THE Mac and Cheese

I know, I know.  I’ve claimed before to have the perfect mac and cheese recipe.  And I really thought I did.  And to some members of my family, it still is the favorite.  The former recipe is the kind that is baked with eggs and therefore is a meal unto itself.

This one is the one I make to go along with fried chicken or Hammy Sammies or Beef Roast Sandwiches.  Heck, this would make a PBJ look great.  You could also easily add chunks of ham and make it a full meal.  Add some bacon or crab if it floats your boat!  The possibilities are endless.

Our favorite combinations are a Havarti (2 cups) Cheddar (4 cups) blend with bacon, or smoked Gouda/Cheddar with ham.  Also, we’ve grown quite fond of next-day-leftovers fried in refined coconut oil.

[This recipe has gone viral since I first posted it.  If you're visiting from Pinterest, please take a minutes and check my recipe index for hundreds of other great recipes!]


This one has become my frenemy.   It is why I exercise.  I both love and despise it.

It took me awhile to perfect it.  I’m super sorry to the friends I tried it out on before I got the seasonings quite right.  We’re there.  It’s now safe to eat.

And it’s EASY.  The only bummer is the tired hand you’ll have from grating all of that cheddar.

Boil your choice of pasta (I love cavatappi ’cause it’s just so fun) in water salted with a teaspoon of salt until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, melt 1/2 c. (1 stick) of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Sprinkle in 1/2 c. flour and whisk together for 2-3 minutes to let it cook.

Slowly pour in 4 cups of whole milk (don’t skimp here–in fact you can even use some cream) whisking as you go until smooth.  Add in 6 cups freshly shredded Cheddar (I use white or sharp).  You can mix your cheeses if you’d like.  Last time I made it I substituted in one cup of Gouda for one cup of the Cheddar and my husband declared it the best yet.  I’ve also added in Parmagiano/Reggiano as well.

Add in 1 T. salt and 1 T. pepper.  It’s a lot of spice, but you’ll need it.  If you’re not huge pepper fans cut that down a bit, but you need the full amount of salt for this amount of pasta.  I use Kosher or sea salt or my new favorite Real Salt.

Put the whole hot, gooey mixture into a buttered 9×13 pan.

In a small skillet, melt 2 T. butter over medium heat.  Add in 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs.  Stir constantly until golden brown.  Sprinkle over the macaroni.

Bake in a 325 degree preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.

Hot, cheesy perfection.


THE Mac and Cheese Grocery List

1 lb. pasta

1/2 c. butter

1/2 c. flour

4 c. milk

6 c. sharp or white Cheddar

1 T. salt

1 T. pepper

2. T. butter

1/2 c. panko bread crumbs

95 thoughts on “THE Mac and Cheese

  1. My mouth waters! I’m stuck on the iPad this week, but will be pinning this later! I’m a sucker for carbs and cheese.

      • I’ have a culinary degree and by far Hands down best mac n cheese ever…everyone at the yacht club was raving about the mac n cheese

        • Seriously, Robert? I am honored that you tried it let alone liked it! I’m curious — did you stick to the recipe or try different cheeses? I’m stuck on a Cheddar/Havarti mix so next time, I would recommend that. Or, if you have leftovers, we love to fry it in coconut oil — good heavens, it’s good.
          Thanks for coming back to comment. You made my day.

  2. We are halfway through making this dish and we are already in love!! This dish is perfect for us college students!! Thank you!!

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    • Good question! I will update the recipe with that info. I guess it depends on if you are serving it as a side dish or a main dish. And, of course,appetite size. :o)
      I would say as a side you can definitely serve 8-10. As a main dish, 6-8.
      Thank you for commenting. Hope you enjoy!

  4. Awesome. Ive made so many versions of homemade mac and cheese and this was definitely one of the best. Only thing I did different is I didnt add salt because my family likes ham in theres so that was salty enough. Easy too!

    • Colleen! What a huge compliment you gave me–not only to try my recipe, but to take the time to comment! And one of your favorites, wow! Mine, too. :o) I love the thought of ham in this. Or bacon. Or lobster. Or mushrooms. Mmmmmmmm…the possibilities are endless!

