The Best Macaroni & Cheese Recipe Ever

This recipe for classic baked macaroni and cheese is far and away the most popular on Kitchen Treaty. 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. Seriously.

This mac and cheese will knock your socks off. Then go put ’em back on and run a marathon, quick!

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

I say it’s the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever not because I have tried every single mac 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.

I can also say it’s the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever because this one is not really even 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 (now Food.com) and to whom I am eternally grateful.

The Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Ever - Seriously. Creamy, cheesy, straightforward, ooey, gooey - this macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off.

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.

The Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Ever - Seriously. Creamy, cheesy, straightforward, ooey, gooey - this macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off.

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.

Anyway, mac and cheese lovers, come hither – this is the real thing!

The Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Ever - Seriously. Creamy, cheesy, straightforward, ooey, gooey - this macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off.

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The Best Macaroni & Cheese Recipe Ever

The best mac and cheese! Seriously. Creamy, cheesy, straightforward, ooey, gooey – this recipe will knock your socks off.

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 all-purpose 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 (approx. 12 ounces) grated medium cheddar cheese**

Directions:

  1. 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)
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. To a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the flour, salt, dry mustard, pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika. With a wooden spoon or whisk, stir constantly for three minutes.
  4. Add the milk in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Continue to stir constantly until the sauce thickens, about 10-12 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and add 2 cups of the cheese, stirring until melted. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss gently until all of the pasta is coated.
  6. Add half the pasta to a two-quart casserole dish (I like a tall 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish). Sprinkle on half the cheese. Add the rest of the pasta. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, then dust lightly with the smoked paprika.
  7. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the mac and cheese starts getting a slightly dry and a tiny bit brown on top. Serve, topping individual servings with cooked, chopped bacon if desired.

Meat option

Add cooked and crumbled bacon to the top of individual servings (or the whole thing if your whole clan is carnivorous).

Please resist adding more pasta and cheese!

*Please resist the urge to add more pasta 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.

Doubling this recipe

I (and many others) have doubled this recipe with success – no changes needed other than a bigger pan!

Make-ahead notes

When you make this recipe ahead of time, please know the result may be a tad more dry. Still delicious! But a little less saucy. I recommend assembling it up to the point of baking, refrigerating, then, before baking, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Then proceed with baking.

Nutrition Information

Yield: Serves about 6, Serving Size: 1/6 of recipe

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 438 Calories
  • Total Fat: 25g
  • Saturated Fat: 16g
  • Cholesterol: 77mg
  • Sodium: 596mg
  • Carbohydrates: 33g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugar: 3g
  • Protein: 20g

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

// All images and text © for Kitchen Treaty.

The Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Ever - Seriously. Creamy, cheesy, straightforward, ooey, gooey - this macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off.

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Karen Raye

Kare is a vegetarian home cook living among carnivores. She loves creating irresistible and flexible recipes that help multi-vore families like hers keep the peace - deliciously.