Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe promises to quench your cravings and spark joy with every bite! Each forkful features warm cheese draped over tender macaroni—a dish that’s irresistibly satisfying.

Two bowls of baked macaroni and cheese.

Baked macaroni and cheese – it’s the ultimate comfort food that’s got a special place in my heart. You know what I’m talking about, right? That ooey-gooey, bubbling masterpiece that’s crispy on top and creamy underneath – it’s like a little slice of heaven on your plate.

I mean, what’s not to love? Macaroni, swimming in a rich, velvety cheese sauce, all baked to golden perfection. It’s a dish that’s like a childhood memory, and no matter how many fancy culinary adventures I embark on, baked mac and cheese is the one I keep coming back to. It’s the dish that welcomes you home, and I’m here to share all the cheesy secrets and delicious tips.

Why We Love This Recipe

  • Baked macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, perfect for lifting spirits and satisfying cravings with its hearty warmth.
  • It’s a versatile dish, easily tailored with various cheeses.
  • It’s a classic dish that stirs up fond memories of family gatherings, childhood dinners, and homemade love.

Recipe Ingredients

A spoonful of baked macaroni.
  • Macaroni Noodles: The foundation of the dish. It provides a satisfying chew and is ideal for retaining the luscious cheese sauce.
  • Cheddar Cheese: It offers a tangy flavor that deepens the taste profile and melts well, contributing to the creamy texture of the sauce.
  • Pepperjack Cheese: This cheese introduces a spicy kick with sweet undertones.
  • Gruyere or Fontina Cheese: Both add a nutty, earthy flavor. Gruyere brings a slightly sweet taste, while Fontina is milder and creamier.
  • Whole Milk: The milk is the base of the sauce, providing richness, creaminess, and moisture, which helps to meld the flavors together and absorb into the noodles.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Variations

  • Robust Flavor Twist: Substitute the Cheddar with sharp Cheddar cheese for a stronger cheese taste.
  • Buttery Gouda Swap: Replace Gruyere or Fontina with creamy Gouda to enrich the dish with a velvety, buttery essence.
  • Hearty Chicken Addition with a Creamy Twist: Stir in diced, cooked chicken for added protein to make this a main dish. Enhance the sauce by using heavy cream instead of milk and add sautéed onions for a deeper flavor profile.

How to Make Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Step #1: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni for about 5 minutes. The noodles should still be very firm. Drain and set aside.

Two portions of baked mac and cheese.

Step #2: In a medium skillet, sauté the bell pepper, jalapeno, and Anaheim pepper in one tablespoon of butter until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for an extra 30 seconds. Then, switch off the heat and take it off the stove.

Step #3: Return the empty pasta pot to the stove and melt ¼ cup of butter over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly. The flour mixture will bubble and froth in the pan.

Macaroni and cheese in a bowl.

Step #4: Blend the whole milk and ground mustard into the flour mixture using a whisk. Keep cooking and stirring for another five minutes until the mixture thickens significantly. Reduce the heat to low.

Step #5: Beat one egg in a small bowl. Take ¼ cup of the sauce and slowly drizzle it into the bowl containing the beaten egg while whisking constantly. This will temper the egg and keep it from scrambling.

Step #6: Whisk the egg mixture into the large pot. Add the grated cheese, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and nutmeg. Stir well.

Step #7: Put the cooked macaroni back in the pot and give it a stir. Fold in the sautéed vegetables. Transfer it to a buttered 9 x 13 baking dish (or individual dishes) and sprinkle extra grated cheese on top. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius) for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

A spoonful of cheesy baked macaroni.

Expert Tips

  • Roux Perfection: Cook the flour-butter mix until it’s frothy but not browned, ensuring a silky base for your sauce.
  • Smooth Sauce Technique: Gradually whisk milk into the roux, avoiding lumps. Cook until thick for a velvety cheese sauce.
  • Save Time: Buy pre-shredded cheese to save you time in the kitchen with this dish.
Baked mac and cheese in a bowl with a serving spoon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make baked macaroni and cheese ahead of time?

Yes, assemble it, refrigerate it, and bake it when ready.

How can I ensure my macaroni is perfectly cooked in the bake?

Cook the noodles for only 5 minutes, so they retain a firm texture after baking.

What’s the secret to a creamy mac and cheese?

A roux-based cheese sauce and full-fat dairy help keep it creamy.

How do I get a crispy top on my macaroni and cheese?

This recipe will give you a crispy top since you bake it uncovered. If you want to crisp it up more, just increase the temperature and bake for a few more minutes, but watch it carefully to make sure not to burn the top.