  5. Hi:-) I am having a white Christmas party and I am serving 20 people.This will be a side dish and I was wondering if I can make it a day ahead without the last step of baking and bake it just before serving? Or should I prebake a day ahead and just reheat for the party?

    • Hi there! What a great question! Unfortunately, I don’t think you’ll like the answer. So far, I’ve never met a yummy reheated Mac and cheese. It just always ends up separated and kinda greasy. The cheese sauce is just best fresh. If at all possible, I would make it fresh if I was you.
      Thanks for trying my recipe and for the comment! Good luck and merry Christmas!

      • Speaking of reheating mac and cheese. Have you ever tried frying it? I make extra just to have some to fry. Take a skillet, spray with non stick, put a layer of leftover mac and cheese in it, fry on medium heat until the bottom is brown and crusty, turn it over and do the other side. It browns beautifully because of all the fat in the sauce. The brown around the edge of the casserole was always my favorite part and now I can have a whole plate of brown and crusty mac and cheese. Enjoy!

        • That is positively genius! I HAVE tried fried mac and cheese. In fact, I’ve driven hours to stuff my face with it at my favorite little hot dog stand in the middle of nowhere! Be assured I will be trying your fabulous idea! Ohmygoodness, I can hardly wait!!!

  6. i needed a receipe just like this for my fussy granddaughter, pasta is the only food she will eat besides ice-cream, at least this is healthier than kraft dinner, thank you.

  7. Thank you for sharing this recipe. I’m going food shopping and I am going to make this. Can’t wait. :) Have a safe and happy NewTears eve.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  8. Found you on Pintrest. great mac and cheese- perfectly creamy without being too fussy and over the top! My husband has had a rough week, this was the comfort that he needed. Thanks

    • I LOVE when what I make can comfort someone I love. I must admit, it flatters me greatly that you tried my recipe, and makes me the happiest blogger that you took the time to compliment my recipe. Happy New Year!!

  9. Kosher salt and domestic and European sea salts are exactly the same nutrition, salt content as table salt. Check the labels.

    • Thank you for your comment. There are many differing opinions about different salts and a lot of info out there. I am still reading (the jury is still out), but I do believe we need sodium in a different way than what we’ve been told all along.

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  11. Made this with half cheddar and half pepper jack for a kick…2 cups 1/2 and 1/2 and 2 cups 1% milk & loved it! I didn’t think i could tackle homemade and have it taste good…thanks for the easy steps!

    • I’m absolutely thrilled that you tried it and liked it! The cheeses are fun to play with to add different flavors. Good for you for mixing it up!
      I used to be intimidated too, but it’s kinda hard to mess up cheese sauce and pasta!
      Thanks for taking the time to comment! :o)

    • Rick…you rock! Thanks for making it and commenting! After a day of blog challenges (working on the technical side of things) I needed something uplifting! Made me happy. Thanks for that!

  12. OMG. I just made this and made the recipe accordingly for yes…22 people. not ONE pasta piece was left. I had four fighting to lick the bowl. You got a winner here girl! thanks for sharing! I’ll be making this one over and over!

  13. I have an awesome shred mix in the fridge right now that has mozzarella, provolone, sharp white cheddar and fontina. I intend to use this for the sauce then add some peas and pearl onions as well as some sauteed chicken. ..yummy

    • Yay! Another bout of PMS vanquished by good food! :o) I’m so very happy you tried it and liked it and let me know! Thanks so much, Molly!

  14. I made this yesterday for our family dinner and was a hit… I followed your tips using cream and the gouda cheese. Whenever we have family dinners one of my son in laws would bring the mac and cheese based on his mom’s recipe….
    This was easy and creamy… loved it….thanks

    • It’s always a risk bringing the new recipe to the table, isn’t it? I felt a sigh of relief hearing that it went over well and that you found a hit! It never fails at my house either! ;o)
      Thanks for trying my recipe and for letting me know that it was good!

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    • What a fabulous comment, Beckie! Best ever, eh? Woohoo! I’m flattered and so grateful for the compliment. Thanks for coming back here to leave such nice words! :o)

  17. This has become my perfect go-to Mac and Cheese recipe. Everyone loves it! I add bacon bits in it to after baking a few strips of bacon and crumbling it in. Thank you!!!

