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How to Make Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

Homemade macaroni and cheese is cozy, warm, and comforting.  Your entire family – both kids and grownups alike – will adore this creamy, cheesy mac ‘n cheese recipe.

homemade macaroni and cheese baked in dish
Cheesy, creamy baked macaroni and cheese

HOMEMADE MACARONI AND CHEESE that’s way better than the box

I still remember coming home from school feeling famished after skipping breakfast and choosing to nourish my teen brain with candy bars for lunch. Does it sound at all more reasonable if I said they were Snickers bars packed with peanuts?

There were plenty of days when I’d rush home right after the bell rang, head straight into the kitchen, and cook myself a store bought box shells and cheese. Tthe kind with a foiled squeeze pouch filled with perplexing ingredients that added up to not-real-cheese.

Fast forward a couple decades and I’ve tested a mountain of homemade macaroni and cheese recipes, hoping to capture a rich and creamy texture using real cheese and fresh ingredients. Nothing artificial nor unpronounceable.

It’s a happy day, because you’re about to own the recipe for the perfect homemade macaroni and cheese, natural ingredients and all.

baked macaroni and cheese in white dish vertical

Specific Cheese Makes All the Difference

This macaroni and cheese is perfectly creamy, rich, superbly cheesy, and big on flavor.  It’s fabulous right out of the oven, and it manages to reheat surprisingly well. If you’ve ever tried reheating leftover mac ‘n cheese, you know it’s no easy task and you’ll appreciate this recipe all the more.

Sharp white cheddar makes all the difference, with its super creamy and smooth texture upon melting. Buy a good quality block of sharp white cheddar cheese, rather than the pre-shredded bags, as bagged shredded cheese often contains additional ingredients that hinder its ability to achieve a melty-smooth texture.

We prefer sharp cheddar for its bolder, more pronounced flavor, thanks to being aged for more years than mild cheddar. If you prefer a more orange hue, you can use sharp yellow cheddar instead of the white; the main difference is the annatto coloring typically added to yellow cheeses.

The second good block of cheese you’ll need is Pecorino Romano — it brings this dish over the top. It’s deliciously savory, adding another irresistibly cheesy dimension to your homemade macaroni and cheese.  Again, grate your own fresh block of cheese to ensure a velvety texture.

homemade macaroni and cheese with serving spoon in dish square

Whisk, Whisk Away

The most creamy and smooth cheese sauce starts with a simple roux (pronounced roo.) Roux is a fancy term for a mixture of flour and butter that are combined over heat to help thicken sauces and gravies. When in luck, it’s used for cheesy corn au gratin.

Roux for mac ‘n cheese is simple; just be sure to whisk constantly until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Its the constant whisking that will prevent a slightly gritty texture and helps your cheese sauce stay velvety. Just the way mac ‘n cheese lovers like it.


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homemade macaroni and cheese with serving spoon in dish square

How to Make Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

5 from 10 reviews

Homemade macaroni and cheese is cozy, warm, and comforting.  Your family, both kids and grownups alike, will adore this creamy, cheesy mac ‘n cheese recipe.

  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 12 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 lb dry elbow macaroni pasta
  • 6 TB regular butter
  • 5 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 4 1/2 (18 oz) cups freshly grated sharp white cheddar
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 oz) freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 375F with rack in middle position. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish and set aside.
  2. Fill large pot with salted water.  Bring to boil, add macaroni and cook 2 minutes fewer than the package states for al dente.  You want the pasta a bit undercooked, as it will continue to cook in oven. Transfer cooked macaroni to colander, rinse well with cool water, and set aside to drain.
  3. In saucepan, heat milk until hot and set aside (watch that it doesn’t spill over.)  In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. When butter starts bubbling, add flour and cook 1-2 minutes, constantly stirring.
  4. Add hot milk into flour-butter mixture, whisking constantly.  Continue cooking/whisking on medium heat until mixture bubbles and becomes thick, about 10 min.
  5. Turn heat off.  Stir in garlic and onion powder, nutmeg, black pepper, and dry mustard.  Add 3 cups of the white cheddar and 1 cup of the Pecorino Romano.  Mix thoroughly until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.
  6. Add cooked macaroni into cheese sauce and stir to combine well.  Pour mixture into greased casserole dish, distributing evenly.  Sprinkle top with remaining 1 1/2 cups white cheddar and 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano. Bake until top is golden brown, about 30 min.  If needed, set under broiler for just a minute or two until browned to your liking.  Let cool 5 minutes and serve.

Notes

For bread crumbs:  Cube 6 slices of good quality (crust removed) bread into small pieces.  Place in bowl and mix with 2 TB melted butter. Scatter breadcrumbs over top of casserole right before baking. 

Yields about 12 servings as a side dish.

If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and give it a rating ♡

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 450
  • Sugar: 7 g
  • Sodium: 373.7 mg
  • Fat: 23 g
  • Carbohydrates: 39.6 g
  • Protein: 20.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 66.5 mg
  • Author: Chew Out Loud
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Macaroni and Cheese, Mac and Cheese


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Did you make this?

