Loaded with good sharp cheddar cheese, this baked cheddar mac and cheese recipe is the definition of comfort food and is perfect on its own or as a side.
Christmas is just around the corner, which means many families will be getting together for breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinners. Once I started to get into cooking, one of the first things I wanted to make was homemade baked mac and cheese. I made it a goal to have what I thought was the best mac and cheese recipe. And after experimenting, I believe I found it. The key? Lots of cheese!
When writing this recipe, I was curious where my favorite dish originated from. According to legend, it was Thomas Jefferson who encountered macaroni in Paris and brought back the recipe to the states. Of course it was Kraft that made it famous in the mid 1930s.
Now I’ve made plenty of mac and cheese recipes over the years with different types of cheese, but my go-to for dinner parties or family gatherings is this cheddar mac and cheese. Now it will taste different, depending on the type of cheddar you buy. You can obviously just buy shredded cheddar cheese, but I go for the sharp or extra sharp blocks and shred myself. It adds five minutes but you can taste the difference! So if you haven’t decided on what to make for the coming holiday parties, give this baked cheddar mac and cheese a try. Enjoy!
What Ingredients are in the Baked Cheddar Mac and Cheese Recipe?
- Unsalted butter
- All-purpose flour
- Spices – dry mustard and black pepper
- Sharp cheddar cheese
How to Make Macaroni and Cheese
- In large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, stir in flour and black pepper, cooking for 1-2 minutes until well combined and flour is starting to bubble.
- Gradually add milk and cook for about 10 minutes or until them mixture is smooth and bubbly.
- While sauce is cooking, boil macaroni in pot according to package instructions for al dente.
- Once sauce is bubbling, remove from heat and stir in 4 cups of cheddar cheese.
- Add pasta and mix until everything is coated.
- Transfer half of the pasta to a greased 9×13 baking dish or 12 inch cast iron skillet. Spread 2 cups of cheddar cheese evenly throughout.
- Add the remaining pasta and top with the remaining cheese.
- Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and browned on top.
Tips for Great Mac and Cheese
- No overcooked pasta – cook the macaroni al dente according to the package instructions. The pasta will finish cooking in the oven while it’s in the sauce.
- Freshly grated cheese – don’t use pre shredded cheese. It doesn’t taste as good and also has addition ingredients that you don’t need.
- Stir constantly – once the milk is added, you must stir constantly as it heats up and becomes thick. Otherwise you’ll have burnt milk on the bottom.
- Lots of sauce – who likes a dry mac and cheese? At first when making this, you’ll think it is too much sauce but believe me when that the macaroni soaks it up.
- Create layers – you’ll notice only have of the cheese goes in the sauce. When preparing the mac and cheese, you add only have to the baking dish then 2 cups of cheese. You then add the remaining half of the pasta before topping with the remaining cheese.
Can You Make Baked Mac and Cheese Ahead of Time?
Yes. Just prepare all the way to where the macaroni is in the baking dish. Cool before topping with the remaining cheese so it doesn’t melt. The refrigerate or freeze before baking the day you need it. You can keep in the fridge for about 3 days before using. You can freeze for 3 months before baking. If you freeze, you need to allow to that before baking per the recipe.
Other Mac and Cheese Recipes
- Smoked Gouda Bacon Mac and Cheese
- Pesto Goat Cheese Mac and Cheese
- Baked Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- Baked Rigatoni with Prosciutto
- Baked Mac and Cheese Bites
Baked Cheddar Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb macaroni
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp dry mustard
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 4 cups milk
- 8 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook macaroni according to package and set aside.
- In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt butter. Stir in flour, dry mustard and black pepper. Cook for about 1-2 minutes until well combined. Gradually add milk and cook until the mixture is smooth and bubbly, about 10 minutes. You'll want to stir constantly.
- Remove sauce from heat and gradually add 4 cups of sharp cheddar cheese and whisk until cheese is melted and smooth.
- Add pasta and mix until everything is coated. Pour half of the mac and cheese into a 9x13 greased baking dish or 12 inch cast iron skillet. Add 2 cups of cheese evenly throughout and then the remaining mac and cheese. Top with remaining 2 cups of cheese.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and bubbly. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.