Do You Need To Bake Mac And Cheese
Creamy mac and cheese recipes that start with a roux-based sauce , do not need to be baked before serving. A creamy stovetop mac and cheese recipe is designed to go straight from the pot to the plate — no oven necessary. You could also serve this mac and cheese without baking — it will just be really saucy. By contrast, Southern-style mac and cheese recipes must be baked in order to cook the egg and help the dish set.
Ultimate Creamy Baked Mac And Cheese
Making your own homemade ultimate mac and cheese bake is so rich and creamy, but also very easy with our step-by-step instructions that can walk any home cook through the process. Give this recipe a try, and discover your new favorite!
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About This Macaroni And Cheese
Our recipe for macaroni and cheese combines your basic pasta with a few different types of cheese, and a special sauce to result in ultimate deliciousness. We are going to jump into the details later to cover what exactly you will need to buy in order to make this delicious dish. But first, lets look at a rundown of this dish below.
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Do You Cover Your Mac And Cheese In The Oven
You may also be wondering if it is necessary to cover your Macaroni and Cheese in the oven. I personally love the crispy bits of cheese that form on the top layer that result from NOT covering the mac and cheese. Since the noodles are pre-cooked, you are really just popping it in the oven to get all bubbly and thick throughout and brown and crispy on top, but ultimately, the choice is up to you.
As youll see in this recipe, Ive added a few extra optional flavor boosters to keep things interesting. But I must say, the garlic powder is an absolute must! For years, people have asked me what I put in this mac and cheese that makes it so good. Well, guess what? The garlic powder is my secret! Recently, Ive begun adding a little nutmeg and mustard powder to the sauce as well. While these are most definitely optional, I dont think youll regret adding them in the slightest. I also love serving the finished product with some sriracha, for an added kick. My kids arent fans, but my husband and I sure love it.
So, the next time youre looking for a fairly simple and extra delicious weeknight dinner for your family or guests, I highly recommend whipping up this easy Baked Macaroni and Cheese. Youll make a lot of tummies happy! If your time is limited you could always opt for this 4 Ingredient Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese or this Slow Cooker Mushroom Macaroni and Cheese.
Can You Bake Leftover Mac And Cheese
Yes, you can reheat leftovers in the oven or in the microwave. Cover the dish loosely with foil and reheat in a 325 degree F oven just until warmed through. You can remove the foil cover during the final few minutes to allow the top to brown or the edges to get crispy.
To reheat individual servings, just cover loosely and microwave for about 30 seconds .
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Tips For The Best Macaroni And Cheese Youll Ever Eat
Feel like you may still need some help? If you have time, jump over to this post for the juicy details: 18 Secrets to the Richest, Creamiest Mac and Cheese Youll Ever Eat or focus on these tips:
Never stop stirring your milk once it hits the pan. If your skillet is too hot or you walk away and for a minute you could scorch the white sauce and it will curdle. It doesnt really hurt the taste, but it will look sort of clumpy. Some readers have called it grainy. It only takes 5 minutes. Just hang out and stir until that sauce is thick enough to coat the back of your spoon.
Use good cheese in your baked macaroni and cheese. That means avoiding bagged, pre-shredded cheeses because they contain cellulose that can in some cases cause your cheese not to melt as it should. -And speaking of cheese, you have so many options! My favorite is sharp cheddar and Swiss.
Do taste as you go. Taste your cheese sauce before you add your pasta. Is it bland? That can be because of the cheese you used or even the kind of salt you seasoned with. If it doesnt have enough flavor, add a pinch more salt, stir it in and taste it again until it suits you.
-Feel free to add more pasta if you want to. Some people say that this recipe doesnt have enough noodles in it, but Ive never had that problem. And yes, you should cook your pasta before adding it to the cheese sauce.
How To Make Instant Pot Mac And Cheese
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Other Side Dishes You Will Enjoy
- Grate both the cheddar and sharp cheddar cheeses and combine together in a bowl.
Cheese Division Divide into three groups
- One group will make up the sauce 3 cups
- One group will be added in between layers of the macaroni and cheese 1 1/2 cups
- Last group will top the dish 1 1/2 cups
- Set groups of cheese aside.
Pasta Cook And Prep
- Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot.
- Add the pasta and cook until al dente, usually about 1 minute less than the package directs to cook pasta.
- While the pasta is cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease a 3-quart baking dish and set it aside.
- Drain the pasta and set it aside.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Slowly add the flour in and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk and cook for about a minute.
- Combine the milk and half and half into a large measuring cup.
- Slowly pour in 2 cups of the half and half, whisking constantly. Whisk until smooth.
- Slowly pour in the remaining half and half and the whole milk, whisking constantly, until smooth.
- Slowly pour in the remaining half and half and the whole milk, whisking constantly, until smooth.
- Whisking very often, continue to cook until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper.
- Add the cheese portion that makes up 3 cups. First, add half of it and mix to combine.
- Once melted, add the additional 1 1/2 cups and continue to stir until melted and smooth.
Putting It Together
How To Keep Mac And Cheese Creamy
I’m sharing a handful of tips to help keep your baked mac and cheese creamy, smooth and saucy.
- First, no eggs. Unlike the Southern-style mac and cheese, this creamy version does not include eggs. The eggs help to “set” the casserole, giving it a firm, dry texture. Since that’s not what we’re going for here, you’ll need to leave out the eggs.
- Next, lots of sauce. We’re not skimping on cheese, milk or cream in this dish. We’ll make plenty of cheese sauce to coat the noodles. It looks like a lot of sauce, but you need that amount in order to keep the dish creamy in the oven.
- Velveeta cheese. That’s right, I said it. Blasphemy?! Maybe! But trust me here: Velveeta melts smoothly into the sauce giving the mac and cheese a rich, creamy texture that you just can’t quite replicate with other types of cheese.