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Recipe rating

31 comments

    • Jacqueline Debono

    Homemade mac n cheese is definitely better than anything ready-made. Yours looks deliciously creamy and cheesy! Love that you used Pecorino Romano it’s one of my favourite grating cheeses and I use it a lot!

    • Joyce

    Wow, this mac n cheese recipe looks amazing! I love to try all different kinds of mac n cheese reipce! Got to add this to my list!

    • Alex Ryder

    This looks really tasty! Mac n Cheese isn’t such a staple here in the UK but hell yeah I’d eat the lot!!

    • Marta

    Homemade mac & cheese is king in our home. Your choice of cheeses and seasonings will make for a great dish. Thanks for sharing!

    • Fred N

    I totally agree with you homemade Mac’n’cheese is much better than the store-bought one. I like that you added flour that makes for an even more interesting Macncheese dinner. My wife will absolutely love this recipe. Thanks for sharing!

    • Stine Mari

    Finally a good use for my dry mustard powder! This mac and cheese is delicious and I love all the tips on the right cheese to choose, I definitely needed that.

    • Leslie

    Now I have made quite a few mac and cheese recipes but never one with Pecorino Romano. I need to give this a try bc it looks amazing!

    • Jackie

    Hi
    If I use parmesan cheese instead of romano cheese would it be just as tasty.

      • chewoutloud

      Yes, you can certainly use parmesan cheese 🙂

        • Crystal Gary

        Hi how long would I cook this in a crockpot if I were to try it.

    • Cassie L

    How do you make the roux not grainy? The cheese mixture keeps coming out grainy for me, no chunks or flecks of flour, just overall grainy. As in the cheese sauce isnt super smooth and creamy. Is there a trick?

      • chewoutloud

      Hi, Cassie! I make sure to stir the roux really well, until the flour is no longer grainy. When you add the milk, make sure you’re whisking constantly for the entire 10 minutes, to ensure a smooth flour mixture. That step is really important, before adding any cheeses. You want to get the milk/flour mixture totally smooth before adding cheeses. And, I always make sure to use the extra sharp white cheddar! If you don’t have it, go out and get it…it truly makes a world of difference. Not pre-shredded cheese, because those have added ingredients. Get a good blocks of cheese and shred them yourself 🙂 Hope that helps!

        • Jere Cassidy

        Using the sharp white cheddar and the pecorino romano sounds delicious and so much better than just using regular cheddar cheese. This recipe looks rich and creamy.

    • Kristen

    Hi there!
    I love this recipe!!! The name says it all, perfectly creamy mac and cheese. Mac and cheese is one of my favorites and before this recipe, I used the same recipe for 6 years (with a little experimentation in between, but never found one that was better—until yours!). Your recipe is the only mac and cheese recipe I found that heats up well, even a week after it’s been made. Thank you so much! This is my new go-to mac and cheese recipe!

    best wishes,
    Kristen

      • chewoutloud

      You’re awesome, Kristen! Thanks for trying the recipe and writing back to let us know how you liked it 🙂 SO glad you enjoyed it. It does reheat well, which helps in my household because I make super-size batches of everything! My boys could eat it everyday if I let them 🙂

    • Riffie

    thank you x a million for this recipe!

    • Rachel @ Bakerita

    Mmmm, this sounds amazing! I’m a mac and cheese fiend, and your version sounds absolutely heavenly. Those cheesy strings in the pics definitely show it’s a good one 🙂 Pinned!

    • The Porto Bellas

    My goodness…This looks amazing. Creamy is the correct word to describe this. YUM!
    -JulieC

    • explodyfull

    I have often forced people to come over to my house so I can feed them Mac and Cheese, In Australia mac and cheese is a gross box stuff that no one really likes so people are dubious….after they eat my mac and cheese they change their mind (or they are scared of what I would do to them if they say they still don’t like it so pretend to change their mind?).

    I can recommend swapping out the mustard for horse radish cream – it is delicious.

    • cookingwithcaveman

    Mac and Cheese is one of my all time favorites, I always have a problem with the cheese separating and getting a grainy texture but yours looks amazing.

    • themondaybox

    This looks so creamy and warming. I’ll take this over soup any day 🙂

    • epicureantease

    Mmmmm! I love homemade Mac n’ Cheese! Comfort food at it’s finest!! 🙂

    • Samantha @ The Ascension House

    Classic Mac! Looks scrumptious! 🙂

    • Lynette

    This looks great! Ive made mine with a smidge of cream cheese to get a nice creamy consistency. I also like to add ham and broccoli to mine, just to have a contrast of textures and colors. Besides, that way I can get my 6 year old to say “More broccoli please”. 🙂 Ive never tried Romano, so I will give that a shot. Thanks!

    • Liz

    Not getting any warmer here in MN, so mac-and-cheese seems a find dinner choice:-) Yours looks yum. Btw, made your teriyaki meatloaf last week. Very very good!

      • chewoutloud

      Yay, glad you liked the meatloaf… different, but yummy 🙂 It’s finally “warming” up a little around here!

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