Baked Mac And Cheese Recipe

Macaroni and cheese may have started out as a rock-bottom budget staple, but recent recipes are often enhanced with a plethora of unexpected mac and cheese ingredients that can make any macaroni and cheese over-the-top. Here, recipe developer Jessica Morone is taking us back to basics with a baked macaroni and cheese recipe that she says is her favorite. "The pasta is so cheesy and creamy," she tells us, adding that "the addition of the panko breadcrumbs on top gives it a nice bit of crunch."

While Morone describes this macaroni and cheese as "a basic base recipe ... there are always things you can add to it," and suggests crumbled cooked bacon, shredded cooked chicken, mushrooms, peas, or hot sauce as possibilities. For this recipe, she says her special ingredient is Dijon mustard, something she feels "rounds out the flavor of the mac and cheese by adding a little more of a tangy flavor."

Assemble the ingredients for the baked mac and cheese

For the macaroni noodle, Morone sticks with the standard elbow shape, although she notes that "You can definitely switch up the pasta if you want ... shell pasta, rotini, or any other small pasta would work pretty well." She uses cream cheese, as well as cheddar and Gruyere cheese, but says "if you want to swap a different cheese in for the Gruyere, you could do that," suggesting Gouda, Muenster, mozzarella, fontina, havarti, and Monterey jack as possible substitutes.

The other ingredients needed to make this dish are butter, all-purpose flour, milk, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and panko bread crumbs.

Cook the pasta

Cook the pasta according to the package's directions, but knock a minute or two off the cooking time. As Morone points out, "You want to cook the pasta until it's slightly less than al dente so that when it bakes in the oven it won't get too soft." Drain the pasta, then pour it into a greased 13x9-inch baking dish. 

Make the cheese sauce

While the noodles cook, melt 8 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the milk, mustard, salt, and pepper, then bring the sauce to a boil. Quickly, before it boils over, turn the heat back down, and let the mixture simmer. At this point, you'll need to let the sauce cook until it thickens, which will take about 5 minutes. Stir in the cream cheese, and once it's melted, stir in the other cheeses until melted. Once the sauce is smooth and lump-free, stir it into the baking dish with the cooked pasta.

Add the crumb topping, and bake the macaroni and cheese

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, mix it with the panko breadcrumbs, and then sprinkle the mixture over the pasta to form a crust. Bake the macaroni and cheese for 20 to 25 minutes, taking it out of the oven when the top is golden brown.

While this macaroni and cheese recipe tastes best when it's warm, there's no need to worry about leftovers. Morone tells us that "Freezing leftover mac and cheese is a great way to save it for later," plus leftovers can also be put to use as a topper for burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, or even pizza.

Baked Mac And Cheese Recipe
5 from 29 ratings
Nothing signifies comfort food more than creamy macaroni and cheese, and this classic, yet customizable recipe is sure to become a weeknight favorite.
Prep Time
Cook Time
macaroni and cheese in pan
Total time: 40 minutes
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 10 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 cups Gruyere cheese
  • 3 cups cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Cook the pasta per the package's directions, but knock a minute or two off the cooking time. Drain the pasta, and pour it into a greased 13x9-inch pan.
  3. While the noodles cook, melt 8 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.
  4. Stir the flour into the butter, and cook for 1 minute. Stir the milk into the roux along with the Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.
  5. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes until thickened.
  6. Stir the cream cheese into the sauce until it melts. Add the Gruyere and cheddar cheese until melted, and incorporate the sauce into the baking dish with the pasta.
  7. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and toss with the panko breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs in an even layer over the macaroni and cheese.
  8. Bake the macaroni and cheese for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown, and serve warm.
Calories per Serving 696
Total Fat 44.6 g
Saturated Fat 25.8 g
Trans Fat 0.9 g
Cholesterol 132.2 mg
Total Carbohydrates 45.7 g
Dietary Fiber 1.8 g
Total Sugars 6.1 g
Sodium 587.9 mg
Protein 28.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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