Get your cheese fix with this Easy Baked Mac and Cheese! Cheddar and jack cheese melted into a simple sauce, tossed with elbow macaroni and then layered making this the cheesiest baked mac and cheese!! Serves 6 in under an hour.
Let’s get to the point, shall we? Who here has had mac and cheese that the sauce has either been absorbed into the pasta (i.e. there’s no sauce) or the sauce has broken, making it clumpy and gloppy? 🙋🏻♀️I’ve made so many baked macaroni and cheese recipes and all end up either too dry or (gasp!) curdle-y. After years of bad mac and cheese, I was determined to make a homemade macaroni and cheese that was creamy and dreamy.
With that said, I have a theory. One, is that bad mac and cheese is both baked at too high of a temperature and for far too long. The combination of both makes the milk solids separate. This recipe however, is mostly done in a skillet before being baked at a lower temperature for 10 minutes and then a quick trip under the broiler for those undeniable crispy brown bits.
Yielding the best baked Mac and cheese, I’ve ever made.
In This Easy Baked Mac and Cheese You Will Need:
- olive oil spray – Used for greasing the baking pan.
- elbow pasta (dry) – You will need 10 ounces dry pasta.
- sea salt – For seasoning the pasta water.
- unsalted butter – A good Mac and cheese begins with butter.
- unbleached all-purpose flour – Helps thicken the sauce.
- half & half – Or substitute with whole milk.
- sharp cheddar cheese – For that cheddar cheese flavor.
- cheddar jack cheese – This gives it that cheesy stringy goodness.
- kosher salt – This enhances the flavors in this recipe.
- freshly ground black pepper – Lends distinct flavor and some bite.
- dry mustard – Lends delicious tangy flavor.
- paprika – Lends color and subtle flavor.
In a bowl, combine both the 1-1/2 cups freshly grated cheddar and cheddar jack. For an extra cheese Mac and cheese, add in an extra 1/2 cup of cheddar jack.
Add 2 tablespoons of sea salt to a boiling pot of water. Add in 10 ounces (not a full box!) of elbow pasta and cook 1 to 2 minute shy of the package directions. Drain into a colander.
Meanwhile, in a 10-inch skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat.
One melted, sprinkle in 1/4 cup flour.
Continue to whisk while the flour/butter mixture cooks for 1 minute.
While whisking, slowly pour in 2 cups of half & half.
Continue to whisk until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of a creamy soup.
Next add in 1-1/2 cups of the combined cheeses, 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard and 1/4 teaspoon paprika. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
Gently stir to combine.
Keep stirring until no lumps remain.
Once the cheese sauce is smooth, add in the partially cooked pasta.
Using a rubber spatula, toss the pasta in the cheese sauce to coat.
Add half of the macaroni and cheese sauce to a lightly sprayed casserole dish.
Top with half the remaining cheese, the rest of the macaroni and cheese and the last of the shredded cheese.
Bake on the middle rack of your preheated 325° for 10 minutes. Then switch the broiler on to high and broil until the top is lightly golden in spots, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove and only let cool slightly before serving.
Pretty much the cheesiest of cheesy mac and cheeses out there. With bonus crispy cheesy bits and cheese pulls for days.
Easy Baked Mac and Cheese
- olive oil spray
- sea salt, for pasta water
- 10 ounces elbow macaroni
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cups half & half
- 1½ cup cheddar cheese, freshly grated
- 1½ cups cheddar jack cheese, freshly grated
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- Bring a large pot of salted (about a palmful or 2 tablespoons) water to boil.
- Preheat your oven to 325° and lightly spray a 9x9 or 8x8 casserole dish with olive oil spray.
- Once the water is boiling, stir in pasta and cook 1 to 2 mintues shy of whats suggested on the package and drain.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Once melted, whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
- While whisking, slowly pour in the half and half. Heat on medium to medium-low until the sauce thickens, whisking often. It should be the consistency of a creamy soup.
- In a meidum bowl, combine both of the cheeses.
- When the sauce has thickened, add 1/3 of the cheeses, dry mustard, paprika and season with salt and pepper. Stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth.
- To that, add in the drained pasta and use a spatula to combine.
- Place half of the macaroni and cheese sauce into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half of the remaining cheese over top. Then add the rest of the pasta and cheese sauce and the last of the cheese sprinkled over top.
- Bake on the middle rack of your preheated oven for 10 minutes. Then turn on the boiler, and carefully move the pan to the highest postition in your oven. Broil until the top is golden in spots.
- Remove and only let cool slightly before serving.
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