    • Bacon really does make everything better, doesn’t it? I’m beyond thrilled that you like my recipe and so grateful that you would return to let me know. Thank you so very much.

  18. Wow, I love it! I used Tillamook extra sharp white cheddar and a cup of Gruyere. And while I was at it, used fresh pasta over dried. Very rich, creamy and deliciously comforting! We were looking for the perfect side to go with pulled pork sandwhiches and this is a hands-down winner. Thank you! Perfectly seasoned too :)

    • This is the kind of review that reminds me why I do this. Katie, thank you for trying my food and adding such great suggestions! The possibilities for yummy options are endless. And thanks for the seasoning comment–it’s good to know I got that right. ;o)
      Many thanks and happy cooking!

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  20. My first time making baked mac and cheese from scratch and I have to say that it was fun to make and heaven in my mouth. The best comfort food ever!! Cant wait to make it for pot lucks, holidays or just cause. The possibilities are endless!! Thank you for sharing. I look forward to more of your recipes! xoxo

    • Sandra!

      You are so fabulous for taking the time to make my recipe and come back and say the sweetest things ever! I don’t know you, but I sure like you! :o)
      I’m glad you found my little site! Keep trying stuff and tell me what you think!
      Oh, and next time, try some different cheeses! My new favorite is a Havarti/Cheddar combo with ham! Oh, so very, yummy!

      Thanks for making my day happy!

  21. This was a very good recipe but was a little too cheesy for my preference. I will definitely keep the recipe but use less cheese next time! I also just used sharp cheddar so I am looking forward to switching up the cheeses! Thanks for the recipe!

    • Hi, Jo!
      Thanks for making my recipe and taking the time to comment! Is there such a thing as too cheesy? Haha! Certainly not at my house! Seriously though, it’s a good plan to change up the cheeses for different tastes. I usually sub in at least two cups of Gouda or Havarti. Last time I added bacon! YUM!!

  22. I’ve been making approximately the same recipe for years but with only 2 cups of cheese. I tried this last night and it was so much better than what I’ve been making! I had leftovers today and I must say, it was almost as good as it was fresh out of the oven. It reheats so well and it was still creamy. Thank you!

    • I’m so glad you liked it, Mellisa! And I’m super glad you liked it reheated! Lots of cheese is the key, I’m sure to its creamy deliciousness. Thanks for trying it and taking the time to comment!

  23. First of all, the choice of using cavatappi was awesome. That is the perfect pasta for this dish. I’ve used ziti in my mac and cheese, will not use it any more. And on that note, in my former mac and cheese, I only really used cheddar….don’t think I will use just that anymore.

    The amount of liquid goodness to the pasta was spot on, my family loved it. I used white sharp cheddar, muenster and an italian blend pre-shredded package. Just the sight of it when I scooped out the first dish was mouthwatering. I tried to be good cause I’m on the perpetual diet but I couldn’t stop picking at it long after dinner time.

    My son wanted me to put shredded bacon on half of it which I did and it made it even better, give it a try.

    Thanks for sharing, will definitely ditch my old recipe and use this one from now on!!!!

    • I just found your amazing comment in my archives. I try to respond to each and apologize for missing this somehow! I pretty much love every word you said, so thanks for that! And for taking the time to make my food and tell me it was great.
      I hope you still make and love it! Best wishes! :o)

  24. I assume the pasta goes in after the cheese? This is in my oven right now, but 12 mins at 325 doesn’t seem even close to ready. Most of the other recipes I know instruct to bake until bubbly, is that not the case here?

    • I apologize if the directions weren’t clear. You are making a cheese sauce and mixing it in with the cooked pasta. Since everything is hot, it doesn’t need to bake as long as a lot of recipes. Hot, gooey, and cheesy is what comes out of the oven! Thanks for commenting.

  25. Love this! A co-worker of mines made this and brought it to our potluck, and I must say this by far was the best mac-n-cheese I have ever tasted in life. I am going to try and bring it all together myself, but I’m nervous because this will be my first time.

    • Tell yourself, it’s making some pasta and adding in a cheese sauce. You’ve so got this! Take your time and just follow along. Thank you for the sweet compliments! Can’t wait to hear how it went!

