The Best Macaroni & Cheese Ever

This recipe for classic baked macaroni and cheese is far and away the  most popular on my previous blog, The Hazel Bloom. It’s super creamy – not dry like some homemade mac and cheese can get. It’s cheesy. Oh yes. Very cheesy. It’s rich, ooey, gooey, and, yeah – in my humble opinion – the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever.

I say it’s the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever not because I have tried every single macaroni and cheese recipe in the world (though I have tried many) (and wouldn’t it be an incredibly noble cause to try every single one?!). It’s because whenever I take a glorious melty bite, I simply cannot imagine a better classic mac and cheese.

As I revisit, rephotograph, and sometimes slightly revamp recipes from past blog posts, I’ll be sharing the updated version here on Kitchen Treaty, which is now my main focus food-blog-wise. Quite naturally, I had to start with this recipe.

This is the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever. Seriously. Creamy, cheesy, straightforward, ooey, gooey – this macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off. Then go put ‘em back on and run a marathon, quick.

I can say this is the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever because it’s not really my recipe. I tweaked it a tiny bit – basically made it even more fattening – but otherwise, it’s someone else’s. It’s from someone named Bev, who posted her recipe on Recipezaar and to whom I am eternally grateful.

See, macaroni and cheese is pretty much my all-time favorite food. Always has been. Cases in point:

  1. One of my first-ever memories is of sitting down in front of the TV with a bowl full of macaroni and cheese and watching Emergency! – and feeling pure bliss.
  2. Not long after that was when I realized that a single macaroni and cheese noodle was actually not called a “macaroni and chee.” Major epiphany.
  3. Every birthday, my wonderful Gran actually used to wrap up boxes of Kraft dinner for me. Best presents ever!

I should probably stop there. I have a sneaking suspicion I’m coming off like a total freak.

So back to Bev. Bev posted a recipe that will forever be my go-to recipe for homemade mac and cheese. Before that, I had only experienced dry homemade mac and cheese. Goes into the oven wet, comes out dry. So annoying! But no more. I love you Bev!

Bev is probably totally creeped out now too.

I’m a total freakfest today. I guess I’ll just post the recipe. Mac and cheese lovers, come hither – this is the real thing!

Oh – and this recipe is great with many noodles other than macaroni (like penne, yum!) My most recent discovery is a wonderful pasta called “conchiglie.” It’s like giant macaroni noodles and it holds the sauce in the middle and oh. my. God. you just have to try it.

Okay, I’m shutting up now.

Here’s the recipe!

Add cooked and crumbled bacon to the top for your resident carnivore. He or she will declare undying love to you forevermore. Guaranteed.

Print Recipe

The Best Macaroni & Cheese Ever

The best macaroni and cheese recipe ever. Seriously. Creamy, cheesy, straightforward, ooey, gooey - this macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Prep Time: 30 mins

Cook Time: 30 mins

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. (1/2 pound or about 1 3/4 cups) macaroni or other medium tubular pasta (like penne or conchiglie)*
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 2 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 3 cups grated medium cheddar cheese*

Directions:

  • Boil the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking, and return to the pan you boiled it in. Set aside. (Mix in a little butter to keep the noodles from sticking if it's going to be awhile before you make the sauce)
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Over medium heat, melt the butter.
  • Add the flour, salt, dry mustard, pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika. Stir constantly over medium heat for about three minutes.
  • Stir in the milk.
  • Keeping on medium heat, whisk constantly for about 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
  • Remove from heat, and stir in 2 cups of the cheese, stirring until melted.
  • Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles and toss gently until all noodles are covered.
  • Add half the noodles to a two quart casserole dish.
  • Sprinkle on half the cheese.
  • Add the rest of the noodles.
  • Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, and dust lightly with the smoked paprika.
  • Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until it starts getting a slightly dry and a tiny bit brown on top. Serve, topping individual servings with cooked, chopped bacon if desired.

*Please resist the urge to add more noodles to stretch the recipe. You need a lot of sauce with that pasta because the pasta soaks so much and it otherwise cooks down. Over-dry mac and cheese is such a disappointment - don't do it!

**Also resist the urge to add more cheese to the sauce. This can do weird things. Sprinkle more in between and on top if you must have more cheese.

Adapted from the Bev's Macaroni and Cheese recipe on Food.com

This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I may receive a portion of the proceeds.

