Homemade Macaroni and Cheese with creamy cheese sauce and buttery cracker topping is the ultimate comfort food. Super easy to make and amazingly delicious, you will never go back to the boxed macaroni cheese again!
Now that the days are getting cooler, I’ve been cooking a lot more of our favorite casseroles for dinner at home and one that has been making a steady appearance is this homemade macaroni and cheese because what could be better than cheesy macaroni to cozy up to in chilly weather?
With a creamy homestyle cheese sauce, firm-to-bite pasta, and a buttery Ritz cracker topping, it screams comfort food!
I have at least three mac and cheese recipes on the blog but although they’re scrumptious in their own right, this one right here deserves top billing. It tastes amazing with so little effort, you’ll never resort to that boxed stuff again.
It’s the perfect side dish for family dinners and will make a great addition to your holiday parties.
Tips on How to Make the Best Homemade Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- Cook the pasta a minute or two shy of package directions as it will continue to cook in the oven when browning the topping. Toss with butter to prevent from soaking up too much liquid.
- You can sub equal parts of milk for the heavy cream if you’d like to cut back on the calories but why? This IS mac and cheese, it’s supposed to be sinful and indulgent. Trust me on this, the cup of heavy cream with the milk makes for the creamiest, dreamiest cheese sauce ever!
- Keep the milk and the heavy cream at a gentle heat and do not allow to boil over lest the sauce will curdle or separate.
- Don’t skip the seasonings! Ground mustard, nutmeg, and cayenne add a depth of flavor to the sauce and cut through the rich taste.
- Although shredded cheese packages are more convenient to use, please go the extra step of grating your own cheese as it will melt better.
- For a smooth texture, add the cheese in parts and whisk until fully melted before adding the next batch. For an extra depth of flavor, use EXTRA sharp cheddar.
- Pasta tends to absorb a lot of moisture and will “dry out” as it bakes in the oven and even as it sits so be generous with the cheese sauce to compensate for the drying out.
Give this homemade mac and cheese a try for dinner tonight. It’s creamy, cheesy, tasty, and sure to be a family favorite.
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 pound uncooked macaroni
- 1 tablespoon butter
For the Topping
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 12 pieces Ritz Crackers, crushed
- 1 tablespoon Parmesan Cheese
For the Cheese Sauce
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 4 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons ground mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
- In a pot over medium heat, bring salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook about 1 minute shy of the package directions or until slightly firm. Drain well and toss with butter. Set aside.
- In a bowl, combine butter, crackers, and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add the 1/2 cup butter and cook until melted. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned and slightly nutty in aroma.
- Gradually add milk and heavy cream, whisking vigorously to prevent lumps. Bring to a low boil, whisking regularly.
- Add ground mustard, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat and continue to simmer, whisking occasionally, for about 2 to 3 minutes until mixture thickens and begins to coat the back of the spoon.
- Add cheese in three parts, whisking until cheese is melted before adding the next batch.
- In a bowl, combine cheese sauce and cooked macaroni. Transfer into a lightly greased baking dish.
- Sprinkle top with buttered crackers.
- Bake in a 350 F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and browned.