Should I cover my mac and cheese in the oven?

No, you don’t need to cover mac and cheese while it bakes. You want the top to become golden brown and crispy, so you must bake it uncovered in the oven.

Can I use garlic powder if I don’t have fresh garlic?

Yes, use ¾ teaspoon of garlic powder to replace the 3 cloves of fresh garlic.

Storage Info

To store baked macaroni and cheese, let it cool to room temperature, then cover it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or transfer it to an airtight container. You can store it in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. For freezing, wrap the dish tightly with foil or place servings in freezer-safe containers; it will stay good for up to 2 months. To reheat your leftovers, defrost in the fridge, then heat in the microwave or in an oven at 350°F (175°C) until hot. 

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Baked macaroni and cheese in a white bowl.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

This Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe promises to quench your cravings and spark joy with every bite! Each forkful features warm cheese draped over tender macaroni—a dish that's irresistibly satisfying.
5 from 2 votes
Pin Rate
Course: Side Dishes
Cuisine: North American
Diet: Vegetarian
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 748kcal
Author: Linda
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 cups dried Macaroni noodles
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper - finely chopped
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper - seeded and minced
  • 1 Anaheim pepper - finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/2 pound Cheddar cheese - shredded (plus a little more for topping)
  • 1/4 pound Pepperjack cheese - shredded
  • 1/4 pound Gruyere or Fontina cheese - shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Instructions

  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni for about 5 minutes. The noodles should still be very firm. Drain and set aside.
  • In a medium skillet, sauté the bell pepper, jalapeno, and Anaheim pepper in one tablespoon of butter until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for an extra 30 seconds. Then, switch off the heat and take it off the stove.
  • Return the empty pasta pot to the stove and melt ¼ cup of butter over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly. The flour mixture will bubble and froth in the pan.
  • Blend the whole milk and ground mustard into the flour mixture using a whisk. Keep cooking and stirring for another five minutes until the mixture thickens significantly. Reduce the heat to low.
  • Beat one egg in a small bowl. Take ¼ cup of the sauce and slowly drizzle it into the bowl containing the beaten egg while whisking constantly. This will temper the egg and keep it from scrambling.
  • Whisk the egg mixture into the large pot. Add the grated cheese, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and nutmeg. Stir well.
  • Put the cooked macaroni back in the pot and give it a stir. Fold in the sautéed vegetables. Transfer it to a buttered 9 x 13 baking dish (or individual dishes) and sprinkle extra grated cheese on top. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius) for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

NOTES

Storage Info:
To store baked macaroni and cheese, let it cool to room temperature, then cover it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or transfer it to an airtight container. You can store it in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. For freezing, wrap the dish tightly with foil or place servings in freezer-safe containers; it will stay good for up to 2 months. To reheat your leftovers, defrost in the fridge, then heat in the microwave or in an oven at 350°F (175°C) until hot. 
 

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 748kcal | Carbohydrates: 65g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 141mg | Sodium: 793mg | Potassium: 447mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1884IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 667mg | Iron: 2mg

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About the Author

Linda

Hi, I'm Linda! Welcome to The Wanderlust Kitchen, where I share recipes and travel adventures from all around the world. Here you'll find a world of recipes you can have confidence in. These recipes celebrate authentic food heritage as well as modern techniques and ingredients. Be adventurous and try a new recipe and travel somewhere you have never been before.  Bon Appétit! Bon Voyage!  

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Comments:

  1. Hi Anetta!
    I used this recipe tonight and my husband and I LOVED this! The way the pepper jack and other cheese came together with the peppers was fantastic.

    Just a couple notes on the recipe card above that got me confused and I had to guess-
    1. At what point do you add all the spices? The nutmeg, paprika, cayenne were just sitting on my counter as I was taking the steps in your recipe- but then I realized they needed to go in! I ended up just tossing in some spices to the cheese mixture before adding the noodles back into the pot. Would it have been better to sauté the peppers/garlic with the spices? Let me know what you do.
    2. When do you toss in the peppers/garlic mix in with the cheese mixture? I added them into the cheese mixture pot before adding in the macaroni.

    Anyway, husband is still giving praises and made sure I “saved the recipe.” 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Hi, Neva!
      Um, thank you so much for pointing out the error in that recipe! It’s all fixed now. I made this exactly the way you did! Nice work 🙂

  2. Mac and cheese is my absolute favorite, I will have to give this variation a try! I make mine a different way, but am always willing to explore other options!

    1. The best thing about Mac & Cheese is that there are so many ways to make it! More opportunities for me to eat a bunch of it 🙂