chicken satay and Greek gyros and chicken tikka masala.
But when it comes to mac and cheese, I’m keeping it basic. You’ve got your macaroni noodles, you’ve got your creamy sauce, and you’ve got a heart-stopping amount of cheese. And then, just because I like a little crispy crust, we add some buttery panko breadcrumbs on top.
But I’m not adding spices because that’s not where my cheese-loving destiny lies. I want classic, simple, cheese-overload mac and cheese, and that’s exactly what this recipe is all about.
More great Mac & Cheese recipes!
Easy Stovetop Mac & Cheese (One Pot) << The quick 30-minute version to make at home – better than the blue box!
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese << this is a classic recipe from my mother-in-law.
Ham Mac and Cheese Soup << this is such a crowd pleaser!
Mac and Cheese with Caramelized Onions and Broccoli << a liiiittle healthier than average.
Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
- 2 & 1/4 cups dry elbow macaroni
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/3 cup heavy cream, *
- 2/3 cup milk, *
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2/3 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 & 1/3 cups SHARP cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/2 pound cheese , ** cut into slices
For the crumb topping:
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 2/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8 pan (or any 2 quart casserole dish) with butter or nonstick spray.
- In a 3 quart pot, boil the macaroni according to package instructions. Omit any salt or fat called for. (Trust me there’s enough in this recipe) Should take 6-8 minutes or so. Drain and return to the pot. (If your cheese sauce is not close to being ready, add 1-2 teaspoons oil so your pasta doesn’t stick.)
- Meanwhile in another smallish pot, melt 1/4 cup butter. Once it is hot, whisk in the flour. Cook 1 minute whisking, until it is bubbly.
- Slowly stir in the cream and milk. Stir the whole time until it is thick. Add salt and pepper and stir 1 more minute.
- Remove from heat and gradually stir in the shredded mozzarella and cheddar. If it is not melting, put it back on the burner over very low heat, stirring until the cheese is incorporated.
- Stir the cheese sauce into the cooked macaroni. It’s pretty thick.
- Pour half of the mac and cheese into the prepared casserole dish.
- Add the 1/2 pound layer of cheese slices. YES DO ALL OF IT.
- Pour the other half of the mac and cheese on top and spread.
- In a small bowl, melt 1/4 cup butter. Stir in the bread crumbs. Spread the mixture on top of the mac and cheese.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350. The top should be turning golden brown and the mac and cheese should be bubbly.