Super creamy BEST Mac and Cheese ~ easy homemade mac and cheese from scratch. Stovetop or baked with a buttery crisp breadcrumb topping. It’s total comfort food in a bowl.
Based upon how much macaroni and cheese I’ve eaten in my lifetime I consider myself something of an expert in the field.
For starters – it needs to have perfectly cooked pasta and of course that pasta needs to be blanketed in a creamy cheese sauce.
Whether you eat it from the stovetop or add some crispy, buttery breadcrumbs – it’s sure to become of if your favorite recipes.
It’s ideal all year – from comfort food in the winter to the best side dish ever with your favorite barbecue.
what’s in creamy mac and cheese?
- dry elbow macaroni
- all purpose flour
- whole milk (can sub 2%)
- cheddar cheeses freshly grated (combination of sharp yellow and white)
- cream cheese cubed
- salt and pepper
how to make creamy mac and cheese:
TIP #1: I used three kinds of cheese in this recipe: cream cheese, sharp cheddar and white cheddar to give you the creaminess we crave along with a slight bite of tang from the cheese. You can use all sharp cheddar or Gouda would also be really good.
TIP #2: This recipe serves 4 – double the ingredients for a larger batch!
Grate the cheese and gather the recipe ingredients. This helps the cooking process go more smoothly.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil then add a generous pinch of salt. Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the package calls for then drain.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan then sprinkle in the flour and whisk, cooking 1 more or until smooth.
Gradually add the milk, salt and pepper then bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.
Reduce the heat then add the cheeses and stir until the sauce is smooth. Add the drained macaroni and gently stir to coat then eat right away.
This dish is ready to eat from the stovetop, but if you’d like the crispy golden breadcrumbs you see in some of the photos, read below.
baked Mac and Cheese with crispy bread topping:
In a small bowl, microwave 2 tablespoons of butter then blend in 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs. Any breadcrumbs you have on hand will work well. After blending the pasta with the cheese sauce, spoon it into a baking dish then top with the buttery breadcrumbs.
Broil 2-4 minutes until golden, watching closely so the breadcrumbs don’t burn.
tips for the best mac and cheese:
- Gather all the ingredients before you start cooking (called mise en place).
- Don’t overcook the pasta. Boil until just shy of al dente. It will continue to cook either on the stovetop and will finish perfectly tender and not mushy.
- Grate your own cheese. Freshly grated cheese melts more smoothly giving you a creamier cheese sauce. Pre-grated cheese contains ingredients that keep it from clumping in the bag.
- Cut the cream cheese into small cubes to help it melt easier and quicker in the sauce.
what to serve with this dish:
- Barbecue Pulled Pork
- 20 Minute Honey Balsamic Pork Tenderloin
- Chicken tenders
- Brussels Sprouts with Maple-Bacon Glaze
- Chicken wings
Looking for other comfort recipes?
Salisbury Steak – seasoned ground beef patties simmered in rich mushroom-onion gravy. Serve over mashed potatoes.
Slow Cooker Pot Roast – tender, juicy beef chuck roast, potatoes and carrots plus a rich 5-star gravy.
Sausage Rigatoni – rigatoni in a spicy tomato cream sauce with Italian sausage and plenty of garlic and Parmesan cheese.
Buttered Noodles – old fashioned side dish featuring egg noodles cooked in a buttery chicken stock sauce topped with toasted Ritz cracker fresh herb crumbs.
If you tried this Creamy Mac and Cheese recipe or any other on the blog then I’d love to hear from you with a comment or star rating!
Creamy Mac and Cheese
- 1 1/2 cups dry elbow macaroni
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups milk whole milk used; can sub 2%
- 2 cups cheddar cheese freshly grated combination/sharp cheddar + white cheddar used
- 2 ounces cream cheese cubed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt + more for pasta water
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Topping for Baked Mac and Cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- Grate the cheese and gather all ingredients.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil then add a generous pinch of salt. Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the package calls for then drain.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan then whisk in the flour until smooth and cook 1 minute.
- Gradually add the milk, salt and pepper then bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.
- Reduce the heat then add the cheeses and stir until the sauce is smooth. Add the drained macaroni and gently stir to coat then eat right away (see below for Baked Mac and Cheese).
Baked Mac and Cheese
- Microwave 2 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl, then blend in 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs. After blending the pasta with the cheese sauce, spoon it into a baking dish then top with the buttery breadcrumbs and broil 2-4 minutes until golden, watching closely so the breadcrumbs don’t burn.