  26. My bf has been suffering from migraines and so I decided to cheer him up and make an awesome dinner, he chose Mac and cheese so I searched it on Pinterest and found this and it is awesome!!!! Easy, inexpensive, and it cheered him up! I will for sure make this again!!

    • Well, this is definitely the first Mac and Cheese migraine fix I’ve heard about! :o)
      Tabitha, many thanks for trying my recipe and coming back to let me know you liked it. I hope you try lots of versions — different cheeses and such as you keep making it. If you’re like me, it will easily become a easy regular meal in your rotation. I hope your boyfriend feels better. Best wishes…

  27. This is by far the best ive ever tried. Surpassed my grandmothers hands down and that was the best before this. Not only is it a comfort food for pms as some ladies say but for me its the one food i am able to eat and eat and eat and keep down while prego. The taste and the texture is just right. The cheese just coats the tongue nice and havw the taste buds screamjng for more. U r a truly fantastic mac n cheese goddess. Thank you for sharing ur recipe!! Ur saving me in my pregnancy lol.

    • Hahahaha!! This is my favorite comment to date and one to beat all of you future commenters! Mac and cheese goddess, eh? That is FANTASTIC!! Perhaps I should rename my blog with that in the title! If you loved it, please repin it for me or share my website via Facebook and any other avenue. I’m trying to build my readership!
      BUT, I am saving a pregnancy, so what else really matters? That baby is gonna come out asking for cheesy pasta, I’m thinking! Best wishes to you and your sweet baby, and thanks for the laugh and recipe love. :o)

  28. First off, this recipe sounds delicious, so thank you for that. I’ll be making it tomorrow for my girlfriend and family before game time. Just want to be sure though the uppercase “T” refers to tablespoon in your measurements correct? With that much salt do you not salt the pasta water? Again, thanks so much for the recipe, really does sound good. :)

    • Thanks for trying my recipe, Chris! I hope your girlfriend and family love it as much as we do! Yes, the uppercase T is for Tablespoon. I do salt the water just a bit. Somehow, it’s just not too much salt for this recipe! If you’re concerned at all, just lower the amount a little. You may not even miss it. Hope all goes well! :o)

  29. Oh my goodness!! I made this tonight and it truly is the most delicious mac n cheese I’ve ever had! I halved the recipe and only used sharp cheddar since I didn’t have Gouda on hand but I already can’t wait to try it with other types of cheese!! Thank you for sharing your recipe.

    • Thank you for trying my recipe!! I am so happy you loved it! Most delicious, eh? Well, that reminds me why I’m doing this so thanks for that! Yes, try different cheeses. Add meat — bacon is our favorite! Play around with it. And if you do try a full recipe, put a little refined coconut oil (no flavor) in a nonstick skillet and fry it up until it’s golden on each side. Oh my. Sooo good! Thanks again for the compliments! :)

  30. Ok, after committing to lose 5 lbs( yeah brothers wedding at my house in 7 days) and after deep cleaning blinds, floor boards and the such I drank two glasses of wine and set out to make dinner with what we have on hand…humm….. Noddles various cheeses… Not really wanting to put the effort into chicken Marsala. I stumbled on this on Pinterest. Used leftover parmigiano Romano and a Mexican shredded cheese blend from Costco…. I seriously just licked the pot….. Mac is in the oven and I’ll be setting out clothes for an AM run…. Ummmm thanks! I kinda want to break down the oven door right now.

    • Haha! Girlfriend, you haven’t even gotten to the pasta yet! I am laughing so hard at the thought of you licking the pot! You’ve had a long day — far too much cleaning, I’d say. And I’m sorry, but it sounds like you’re going to have an even longer week. Run a little extra and make some more Mac in a few days. It’ll help. And if there are any leftovers tomorrow, fry that stuff up. Don’t worry, I’ll get you through…
      And afterwards, I’ve got chocolate ideas. ;)

  31. LOVE. I used a mix of Tillamook Vintage Sharp White Cheddar and gruyere, seasoned to taste (about 2t. salt, 2t. pepper, 1/4 t. fresh ground nutmeg and 1/4 t. smoked paprika), diced up some good quality ham in it and served it with braised greens (chopped brussels sprouts and kale) on the side. I can’t wait until Christmas when I get my yearly stash of Cougar Gold cheese – I have a feeling that will be amazing! Thank you for the perfect mac & cheese recipe.