   

411 Responses to “The Best Macaroni & Cheese Ever”

  1. Jennifer posted on February 25, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Was wondering if anyone had cooked this mac n cheese in a muffin tin? Have an event and want to do “small plate” food and thought mac n cheese cups may work? Would appreciate any tips. Thanks

    • Karen Troughton replied on February 26th, 2014 on 6:32 am

      I haven’t tried it, but I bet it would be delicious! Lots of nice crispy bits. If you try it, please come back and report!

  2. Cocopai posted on February 27, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Mac and cheese is my ALL time favorite dish, and i have been looking high and low for the perfect recipe, but every time there has been something not quite right. But this is hands down, the best mac and cheese i have ever eaten. I cannot believe how good this was! Me and my best friend made this together, and she is also a huge mac and cheese fan. We highfived eachother after having the first bite. The only things we changed was that we used whole wheat flour instead of regular, and we added a tiny bit of nutmeg to the sauce. We also used a couple of different cheeses (Cheddar and Edam cheese mainly, plus a little bit of parmesan.) And on top we added some panko (Japanese bread crumbs). It was the best thing ever. My mouth is seriously watering just thinking about it!:) Thank you so much for this recipe!!

    • Karen Troughton replied on March 4th, 2014 on 11:31 am

      Yeah! So glad you two liked it! LOVE hearing that it works with whole wheat flour; thank you for sharing that.

  3. Mom posted on March 2, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    My teenage daughter loves macaroni and cheese so I want to teach her how to make it from scratch rather than a box. She has a problem with textures (moderate OCD), though, and doesn’t like the idea of baking this and having a crunchy top. Will this recipe work without baking it? Thanks

    • Karen Troughton replied on March 4th, 2014 on 11:34 am

      Hi there, yes, it works without baking! It will seem a little soupy at first, but it should still be plenty tasty. There are also some terrific-looking stovetop mac and cheese recipes out there that might work better; Google “stovetop mac and cheese” and you’ll see tons of possibilities! Good luck!

  4. Wilton Recipe Right posted on March 9, 2014 at 7:33 am

    A delicious mac and cheese! I too am a veggo shacked up with an omni and it’s always an interesting kitchen puzzle coming up with meals for us both :)

  5. Sabrina posted on March 10, 2014 at 8:16 am

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have searched high and low for a good mac n’ cheese recipe for a child’s birthday party for days now. I had a go-to, but it has disappeared (I cried a little). This recipe is the only one I found that had similar ingredients and no weird add-ins. I’ll come back and let you know how it turned out. Thanks again!

  6. Brian posted on March 10, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Karen,

    I’m in the middle of making this and feel sure I’ve done something wrong. Help? My problem is in making the sauce: it’s not thickening. I checked the quantities three times, and the only substitution I made was to use 0% milk (it’s all I had). Would this make the difference? I stirred for three minutes, added the milk, whisked on medium heat for ten minutes… and it’s still as, well, milky as when I started. No thickening. I took it off the stove and added the cheese, which helped slightly, but it looks like too much quantity for a half-pound of pasts and, like I said: it’s liquid, not sauce-like.

    Thoughts?
    Remove from heat, and stir in 2 cups of the cheese, stirring until melted.

    • Kare replied on March 10th, 2014 on 9:08 pm

      Hi Brian, probably the sauce just needed to cook a little longer, possibly due to the non-fat milk. But because you’ve already put the cheese in, I’m hoping you just stirred the pasta in and baked it. The sauce might still be a little thin after baking but hopefully still delicious! Even when the sauce thickens well, it still seems like a lot of sauce for the pasta, but it turns out great. Anyway – I hope this turned out for you. Maybe next time try increasing the flour a smidge and cooking the sauce a little longer. Hope that helps at least a little. :/

  7. Rick posted on March 13, 2014 at 6:53 am

    Made this for the first time this week. Substituted cumin for dry mustard (did not have any on hand)also added cubed chicken breast. Brought over to share at friends house and it was the most talked about dish among many fine dishes. Cumin added an earthy flavor that everyone liked. Used skim milk, added a little more flour to the roux and it thickened up fine. Doubled the recipe without any problems. Excellent dish.

