Classic Macaroni and Cheese

Is there a more beloved kid's dinner than macaroni and cheese? Combining two of the most kid-welcomed food stuffs -- pasta and cheese -- mac and cheese rarely requires moms to cajole, persuade or bribe their kids to eat at mealtime. Is it the healthiest dinner choice? Of course not. Would I recommend serving it more than once a week? Probably not. But when made well, perhaps with some veggies thrown in, mac & cheese is certainly a far better meal option than say, a Happy Meal.

Whenever my mom made mac and cheese, which wasn't often, it was cause for celebration in our house. The first smell of it cooking away in the oven would make my entire day. She lovingly made her's with tons of hand-grated cheddar and baked it until bubbly, golden and mouthwateringly delicious.

There are several different macaroni and cheese recipes on weelicious like Rice Cooker Mac and Cheese and Mac Chicken and Cheese Bites, but if you're feeding a crowd and want a more classic take on this dish, this recipe is spot on!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:10]

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Classic Macaroni and Cheese (8)

Prep Time: 15 mins Cook Time: 40 mins

nut free

Ingredients

  • topping:
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • mac and cheese:
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons Flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 4 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (you can also use campanelle, cavatappi, or shells)

Preparation

1. Place the topping ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.
2. Preheat oven to 400° F.
3. Cook pasta in salted water* for about 3 minutes less than package directions call for, until al dente, reserving half a cup of the pasta water.
4. In a large pot melt the butter and then add the flour, whisking continuously over low-medium heat for 2-3 minutes to make a roux.
5. Slowly whisk in the milk and bring to a boil.
6. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes, or until sauce is gently bubbling and starting to thicken.
7. Add reserved pasta water and cheddar cheese and whisk until melted.
8. Stir in the pasta.
9. Transfer to a greased 13″ x 9″ baking dish.**
10. Sprinkle topping on macaroni and cheese.
11. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until top is golden and bubbling.
12. Serve.
* Use about 2 Tbsp of kosher salt for 4 quarts of water.
** If making ahead, mixture can be cooled after this step to room temperature, covered and then refrigerated for up to a day.
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Hi, I’m Catherine. Mama of three. A Kentucky girl living in California. Here’s what I know: all kids can be great eaters and mealtime must be easy. My passion is creating simple, healthy recipes that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

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42 comments

  • Maria Dupell

    Oh this looks so good! My family already loves the rice cooker mac and cheese! Im sure we will love this one too! I am a fan of mac and cheese that does not come from a box! Thanks, keep up the awesome work ! :)

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  • Julie

    At which step do you add the pasta to the sauce?

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    • Lauren

      I was thinking the same thing, but I'm pretty sure it's after step 7 and before step 8.

      leave a comment

    • Catherine

      Oh no! Stir it into the cheese sauce after step 7. I have corrected it. Thanks! This Momma's brain gets a little fuzzy sometimes. ;)

      leave a comment

  • Kirsten D

    try adding a tablespoon of dijon mustard to the cheese sauce. It doesn't taste mustardy but it does give it a nice flavor

    leave a comment

  • Heather Kids In The Sink

    Don't fall out, but my kid HATES macaroni and cheese. He always has. But I love macaroni and cheese and love to try new, different recipes. I haven't found a great classic recipe yet, but this looks delicious!

    leave a comment

    • Miranda

      This does look yummy!!! My son hates mac- and cheese... so I like trying different recipies to see if maybe he might like one of them. He's eight and has always hated it.. even in a baby food jar... but I'm a firm believer that he must have a spoonfull of everything that I cook..... so one night at dinner he stuffed it in his pockets lol

      leave a comment

  • Yvonne

    I think I'm going to give this a try this weekend! I would love to add a veggie to this...any reccomendations? Maybe finely chopped broccoli?

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

      Chopped broccoli would be wonderful in this!

      leave a comment

  • Esther

    yum! I've been on a crockpot craze lately and would love to see what weelicious has to offer for mac 'n cheese in the crockpot! I've tried one recipe i found online (uncooked macaroni) which was good - but weelicious always knows how to make things better =D

    I'll give this a try as soon as I can! yummmo!!

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    • Esther

      by the way, what does the flour do to the recipe? Just wondering~

      leave a comment

    • Catherine

      I have been working on a crockpot version!

      leave a comment

  • Betsy

    Thank you for this! I tried to find a mac and cheese recipe just this weekend and failed to be inspired. This will do the trick!

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  • Karen

    Does this recipe freeze well?

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    • Catherine

      I have not frozen it, but after assembling it and before baking it I have covered it and and left it in the fridge all day!

      leave a comment

  • Karen

    When I make a baked mac and cheese I add in some carrot/sweet potato puree (a few tablespoons) with the cheese sauce. It gives it a bright orange color that the kids like and adds a touch of sweetness that doesn't hurt, either. I also try to make mac and cheese with 1% or skim whenever possible to reduce the fat a bit. Also, to pump up nutrition, I will often add ground flax seed meal to the panko crumb topping. It is my kid's favorite meal.

    leave a comment

  • Meghna Grover

    I added one bag of fresh baby spinach and a package of diced pancetta for a one pot meal for the kiddos. They loved it!

