Creamy Mac and Cheese Casserole: This Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole is perfect for all occasions. With thick and creamy cheese sauce, and a topping made of…you guessed it–cheese, it is sure to be a hit. Pure comfort food easy enough for any day of the week.
This easy baked mac and cheese is delicious and incredibly simple. This really is all you need for a comforting and tasty meal. Creamy and smooth yet still full of strong cheesy flavors that will make your mouth water. Perfect for dinner tonight or for the freezer until its needed. This is a great make ahead meal.
How do you make homemade macaroni and cheese?
Having meals I can make ahead that I know my family will love is crucial to my existence. It may sound dramatic, but here is the thing, I travel a lot. And I do not always take my kids. Which means I have to get babysitters for my kids when I’m gone. And I usually leave meals with the babysitter to feed my kids while I am away. The trick is leaving something I know they will eat. Babysitters shouldn’t have to deal picky eaters.
One of the meals that became my go-to was boxed mac and cheese. As a food blogger this was extremely embarrassing to me. However, I realized two things: Convenience is crucial, and kids love Mac and cheese. So because it was easy and my kids usually liked it, that is what they got.
Until I realized I could still give them delicious Mac and cheese that is easy, but with an upgrade. Instead of powdered cheese, it could have real cheese. And this homemade alternative to the boxed meal is surprisingly easy, not much more work then a boxed option. I can now leave delicious comfort food in place of the boxed macaroni with instructions to simply put it in the oven and bake it for the kids for dinner.
What is the best cheese to use for macaroni and cheese?
The best cheese to use for a Mac and cheese is a good melting cheese the provides the flavor you want. For me this is usually a combination of cheddar, sharp, and parmesan.
When I was recipe testing for this homemade macaroni and cheese casserole, I tried a lot of different kinds of cheeses. Some cheeses melt better than others, and some have more flavor than others. While I tried several fancy cheeses, I settled on a few cheeses I like for flavor and texture- mainly sharp cheddar cheeses and parmesan. While I might toss in something like a gruyere for me, my kids are super happy with the variety of cheddar cheeses, and I am happy with consistent results.
A sharp white cheddar cheese will produce a smooth creamy sauce, and the extra sharp and yellow cheddars provide rich flavor. I use a mix of white and extra sharp cheddar, as well as some parmesan to get a combination of the flavors and textures I want.
Why is my macaroni and cheese gritty?
The key to a good mac and cheese casserole is learning how to make it a creamy mac and cheese; and the key to creamy mac and cheese is three pronged:
- Start with a roux as your sauce base: This is really important, and if you do not prep your roux properly it will get grainy. So make sure you don’t rush it. Cook on a medium heat, and cook that flour through. Another alternative is to use evaporated milk instead of a roux and cream, but I like the flavor better with the recipe listed below.
- Use quality cheese: The number one reason you get clump Mac and cheese is low quality cheese. So choose a good well aged, pure cheese that doesn’t have additives. it is also good to grate it yourself. The kind that comes pre-grated has added things to keep it from clumping, which can impact the melting and smoothness.
- Not overheating: This is also a key factor. Be patient, cook on medium heat. It will result in a lovely, creamy texture. Overheating the cheese can also lead to a grainy, broken cheese sauce.
Sides to serve with Macaroni and Cheese:
Creamy Mac and Cheese Casserole
- 12 oz dry elbow macaroni
- 6 Tbs butter divided
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups light cream
- 1 Tbs dijon mustard
- 1 tsp onion powder
- salt & pepper to taste
- 3 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar
- 2 cups freshly shredded white cheddar
- 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Cook macaroni 1-2 minutes less than package directions indicate, so soft but not mushy. Drain and run under cold water.
- Melt 4 Tbs butter over medium heat in a large saucepan.
- Once butter is melted, whisk in flour and let cook 2 minutes while stirring. Slowly whisk in cream, milk, mustard and onion powder. Cook over medium heat while stirring until thickened.
- Remove from heat and stir in remaining butter, parmesan cheese, 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, and 2 cups white cheddar cheese until melted.
- Taste, and add salt and pepper to preference.
- Toss cheese sauce & macaroni noodles together. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Top with remaining sharp cheddar cheese.
- Bake 18-20 minutes or until bubbly. Be careful to not overcook, you want it to be a little runny, it will thicken as it cools.
- Cool 10 minutes before serving to let it thicken.
Our recipe card software calculates these nutrition facts based on averages for the above ingredients, different brands, and quality of produce/meats may have different nutritional information, always calculate your own based on the specific products you use in order to achieve accurate macros for this recipe.
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