- Baking Time. This casserole goes in the oven at a low temperature for just 15 minutes. This short baking time is important because it’s just long enough to melt the cheese on top and get the noodles hot inside, but it’s not so long that it dries out the pasta and sauce. If you like a crispier crust on top, you can pop it under the broiler for a few minutes at the end.
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Special Equipment For This Recipe
- Instant Pot I recently upgraded to this model and I love it!
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Tips For The Best Baked Macaroni And Cheese Recipe:
- Pre-toast the panko bread crumbs for a nice golden brown topping. Or in a pinch you can just preheat the broiler after baking and toast underneath it briefly .
- Heat the milk and half and half before adding to the roux for a smooth mixture .
- Dont let the sauce mixture or baked macaroni get too hot or it will separate. This is why I bake at 325 and not too long.
- Add cheeses off heat so they dont curdle up.
- Opt for smooth melting cheeses for a smooth sauce.
- Use a blend of flavorful cheeses for best taste .
- Add half and half or cream to make it richer.
- Serve shortly after baking for best results. The sauce is nice and creamy just after baking, but as it sits and the sauce cools naturally the fats separate a little so the sauce isnt quite as smooth.
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Cheesy Baked Macaroni Recipe
Cheesy Baked Macaroni is a good dish to prepare this holiday season. It is delicious, cheesy, and a sure crowd pleaser. This can be prepared during Christmas dinner, or you can bring this along for your potluck parties.
My entire family loves pasta the richer and cheesier, the better. Cheesy Baked Macaroni is one of our favorite pasta dishes. We love it with a toasted sliced of loaf bread with butter, or even garlic bread.
This has similarities with the previous baked macaroni recipe that I posted. The main difference is the type of cheese used and the amount of bell peppers, which I think helps gives this dish a unique overall taste. Both are great recipes that I am really proud of.
I hope that you enjoy the holidays with your loved ones. Cheers!
Try this Cheesy Baked Macaroni Recipe. Enjoy!
Making Mac And Cheese Ahead Of Time
- Make as directed , transfer to baking dish and cool completely. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate 1-2 days ahead.
- Before baking, let dish sit on counter for 30 minutes.
- Bake at recipe temperature for 25-35 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
As a caveat, this recipe, as with most mac and cheese recipes, loses some of its creaminess when made ahead. This dish has been tested when made right away, which yields the best results.
I would increase the amount of sauce slightly if you need to make this recipe ahead of time.
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What To Serve With Mac & Cheese
Mac and cheese is often considered a main dish, however, it can also be a side dish. If you are serving your mac and cheese as a main dish, you can simply pair it with a fruit, vegetable, or salad. If you are serving your mac and cheese as a side dish, you can simply serve it with a meat of your choice.
Easy Macaroni And Cheese
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Tips For The Best Creamy Baked Mac And Cheese Recipe
- Boil the pasta in very well-salted water. The salt in the water seasons the noodles, adding flavor to the dish.
- Cook the pasta just until its al dente almost tender, but still firm to the bite. You dont want to completely cook the noodles until theyre tender, because they will continue baking in the oven.
- Allow the cheese, milk and half-and-half to come to room temperature before adding them to the recipe. They will blend together smoothly if theyre not cold.
- Start with blocks of cheddar cheese that you grate yourself at home, rather than using bags of pre-shredded cheese from the store. The pre-shredded cheese includes stabilizers and other ingredients to prevent the cheese from clumping, which inhibits its ability to melt smoothly into the dish.
- If you prefer a crispier, darker brown top on your mac and cheese, place the dish under the broiler during the final few minutes of baking. Just be sure to keep a close eye on it so that the top doesnt burn.
- Cooking for a smaller family? Cut all of the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch square dish.
What Cheese Should You Use
Since our cheese sauce has to bewell, cheesyI decided to use THREE cheeses in this recipe:
- Challenge cream cheese for ultra creaminess and a bit of tang
- Cheddar for sharpness
- Parmesan for a bit of saltiness
Does using three types of cheese seem a little extra? Maybe, but I really love the way that each of those cheeses rounds out the sauce.
A nice sharp cheddar is always a must and using a salty cheese like parmesan is not too uncommon, but the cream cheese is what really brings this sauce together.
Just 4 ounces of Challenge cream cheese lends an extra smooth texture and just the right amount of tangy flavor to the sauce.
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Can I Refrigerate Before Baking
Yes, you can refrigerate macaroni and cheese before you bake it. This make-ahead mac and cheese is a great option for meal prep. Do all the cooking whenever you have the time and bake it right before youre ready to eat.
To refrigerate before baking, you will complete all the steps up to putting the mixture in the pan. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate for up to two days. When youre ready to bake it, pull the mac out of the fridge while the oven is preheating and top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan.
You will need to bake the macaroni and cheese casserole a little longer since itll be cold. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until heated through.
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My Favorite Baked Mac And Cheese Recipe
This is my familys favorite macaroni and cheese! Ive made it several times at holidays and its usually the top thing that gets the most compliments and repeat requests. Its just that good!
You just cant go wrong with an extra saucy, classic side dish like this. Because who doesnt love cheese??
Sure its pricey to buy the imported Gruyere cheese but its worth it. The combination of extra sharp cheddar and Gruyere makes the best macaroni and cheese!
Then we up the decadence by also adding a fair amount of butter and some half and half to the recipe. This sauce is rich!
And dont even get me started on that panko topping. This just wouldnt be the same with out it. That crisp textural contrast perfectly compliments the tender noodles and creamy sauce.
Add this to your holiday menu everyone will love it! And while youre at it you may as well do a test run this weekend. Im always looking for a reason to make this over-the-top delicious macaroni and cheese!
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