Baked Mac and Cheese

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My kids are big fans of macaroni and cheese, they always ask for slow cooker macaroni and cheese, stove top macaroni and cheese, and this ultra decadent baked version. In my opinion, you can never go wrong with macaroni and cheese!

Macaroni and cheese is a timeless recipe for a reason – it's incredibly delicious! This baked mac and cheese is the latest version of this popular dish. It has plenty of corkscrew paste in a super smooth and creamy sauce, with plenty of melted cheese for good measure. It is the best macaroni and cheese I have ever tasted.

How do you make baked macaroni and cheese?

This recipe starts by making a thick milk sauce, and the pasta goes into the milk sauce to simmer along with some spices. When the noodles are tender, mix two types of grated cheese. The final step is to transfer your macaroni and cheese to a saucepan, cover it with more cheese, then bake everything to make it gooey and melted to perfection.

Tips for Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • I use corkscrew paste in this recipe, sometimes called cavatappi or cellentani. These noodles are more filling than standard elbow macaroni and do not get mushy when baked. That said, if you want to use elbow macaroni or a different type of short pasta, that will work well, too.
  • I recommend using freshly grated cheese for this recipe. The pre-cut cheeses in bags are coated with anti-caking agents and simply do not melt as smoothly.
  • I find that whole milk works best for the creamier sauce.

What are the best cheeses for macaroni and cheese?

Cheddar cheese is my favorite choice for macaroni and cheese. It is tasty, melts very well and gives mac and cheese their traditional orange color. That said, be sure to use a regular smooth, medium, or sharp cheddar cheese and not a cheddar that is extra sharp or aged. Aged cheeses can separate when melted and you won't get a smooth, silky sauce. I often add small amounts of other types of cheese for added flavor, such as parmesan, jack cheese, or mozzarella. For this recipe, I added a little mozzarella because I love the creamy flavor it adds to this dish.

What can I add to mac and cheese?

I'm a purist and I love my macaroni and cheese just with noodles and cheese sauce, sometimes with a little parsley to garnish. But there are countless ways to dress up your macaroni and cheese. Some suggestions are:

  • Shredded cooked bacon
  • Grilled chicken
  • Fresh herbs
  • Broccoli
  • Hot sauce
  • JalapeƱos
  • Stuffed breadcrumbs with butter

WHAT SPICES ARE GOOD WITH MAC AND BAKED CHEESE?

Spices are a great way to accentuate the flavor of cheese sauce. I usually add salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika to my macaroni and cheese. You can also use bell pepper, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic salt, or chili powder.

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WHAT ABOUT MAC AND CHEESE?

I usually serve this mac and baked cheese as a garnish, but my kids often eat it as a main course! Here are some starter suggestions and side dishes to go with your macaroni and cheese.

  • Chicken thighs with garlic and herbs
  • Roasted asparagus
  • Bittersweet meatballs
  • Roasted pumpkin
  • Fried cabbage with bacon

Baked Mac and Cheese

This baked mac and cheese is a mix of tender noodles in a rich and creamy cheese sauce, topped with more cheese and baked to perfection. The best macaroni and cheese recipe that always gets rave reviews!

Preparation time: 15 minutes Cook time: 35 minutes Total time: 50 minutes

Servings: 10 Calories: 485kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 butter spoons
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 1/4 cups of water
  • 4 cups milk I use whole milk
  • 1 pound of corkscrew pasta like cavatappi or cellentani
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided use
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • Cooking spray

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 3-4 quart baking sheet with cooking spray.
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, then beat until combined, about 30 seconds.
  • Pour in the water and beat until smooth and thick.
  • Add milk and beat until combined.
  • Add pasta, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and pepper, then simmer.
  • Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.
  • Lower the heat, then add 4 cups cheddar cheese and mozzarella. Keep stirring until the sauce is smooth.
  • Spread the pasta mixture in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheddar cheese on top.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and pasta is bubbly. Serve immediately.

Nutrition

Calories :: 485kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 663 mg | Potassium: 293 mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 920 IU | Calcium: 585mg | Iron: 1.2mg

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