This easy baked macaroni and cheese combines cheese, butter, and a creamy bechamel sauce all baked together in one delicious side dish!
Macaroni and cheese is one of those dishes that can be enjoyed for pretty much every occasion, during all times of the year, and by everyone. Kind of like Instant Pot fettuccine Alfredo.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, summer picnic, you name the theme and baked mac and cheese is a good fit. Plus, it’s just amazing for dinner or when you’re craving something cheesy.
This recipe is super easy to make – you just combine a few ingredients, add it to a pan, and bake with lots of yummy cheese on top. Kids will love it. Adults will love it.
- Macaroni – you could also make this recipe with something like small shells, but I don’t recommend using pasta larger than that.
- Cheese – as long as you keep the same amount, you can use any cheese that melts well. I just like the cheddar cheese to keep it as kid-friendly as possible.
Okay so this recipe really just takes a few steps – cooking your macaroni, making your cream sauce and baking. I mean it is baked macaroni and cheese after all!
1 – Cook your macaroni
Unlike with this baked ziti, the first thing you want to do is cook your macaroni just like the package says. It’ll likely take somewhere around 10-15 minutes.
While the macaroni is cooking, you can work on the butter cream sauce.
2 – Make Your Sauce
The best part of this recipe is the butter cream sauce that you put on top of the macaroni while it bakes. This combined with the cheese makes for the most creamy and delicious dish.
To make the sauce, melt 2 TBS of butter in a large saute pan. Watch it closely and move onto the next step as soon as it’s mostly melted – you don’t want it to brown.
Once the butter is heated, reduce the heat to low and add your flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper.
Use a whisk and stir until the mixture is bubbly.
Then add the milk and bring to a boil, stirring the mixture constantly.
Once it’s boiling, stir for one more minute then remove the mixture from heat. You should have a cream base that’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
3 – Bake
Before you bake, you’re going to create your layered mac and cheese. It’s kind of like a lasagna but macaroni and cheese instead.
Place half the cooked macaroni on the bottom of a squash baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp garlic salt.
Top with half the shredded cheese.
Repeat the layers again – the other half of the macaroni noodles and the other half of the cheddar cheese.
Pour the white bechamel sauce over the top of the final cheese layer.
Add the cuber butter on top and ocver with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes covered then remove foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.
Serve warm with your favorite main dish, as a side to a holiday feast, or just as a stand alone dinner on its own (like these coconut chicken tenders)! It’d be really good paired with these roasted root vegetables or some honey roasted carrots!
Double the recipe by simply doubling the ingredients and baking it in a 9×13 casserole dish instead. This is a great meal for a crowd, a party, or a holiday feast!
Stir the bechamel sauce constantly while you’re cooking it. You don’t want any part of it to burn or brown or it’ll change the flavor of the sauce.
Cook the macaroni to al dente since they’ll get cooked a bit more in the oven and you don’t want them to end up totally mushy.
Up the salt in the recipe by 1/2 tsp if you like your macaroni and cheese a bit salty. We like to salt to taste since my husband and I have different salt preferences – if you like a bit more salty, go for 1 1/4 tsp salt instead.
This baked mac and cheese has to be baked or the cheese won’t melt and the bechamel sauce won’t combine into the cheese properly. There are plenty of other regular mac and cheese recipes out there, but this one needs to be baked.
Macaroni typically takes somewhere between 7-10 minutes depending on what kind you’re using, if it’s organic, etc. Follow the directions on whatever package you’re using to cook the pasta to al dente.
Mac and cheese traditionally uses cheddar cheese but you can really use anything that melts well – white cheddar, gruyere, mozzarella, fontina, provolone are just a few others.
You can definitely make this ahead of time and just reheat when you’re ready to serve. Keep it in a covered container in the fridge then heat back up in the oven when you’re ready to serve.
This also freezes extremely well, as do most baked pasta dishes. Freeze it in a freezer safe, airtight container. When you’re ready to eat, thaw it in the fridge overnight then reheat in the oven.
More Easy Pasta Recipes
- Ground turkey pasta
- Spinach and artichoke pasta
- Pasta with a Garlic Butter Sauce
- Homemade egg noodles
- Sweet spaghetti sauce
Easy Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- ½ lb uncooked macaroni noodles about 3 cups cooked
- 3 TBS butter 1 TBS cut into small cubes
- 2 TBS flour
- ¾ tsp salt divided
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 2 cups milk
- ¼ tsp garlic salt
- 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- Cook macaroni according to package directions.1/2 lb uncooked macaroni noodles
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- While macaroni cooks, melt 2 TBS butter in a large pan over medium heat.3 TBS butter
- Reduce heat to low and add the flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper to pan. Use a whisk to stir until the mixture is bubbly.2 TBS flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Add milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then remove bechamel sauce from heat.2 cups milk
- Place half the cooked macaroni (about 1 1/2 cups) on the bottom of a square 9×9 baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp garlic salt. Top with 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese. Repeat the layers one more time.3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp garlic salt, 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- Pour white becamel sauce over the top of the final cheese layer.
- Add cubed butter on top of sauce and cover with foil.3 TBS butter
- Bake for 30 minutes covered with foil. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until top is beginning to brown.
- Serve warm