Mac and cheese is one of my favorite foods of all time. It’s the ultimate comfort food. It’s pretty simple and straightforward to make—and even easier to elevate it into something rich, indulgent, and delicious. My Homemade Mac and Cheese recipe is sure to hit the spot when you’re craving something warm and cheesy.
I’ve shared a mac and cheese recipe on the blog before, but this one is much improved and way cheesier. It’s the perfect accompaniment to any main dish, and delicious as the main dish itself. Yes, I am 10000% guilty of eating a whole bowl of mac and cheese for a meal. No shame at all.
Mac and cheese is ideal for cold winter nights. It’s been especially colder and rainy here lately, and all I’ve wanted to eat is bowls and bowls of mac and cheese. Fortunately, this homemade mac and cheese recipe can be made on the stovetop in under an hour. So if you’re craving some comfort food during the day, you don’t have to wait too long (or work too hard) to dig in!
I never make mac and cheese with fewer than three cheeses. It’s just not in my DNA. Multiple cheeses bring different flavors to your final mac and cheese and add so much more depth. For this recipe, I used cheddar, gruyere, and smoked gouda. In the past I’ve added some fontina for extra melty-ness, or parmesan for some sharpness. Gruyere can be a little funky (in smell and taste), so you can certainly switch that out for fontina, Monterey jack, or another cheese of your choice.
And please, for the love of God, leave out the Velveeta. I almost lost my mind the other day after watching a YouTube video in which a Canadian living in San Diego proclaimed that “it’s not Southern mac and cheese if it doesn’t have Velveeta in it.” That is not true. Don’t listen to it. Also, grate your own cheese. Pre-grated cheese is often coated in flour, which will throw off your cheese sauce.
Related: Aldi has a really awesome, affordable cheese selection. I got my three cheeses there for under $10. If you have an Aldi near you, I highly recommend checking it out! I have a whole post about how to shop at Aldi if you’ve never been.
There’s a whole discussion about whether to bake or not to bake your mac and cheese. For baked mac and cheese, you often add a couple of eggs to your cheese mixture and top it with bread crumbs so it bakes kind of like a soufflé. Personally, I prefer my mac and cheese as melty, saucy, and gooey as possible—which usually means not baked. I want my noodles drowning in cheese. This is not a baked mac and cheese recipe, but if you’d like some browning on top, I’ll add a note at the end for how to achieve that.
As for the pasta choice, you’ll want something that will hold up to a thick mornay cheese sauce. I personally prefer larger noodles, like cavatappi, rigatoni, penne, large elbows, large shells, or even penne. Larger pastas with more surface area allow for more cheese coverage. And isn’t that what we all want from our mac and cheese, anyway?
How to make Homemade Mac and Cheese
First, boil your pasta. Get your pasta cooking while you’re making the cheese sauce. The sauce should be done (or close to done) when the pasta is ready. Don’t forget to salt your water!
Next, make a roux. No, not quite like a dark Cajun roux. For this, add equal parts butter and flour to a Dutch oven or large saucepan, and whisk until it becomes a thick paste. Slowly add milk and whisk until it’s smooth, combined, and slightly thickened.
Add your grated cheeses. Add your grated cheese mixture little by little, stirring to melt after each addition.
Add your spices. Salt, pepper, paprika, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder. Those are my go-to mac and cheese spices, but feel free to adjust based on your preferences. I’m careful with salt, since cheese itself is naturally salty. This is why tasting while cooking is important!
Drain the cooked pasta. Once your pasta reaches al dente, drain it. Don’t rinse it! Add a pat of butter (or a drizzle of a neutral oil), and stir carefully until butter is melted.
Carefully combine cooked pasta and cheese sauce. Add the drained pasta to your cheese sauce and stir to combine. Admire the cheesiness you’re about to consume.
If you’d like to brown the top for a little texture, pour your mac and cheese into a buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle a mix of seasoned breadcrumbs (or crushed Ritz crackers) and grated cheese over the top, and either bake at 350 for 10 minutes, or broil on low for no longer than 10 minutes.
Okay y’all, that’s my tutorial on the best ever homemade mac and cheese! It really comes together quickly and smoothly, so you can enjoy a nice warm bowl as soon as tonight.
If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like:
- Baked Sweet Potato Fries
- One-Pot Turkey Chili
- Peach Cheese Board
- Pimento Cheese Sausage Balls
- Cheesy Grits
Best Ever Homemade Mac and Cheese
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 cups whole milk (or preferred milk)
- 1 pound pasta of choice
- 8 oz grated cheese blend of choice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Cook your pasta to al dente in salted water. Drain, but do not rinse, when done.
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, add butter and flour, and whisk to make a roux. Don't let it go for too long - we don't need a dark roux here.
Slowly add the milk and whisk continuously until smooth and the sauce begins to thicken.
Add the grated cheese in phases, whisking until melted and smooth after each addition. Add spices and stir.
Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to combine. Serve warm.
OPTIONAL: Top with breadcrumbs and cheese, and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.