Easy Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe

Move aside, Kraft. This homemade mac and cheese recipe is easy, breezy and ultra cheesy

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Let’s start by saying there is nothing wrong with macaroni and cheese from a box. It’s delicious and it can be made in less than 10 minutes. And yet, sometimes you just want the real deal. That’s where this delicious mac and cheese recipe comes in handy. 

The best part? It’s nowhere near as complicated as many homemade baked mac and cheese recipes are, and it eschews fancy cheeses in favor of readily available shredded cheddar and mozzarella. (Though feel free to put your own spin on it and add Gruyère or Asiago or whatever your heart desires.)

How to make mac and cheese that’s not from a box

To make this baked mac and cheese dish, you’ll need some kitchen staples, such as butter and flour, and a few basic ingredients: two types of shredded cheese, whole milk and penne rigate. The rigate part of the penne is important.

Choosing the right pasta

When you make homemade mac and cheese, you want to choose pasta that holds the cheesy sauce well. Traditional elbow macaroni does this because it’s tube pasta that the sauce can burrow into. You can use traditional elbow macaroni, but we especially like penne rigate, which has little grooves or ridges on the outside, perfect for gripping even more sauce. Penne lisce, on the other hand, is smooth penne, so make sure you look carefully at which one you’re buying.

Prepping the pasta and sauce 

This easy mac and cheese dish requires some active prep work, but none of it is too complicated. All you have to do is cook your pasta in boiling water and while that is cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. That means whisking flour into melted butter in a saucepan for about 5 minutes to create a roux, then stirring milk into your roux for about another 5 minutes. Then you stir in shredded cheese until it melts, which takes another 2–4 minutes. 

Again, it’s nothing complicated, but you might want to put on a podcast while you stand in front of the stove. 

Baking the mac and cheese 

Next, you strain your pasta and add it to a baking dish or—to make this a truly easy homemade mac and cheese—a foil pan that can go straight into the fridge if you have leftovers. Finally, you pour your cheese sauce over the pasta, add your remaining shredded cheese on top and then bake the whole thing in the oven for about 15 minutes. 

We promise the end result will be worth the extra effort that comes with making homemade mac and cheese. 

Mac and Cheese Recipe

Prep time: 35 minutes 

Total time: 50 minutes 

Ingredients

  • 1 package penne rigate pasta 
  • Salt 
  • 8 Tbsp butter 
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 package shredded cheddar (6 oz)
  • 1 package finely shredded mozzarella (8 oz)

Directions 

  1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF and grease a baking dish or foil pan (we recommend 9″x13″, but any oven-safe dish will do the trick!)
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 1 package pasta, stir and cook until al dente (still firm to the bite, not mushy) for about 9 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain. 
  3. In a saucepan, melt 8 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Stir in 1/2 cup flour and whisk until combined, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Slowly add 4 cups milk, continuously stirring for another 5 minutes, or until thickened.
  5. Add 1/2 of each package of shredded cheese, stirring to combine for 2–4 minutes, or until cheese sauce is melted.
  6. Remove from heat and add the cooked pasta and cheese sauce to baking dish or foil pan, and stir to combine.
  7. Top with remaining cheese and bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

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