    • Karen Troughton replied on March 13th, 2014 on 7:47 am

      Cumin – I love that idea! So glad everyone loved it. :)

  8. David posted on March 14, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    I havent tried making this myself but on another site a few years ago I learned a couple of tips on how to make a good cheese sauce that really helped me. First is that if you get the cheese too hot it will become chunky (as it appears to be in the pictures here). The tip that worked for me to prevent getting the cheese too hot is to take the milk mixture off the heat before mixing in the cheese (which I see you directed in your recipe, probably it has to do with the baking at 375 afterward). The second tip was that you can prevent the stringyness of the melted cheese by adding some acid in just after the cheese is melted (or almost melted). For the acid I use some vinegar, wine, or lemon/lime juice (probably about 2 tablespoons of lime juice for the size of your recipe). I guess these are only useful tips if you like creamy smooth cheese sauce.

  9. ellen posted on March 16, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    OMG just made this recipe i improvised and added 1/2 cup sour cream with milk …..had no whisk wished i did tho would have been so much easier but very tasty….but it worked…..

  10. Taylor posted on March 20, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    The consistency and texture of this recipe reminded me of Stouffer’s Mac N’ Cheese (which I mean as a compliment). Often times, baked Mac N’Cheese gets too dry as you mentioned and this wasn’t at all. I love the hint of smoked paprika too. I will definitely make this recipe again. Thanks!

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  12. Me posted on March 24, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Pretty bland. An okay recipe.

  13. Nick Scardino posted on April 3, 2014 at 10:41 am

    I’ve always struggled with mac n cheese – it always came out dry, bland, gritty, just overall not appetizing. I gave this recipe a shot and it blew me away. In fact, I made it twice this week just to make sure the first time wasn’t a fluke!

    I used cabot’s “seriously sharp” yellow cheddar (never knew the difference between their brands) and the flavor was amazing. I followed the recipe strictly, my only addition was to add a bit of my home made hot sauce after it baked in each serving and mix it in. Will definitely be making this again, thanks for the recipe!

  14. SImplyOldSchoolCookingReese posted on April 3, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    This mac and cheese recipe looks amazing. Perfect addition to the table when you need a quick and popular dinner.

  15. flying_dolphin_2000@yahoo.com posted on April 5, 2014 at 5:29 am

    Best Mac and Cheese Recipe

  16. Fiona Stevenson posted on April 5, 2014 at 5:49 am

    I made this mac & cheese, and my friends and I agree that it needs it’s own twelve step program to stop eating it!! This is now my go to recipe for Mac&Cheese!

    • Karen Troughton replied on April 7th, 2014 on 2:50 pm

      Ha – yeah, I’ll have to join that 12-step program along with you and your friends.

  17. James posted on April 6, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    As a newly Retired IT Professional and “chef-in-training” I believe we have a keeper. I’ve been wanting to try a Mac / Cheese recipe since my new cooking for the family career began. My wife and daughter make a good Mac/Cheese, I just wanted to do something different as it’s just my nature to try things. After reading this recipe I felt this is the one and it was in fact “The One”! Just made this tonight, followed the recipe to the letter, all ingredients using optional Conchiglie Pasta which I have used in other recipes, followed directions including stirring to the minute, adding bacon as an option and also adhering to the “Note” about wanting to add additional pasta, so tempting but did as instructed! Results after serving my family and getting a rating from each, which are very picky eaters, a definite “5 Star” from all – Creamy and Cheesy, perfect taste and consistency – Will definitely make this again, Thank you Koren for the recipe and the explicit instructions, enjoyed making this for my family and enjoyed the eating even more so!!!!

    • Karen Troughton replied on April 7th, 2014 on 2:47 pm

      Yeah! Victory! Love this comment; so glad you (and the family) like it. Conchiglie might be my very favorite pasta for macaroni and cheese – it’s just perfect. Congrats on the retirement!

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  20. Theresa posted on April 16, 2014 at 3:31 am

    Fantastic recipe. I’m fourteen years old, and i can hardly peel a potato, let alone make myself dinner, but this recipe came out perfectly! Absolute hit with me and my brother, we basically inhaled it and even went in for seconds :’) If anyone’s looking for a nice crunchy layer on the top, sprinkling bread crumbs and a good helping of pepper works wonders, I’ve found.
    Again, great recipe, doesn’t take too much skill, and comes out absolutely perfect! Thankyou!

  21. Maggie posted on May 4, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    My goodness, i think I’ve found THE mac and cheese recipe! This stuff is seriously so darn good, my entire family gobbled it up in a matter of hours! So so yum, and I topped the whole thing with panko-a fabulous addition! Thanks so much for the recipe-this will be my go-to from now on!