    • Heather! You rocked the cheeses! Wow! I imagine this was over-the-top with your additions! Thanks for sharing them so others can have ideas on how to dress it up and try new things. I love that you loved it and I’m super grateful that you took the time to say so! :)

  32. It’s our two year anniversary, and since we had mac n’ cheese on our first date, it’s our tradition now! We’re saving money by cooking at home this year, and I really didn’t want to just make kraftdinner.. I’m not the greatest cook, but this looks so easy! I am so excited to make this recipe tonight.
    I’m sure my DBF will just LOVE it!

    I’m making this and baked salmon, Thanks so so much for sharing! You’re a gem!

    • Okay, you win for sweetest comment! Literally made me say, “Awwww!”
      I’m jealous of that dinner tonight! You’re going to make him one happy guy!
      Check out some of my other recipes. The goal of my blog is to simplify really good, nutritious food so that even if you don’t feel like you’re a great cook, you can learn to make yummy things and eventually you won’t say that anymore! :)
      You’ll do great tonight! Way to step out!

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  34. Alison, all I can say is WOW! Sitting here watching the 7th game of the World Series, and at the same time, enjoying reading all of the positive comments about your mac and cheese, this Gamma to six knows what she will have on her table the next time our family of 15 sits down for a meal! It has been such a pleasure to read reviews where people have actually made the dish, and then YOU have been so gracious to reply. I certainly am looking forward to preparing your recipe; my biggest problem will be deciding which cheeses to use :)

    • Ahhhhh…Diane…your comment made me smile! :o)
      My blog is important to me — an investment of myself — so each comment is a treasure! It amazes me that people take the time to come back here and let me know how they liked it and what worked for them. I cannot wait to hear how your family likes it! The cheese quandary…yes, it is a sad, sad problem to have, right? You will not go wrong with my favorite — 2 c. Havarti, 4 c. Cheddar. It’s our staple food around here.
      Thanks again, for taking the time to make an appearance. Best wishes to you and all those sweet grandbabies!

      • Hi, Jenny!
        That’s a really good question for which I don’t have a really great answer. A cheese sauce
        tends to change consistency and texture when it’s not served immediately. Technically, it’s possible, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It takes me about 15 or fewer minutes to throw together and 12-15 in the oven so I would say if you could adjust your plans to make it just before serving, you’ll be much happier with the results. Thanks for the great question! :o)

  35. Great recipe!! I made this tonight but made a few tweaks. I sautéed some diced onion before adding the flour. I just love the flavor of onion in the mixture. I also adding a couple bay leaves, a tsp. of mustard powder and a teaspoon of smoked paprika to the sauce. The mustard powder gives it a little tang and the paprika a fun splash of color and a touch of smokiness. For my cheese I did 2 cups of shredded Havarti and 4 cups of sharp cheddar. I love how versatile macaroni and cheese can be. I once saw a recipe make Mexican macaroni and cheese which is next on my list when I have a craving for Mac n’ cheese again!! I also doubled the topping. Thanks for an awesome recipe!!

    • Sounds like you really made this one your own! Thanks for all the ideas! I love this as a base recipe — great as-is or easy to add to. And you’re so very welcome for it! Hope you stick around and try some of my other recipes and come back to share ideas!
      Many thanks! :o)

  36. This recipe is going to be a definite keeper. I tasted the mac and cheese before I put it in the oven and was already impressed. I can’t wait to taste the finished product! Thanks for all your efforts in perfecting the recipe!

    • Julie!!! I sincerely thank you for the compliments! I look forward to hearing how it went over for whomever enjoyed it. :o)
      Tomorrow, try frying the leftovers in a non-stick skillet until each side is golden brown. There’s nothing quite like it!

  37. This recipe hit the spot tonight. Very easy to make, and delicious!
    I will be trying to work with this recipe to make it gluten free, as I have family and friends who are gluten sensitive.
    I will be sure to get back to you and let you know if it was success, or an epic fail.
    Thanks again for sharing your recipe.

    • Karen, I’m so excited about your comment for so many reasons! If you find a way to make this delicious AND gluten free, I will post how you did it on the blog post! Many thanks for trying it, commenting, and your research! :o)

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