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Best Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is one of the comfort foods of the American cuisine. Even the fanciest restaurants will keep this classic on their menus and try to twist it up with new variations. And they’re all good, but sometimes we just want to dream a little in the familiar gooeyness of Baked Macaroni and Cheese.

closeup of toasty breading on baked macaroni and cheese
plate of macaroni and cheese and kale

I think most of us had a fair amount of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in our childhoods. My kids were no different, and my son still prefers it to any homemade recipe. But my grownup tastebuds prefer the bite of real cheddar with a crunchy topping of crispy cheese and toasty bread! Yum! I have a hard time not eating the whole dish!

The Recipe

This recipe is one that I adapted from Martha Stewart’s Food Magazine. I love how the creamy, melted cream cheese causes the cheddar to blend better without becoming stringy. It’s simple and perfectly delightful.

Although not quite as easy as the boxed macaroni and cheese, you may be surprised to find out how painless it is to make ooey, gooey, baked macaroni and cheese. What can be easier than boiling water? If you can do that you can cook the elbow macaroni noodles.

In a separate saucepan, the milk is warmed. The chunks of cream cheese get whisked into this and then the cheddar. The toasty topping can be made by crumbling or slicing any stale bread or buns you have on hand.

creamy macaroni and cheese topped with toasty breading plated beside kale

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Creamy, delicious macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. This recipe begins on the stovetop with cream cheese and cheddar, and then moves to the oven to toast the crumb topping.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. melted butter, plus more for pans
  • ¾ cup homemade bread crumbs, see recipe below
  • 16oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8oz elbow macaroni
  • 1 ¼ cup milk, whole is best
  • 4oz cream cheese, cubed
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Butter a 1 ½ -2 quart baking dish.
  2. Cut or tear stale bread or buns into small pieces to equal ¾ cup. Microwave 1 tablespoon of butter in a small bowl for 30 seconds or until melted. Toss with bread crumbs and ¼ cup cheddar. Set aside for topping.
  3. Cook elbow macaroni using package directions until al dente. Drain.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and whisk in cream cheese until melted. Gradually add the cheddar, stirring until completely melted. Add the cooked pasta, salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer macaroni to buttered baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Top with bread crumb mixture and continue baking for another 10 minutes.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 658Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 25gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 125mgSodium: 892mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 29g

Make It Your Own, Make It Tonight

Of course, there’s no end of delicious ingredients that you could stir in to make your own signature mac and cheese. Broccoli, bacon, ham, tomatoes, basil… just some ideas to get you creativity flowing.

But I’ll take this basic classic macaroni and cheese just the way it is or switch it out with some lovely Pumpkin Mac and Cheese if I’m feeling artsy-fartsy. That will have to be a future post! Both are delectable and difficult to tear myself away from!

So why not make your family and your own taste buds happy by trying this easy recipe? I have no doubt it will become a family favorite. Unless you have kids stuck on Kraft mac and cheese like my son. I realize it’s possible. Here’s hoping you’ll convince them real cheese is better!

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