  22. Candy posted on May 5, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Love this Mac and cheese recipe. Thank you for the tip to resist the temptation to add extra cheese and pasta. A common mistake I’ve made in the past.Made for a dinner party and received so many compliants I tweeked the recipe slightly by heating fresh thyme, Rosemary and garlic in the milk then staining it to be used in the recipe. Adds an awesome flavor.

  23. Maggie posted on May 6, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    I made this tonight, and followed the recipe exactly because I didn’t want to waste the amazing cheddar I bought. I even timed the stirring to make sure I didn’t muck it up. Came out terrible. Tasteless and disgusting. Fed it to the dogs and mourned the loss of delicious cheese.

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  28. Rosemary posted on May 15, 2014 at 6:07 am

    I don’t know what I did wrong, but it was not creamy, it was grainy. I only found mild cheddar so that’s probably why it was tasteless?

  29. Ariel M posted on May 19, 2014 at 10:03 am

    I usually use a family tradition recipe when I bake Mac-n-cheese but I couldn’t find it yesterday for my fiance’s birthday dinner. I wanted it to be really good so I searched and found this recipe. It was different than your typical recipe for Mac-n-cheese (but I’m all about different). I was worried it would be hard, but it was super easy and came out amazing. I doubled up on the recipe, yet only used about 4-4 1/2 cups of milk. We also don’t have medium cheese in our grocery store so I used mild. I baked for about 30 minutes and it came out amazing! I did add bacon crumbles all over the top before putting in the oven as well. I will definitely be using this recipe again! Thanks!

  30. Jesse posted on May 29, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Finally found a recipe that satisfies me. I am extremely picky about baked mac and cheese, and this is the perfect consistency. The only gripe I have is that it needs just a wee bit more salt to bring up the taste. Other than that, I loved it. I like a crunchy crust so I crushed up some Ritz crackers and sprinkled on top.

  31. Karen posted on June 20, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Yum, yum, yum!!! Made it for my mother in law who is battling cancer. Its her favourite and I know she’ll love it! Followed recipe as written. Thank you for sharing!

  32. Debbie posted on June 25, 2014 at 6:46 am

    I love making homemade macaroni and cheese. I came across yours yesterday and figured I would try something new. I had family and friends over for a cookout and figured I would give it a whirl. Let me tell you it was the best I ever had. Everyone commented on how delicious it was and very creamy. This is definitely a keeper. Thank you for sharing. This is my number 1 recipe and definitely a keeper.

    • Karen Raye replied on June 29th, 2014 on 4:37 pm

      I’m so glad you (and your guests) liked it! :)

  33. Gabrielle posted on July 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Awesome recipe, I made others that just made me sooo mad I vowed to never make baked again. But I’m not a quitter, so I compared this recipe with other so called” great” baked mac and cheese recipes and noticed this one had more liquid with less cheese. I also liked that you don’t use bread crumbs, I never really understood why they were needed, I don’t want my mac and cheese to crunch. Can’t wait to try this recipe with different kinds of cheeses. Thank you so much for posting this!!!!

  34. Iszah posted on July 15, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Hi there,

    I was wondering.. If I were to add chicken into this dish, would it affect the consistency and creaminess of the mac & cheese?

    Any suggestions?

  35. Iszah posted on July 16, 2014 at 6:14 am

    Hi there. I was wondering…If I were to add chicken into this dish, would it affect the consistency and creaminess of the mac & cheese? Any suggestions?

  36. Jen posted on July 16, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Holy, Kar! You can do no wrong, girl and you’re making me a kitchen superhero in this house (I do give you credit though!)

    Made this exactly as directed and it came out perfectly! And I have a “dry mac and chee” history so it was lucky they gave me a second chance! Thanks, Kar!

  37. Kristin posted on July 18, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    It would be helpful if you wouldn’t attach three huge color photos to the printed recipe. The food looks good but I don’t need to waste all that ink for a recipe.

    • Karen Raye replied on July 21st, 2014 on 6:21 am

      Hi Kristin, thanks so much for letting me know about this – I didn’t realize those photos were showing up on the print recipe page. Fixing that now!

  38. Beth posted on August 16, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    This truly is the best mac and cheese recipe and I’ve tried tons of them over the years. Thanks!

    • Karen Raye replied on August 18th, 2014 on 9:47 am

      Beth, I am so glad you liked it! I felt the same way when I first made this recipe. :)

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