Baked mac and cheese *drools*. OK this dish is probably one of my most requested recipes other than Red Velvet cake. I’ve wanted to do a post on it for quite awhile. But honestly I was a bit nervous about it.
I mean mac and cheese is a pretty big deal. It seems so easy to make, but there are so many ways to make it, and even more ways that the dish can be made wrong. Don’t believe me? Search #macandcheese and see for yourself. (Shade, but no shade)
My mac and cheese has always been pretty decent. But I think this year is when I had my “aha” moment. So now after some trial and error I think I’m qualified enough to say that this is some of the best macaroni and cheese that I’ve ever had.
It has the perfect amount of creaminess and cheesiness, and it’s bursting with flavor. The best part about it, is that this recipe uses simple ingredients and gets the job done well.
I’m not knocking any mac and cheese recipes that use a bunch of fancy ingredients. But if you’re like me, you may not have time for all that LOL.
I mean just look at it ^^ Don’t you just want to bite through your screen?
The cheese sauce is what makes this recipe. Once you have it down pat you can never go wrong. But anyway, enough of my rambling, let’s get into it!
Preheat your oven to 350F. Then starting with a large pot of water you’re going to pour a generous amount of salt in. I usually just eyeball it. You want to make sure the water is salty enough to season your pasta, but not too salty that it ruins your dish. You can taste the water to make sure you didn’t go overboard.
Add in about 2 tablespoons of butter. And bring the water to a boil.
Next, pour in about 3 cups of dry macaroni pasta and cook it for about 15 minutes. Refer back to the macaroni package if you need to.
Make sure that you stir the pasta occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
While the pasta is cooking go ahead and mix your seasonings. In this recipe I used onion powder, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, black pepper and cayenne.
The cayenne is optional, but I like my macaroni to have a little kick to it. Mix the seasonings up and set them aside.
Note: I used twice the seasoning when I made this batch of mac… you most definitely do not have to do the same.
Once the macaroni is done it should look like this.
Go ahead and strain the pasta in a colander. I like to stir in some more butter to prevent the macaroni from sticking.
Now it’s time to make the cheese sauce. You’re going to need half a package of softened cream cheese. Softened is the keyword. It has to be soft or else you will have trouble getting the cream cheese to melt when making the sauce.
If you can, just take the cream cheese out a few hours before to allow it to reach room temperature.
For this mac I used sharp cheddar as well as a blended cheese mix. I believe it had Monterey and Pepper Jack. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different cheeses. Have fun with this dish!
You’re going to melt butter in a sauce pan, then whisk in corn starch and flour. Pour in your milks and just keep whisking.
Add in the softened cream cheese and continue to whisk until the mixture is creamy.
Reduce the heat and and make sure not to leave the stove. Burning the cheese sauce will definitely ruin this dish.
Next add in about 2 cups of your shredded cheese a bit at a time, whisking after each addition.
Once the cheese sauce is nice and creamy, remove it from the heat and add in your seasonings. Taste the sauce and make sure it is to your preference.
Next you’re going to transfer the cooked pasta back into the large pot, which should have cooled down by now.
Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir it well to fully combine.
Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking pan and spread the pasta into the pan evenly.
Finally top the macaroni with the rest of your shredded cheese.
You’re almost done! Bake it until the cheese is all melted for about 20-25 minutes. Some people bake it longer, but I find that it tends to dry the mac out, and we don’t want that.
Let the mac and cheese cool about 10 minutes before serving.
I hope you enjoy this recipe! Follow me on IG and Pinterest to keep up with what I’m cooking.
- 3 cups of elbow macaroni, dry
- 6 tablespoons of butter, plus more for greasing pan
- 1 teaspoon of cajun seasoning
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 teaspoon of onion powder
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of corn starch
- 1 tablespoon of flour
- 12 oz of evaporated milk
- 1 cup of milk
- 4 oz of cream cheese, softened
- 3½ cups of cheese, shredded (I usually use sharp cheddar, and monterey or pepper jack)
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Fill a large pot with water, more than half way.
- Add a generous amount of salt (about a tablespoon) to the water, as well as 2 tablespoons of butter.
- Bring water to a boil and cook macaroni for about 10-15 minutes, refer to back of macaroni package if needed.
- Stir macaroni occasionally to prevent sticking to bottom of pot.
- While macaroni is cooking, mix all seasonings together and set aside.
- Once macaroni is done, strain in a colander and stir in a tablespoon of butter to prevent pasta from sticking.
- Prepare the cheese sauce by melting 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a sauce pan.
- Whisk in corn starch and flour.
- Add evaporated milk and regular milk to pan and continue to whisk.
- Add in softened cream cheese and whisk well until mixture is smooth and creamy.
- Reduce heat if necessary to avoid burning cheese sauce.
- Add in 2 cups of the shredded cheese a bit at a time and continue to whisk until smooth and creamy.
- Remove cheese sauce from heat and stir in seasoning mixture.
- Transfer pasta back into large pot, then pour cheese sauce over pasta and stir to fully incorporate.
- Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with butter, and transfer pasta to pan.
- Spread pasta evenly in pan, and top with the remainder of your shredded cheese.
- Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.
- Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.