    leave a comment

  • Kristi

    I currently have this in the oven as a side dish for our turkey burgers (they'll be topped with avocado and tomato-no buns). I used parmesan and two kinds of cheddar cheese and added chopped broccoli. I don't usually put a topping on my mac n cheese, but decided to give this one a whirl. I only had whole wheat bread crumbs, so I used those and combined the three cheeses to get the 1/2c. Maybe it's because I used regular instead of panko crumbs or maybe because I'm not used to a topping, but I found it to be a little too much so I didn't use it all. I think next time I will try chopped kale or maybe make it a one pot Mexican wonder by adding ground beef (organic), diced tomato, onion, a package of organic taco seasoning and make the topping out of tortilla chips! Endless possibilities with this recipe!! Thanks:)

    leave a comment

  • Worldclock

    Classic Macaroni and Cheese | Weelicious â„¢ - Fast, Easy & Fresh Homemade Home Made Baby Food Babyfood Recipes, Toddler Food and recipes for the entire family! - just great!

    leave a comment

  • Adry

    I made this for my kids today, the pasta was not tender enough, I had to take it out of the oven after 25 min because the top was burning, anyways my kids did not like it : ( i will try to fix the left overs tomorrow by putting them back in the oven covered with foil, but that might make it too dry. I don't know : (

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    • Catherine

      Oh what a bummer! Putting it lower in the oven might help the top not brown too quickly. You could also cover it with foil for the first 20 minutes, remove the cover and let the topping brown for the final 10-20 minutes. How long did you cook your pasta before adding it to all the other ingredients? It should be al dente, which means it has just a little bite to it, firm but not hard, and then it will continue cooking in the oven. I hope you'll try again and I hope it works out better for you!

      leave a comment

  • Heidi

    What happens if all you have it regular table salt?

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    • Catherine

      You can use table salt for boiling pasta water! I prefer the flavor and texture of kosher salt and always have it on hand so it is my preferred salt in cooking.

      leave a comment

  • Jennifer

    I made this and my husband loved it - he is the mac and cheese fan in our house. I made it diabetic friendly for him by using whole wheat panko and the Barilla \"yellow box\" pasta. Also, this is more of a weekend recipe - takes a bit long for a weeknight.

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  • Lisa

    When I took mine out of the oven, the cheese sauce was kind of clumpy. Where did I go wrong? I'm sure it was my fault :) I use sharp cheddar and grated it myself. The kids still ate it (thankfully), but I wasn't a big fan with all the clumps. Thanks for the advice!

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    • Catherine

      When you cooked the sauce on the stove did you whisk continuously? And add the milk slowly while whisking? Those steps are to ensure that the flour and cheese don't clump up and the sauce turns out smooth. The sauce should be smooth before mixing it with the pasta. :)

      leave a comment

  • Beckie White

    My kids will knock each other down for... Apples!!

    leave a comment

  • Sarabeth

    I was hoping to make a big batch of this for a friend who's going back to work, but her kids have an egg allergy. Would this recipe be considered egg-free?

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    • Catherine

      It is egg free! If it is a severe allergy, just make sure to use pasta that isn't made with eggs!

      leave a comment

  • Hannah

    Made this last night it was DELICIOUS!! The only change we made was add tuna, at my son's request. First time, no leftovers :D

    leave a comment

  • Alicia

    I made this last night and it turned out better than I even expected! Constant wisking is certainly key to getting that cheese sauce creamy smooth. Instead of using Panko bread crumbs, I took original Ruffle Chips and crushed them up super small mixed with the recommended cheese. Delish! Next time I anticipate adding in sausage or a can of tuna. Great recipe!

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  • Hannah

    Made this again....I'm not sure who loves it more --- me or my kids :D

    leave a comment

  • schick13

    If I wanted to split this up into two baking dishes (one i will freeze for later) how should I adjust cooking time? Also, if I want to add frozen peas, should i cook before adding? thanks so much! cant wait to try!

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

      The frozen peas, just defrost them. Don't need to cook them first! You can put the frozen peas in hot water for about five minutes to defrost! Check out this recipe where I added spinach, broccoli and peas: http://b12.ba4.myftpupload.com/2013/03/06/green-mac-and-cheese/
      Even if you're splitting this into two dishes, you'll still cook it for about 20 minutes! The baking in the oven is just to get everything all melted, hot and golden brown!

      leave a comment

  • Deanne

    Can this be done in the croc pot?

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

      I am working on a Crock Pot mac and cheese recipe! If you have a rice cooker, you can try one of my family's favorite recipes! http://b12.ba4.myftpupload.com/2010/03/03/rice-cooker-mac-cheese/

      leave a comment

  • Megan

    How many ounces in 2 cups of cheese? I don't buy pre-grated and can't get a clear answer from my online searches. One 8 oz package fills up 4 cup, unless I press it down really hard, then it fills about 2.

    leave a comment

    • Catherine McCord

      I do loosely packed! I use freshly grated cheese, too!

      leave a comment

  • Melanie

    Will this work with quinoa flour instead?

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  • Liz Smith

    Oh this looks so yummy - will save this recipe for next time I am cooking for company! love home made mac n cheese

    leave a comment

  • Shiona

    I'm ten and I'm vegan can you do a few vegan recipes I love your recipes but some of them aren't vegan so I get left out thank you and Kroger has vegan meats and dairy products

    leave a comment

  • Tanya

    Love this recipe!

    leave a comment