How To Make Baked Macaroni And Cheese

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I’m a big fan of comfort food: meat loaf and mashed potatoes, chicken soup, chocolate-chip cookies. And of course, mac and cheese.

Like most of you, I grew up on the neon orange stuff that comes in the blue box. And in my house that was made with margarine, because we had all been told it was better for us. We hadn’t heard of trans fat. Oh well.

So every now and then, when I just have to relive a bit of my childhood, I might whip up a bowl of the orange stuff. But if want something good, it’s got to be made with real cheese, and it’s got to be baked.

Ingredients


1 cup macaroni
one egg
1/2 cup sour cream (yes, sour cream)
2-1/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 stick butter (4 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 slices swiss cheese

Directions

I first started making baked mac and cheese when I worked at a restaurant in college. It was pretty good, but not great. Then I saw a recipe when I was in the Bahamas on my honeymoon that included eggs. Sounded interesting, so I tried it when I got home.

Wow. It was amazing. It held together like lasagna instead of being creamy and gooey. And it tasted fantastic.

That’s how I make it now. But until this time I’ve always made it in large batches. This time I decided to see if I could cut the recipe down to make just two servings. The inspiration was these two little crocks I picked up at the thrift store.

I know macaroni doubles in volume when you cook it, so I started by filling one of the crocks about half way. I figured once I added the cheese that should be enough to fill both. Yes, if you didn’t notice in the ingredient listing above, my mac and cheese is half cheese.

Put the macaroni in several quarts of boiling, salted water. Stir occasionally while you’re mixing up the rest of the ingredients.

Here’s a little tip for you, if you’ve ever seen someone crack an egg with one hand and wondered how they do it. Hold it with your index finger on the small end, and the large end pointing toward your palm. This is basically “sideways” to the way you’d normally hold an egg to crack it.

Rap the egg lightly, just enough to crack it, and squeeze gently with your thumb and middle finger. Like this.

Mix the egg, but don’t beat it until it’s fluffy.

Add the sour cream and stir that in.

Now you might be wondering about this one. Sour cream? Really? Well, I was at the store and looking for heavy cream. That’s what I usually put in this. But that day the only thing they had was “whipping cream,” which had extra “stabilizers” and other not-cream stuff in it. I was about to leave for another store when I noticed the sour cream next to it. Hmm, that’s cream. And the fat content is nearly the same as the heavy cream. Let’s give it a shot.

I’d have to do a side-by-side comparison to tell you if the taste difference was noticeable. I’m guessing the sharpness of the cheddar probably makes more difference than the sour cream vs. heavy cream. But I’m more likely to have sour cream in the fridge, and it’s cheaper. So sour cream wins from now on.

Next up is the cheese. Add two cups and mix well.

It would probably be easier to add the pepper right after the cheese, but I nearly forgot it. So I added it last and mixed one more time.

By this time the macaroni should be about done. If it’s not ready, don’t just stand there, start cleaning your measuring spoons. When it’s al dente — which technically means “to the tooth”, but really means “not mushy” — drain the water but leave it in the pot. Put the pot back on the burner, turned off but still hot, and add the butter. Stir until the butter is melted.

Add the macaroni to the rest of the fixings and stir. Work kind of fast. As the heat from the macaroni starts to melt the cheese it will get sticky and hard to stir. That’s why the butter went in the noodles. It keeps them lubed up just long enough to mix in the cheese.

Fill the crocks about half way with the mixed mac and cheese, add an extra layer of cheddar, then add the rest.


Put the lids on and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Remember the lids will be very hot when they come out. With mine, tongs get a better grip than my oven mitts. Also notice that I’ve got the crocks on a baking sheet. They weren’t filled quite enough to worry about bubbling over, but it made it easier to handle them both together.

At this point it’s gooey and delicious. And my 8-year-old thinks it’s absolutely perfect.

But I like crust. I’m the kind of person who wants the nearly-burned pieces of cheese from the edge of a lasagna. So I need to top this. Add a slice of swiss to the top of each crock, then just enough cheddar to add some color.

Put it under the broiler and keep an eye on it. It’s already really hot, so it will start bubbling almost immediately.

As soon as the top starts getting a few brown spots, pull it. Remove the crocks to a wooden cutting board to cool. I could have used trivets, but the crocks would have slid around.

After a minute or two to cool, you can see the beautiful crust on top.

Mmmmmm … baked cheese … [drool]

Remember when I said that this slices like lasagna?

And remember how I said that there is as much cheese as there is macaroni?

Serve as a meal by itself, or alongside the meat of your choice. In this case a grilled smoked pork chop.

And that’s it.


I would have gotten around to this recipe eventually, but before I did it was requested by Terry. So she’s he’s (sorry, Terry) got an eBook version of the book on the way. Thanks for the request.

Oh, and a funny story about the smoked pork chops. I took some leftovers to work the next day. I warmed it up in the microwave and went back to my desk to eat. Within seconds people were looking over the top of cubes asking, “Who’s got the bacon?” Heh.

Comments

  1. That’s a plate full of fat, right there.

    I ALMOST made mac and cheese last night. But because the MiL can’t eat the pasta, I made a rice and cheese thing instead. Also, the rice dish used up about 4 different garden vegetables, including some of my insane tomatoes, so it won. I can’t make anything anymore if it doesn’t help me control the garden production.

  2. holy moly, do i love cheese. this recipe looks right up my alley… :)

  3. looks good
    next time try it with cream cheese instead of sour cream- it’s a whole new experience!

  4. April in CT says:

    I want this for breakfast.. ASAP.

    YUM!

  5. No, Kristin. That’s a plate full of fat and carbs. :-)

    Sarah, try multiplying everything by six and put it in a 9×13 casserole dish. That’s when you can really slice it like lasagna.

    Jehan, wouldn’t it be too thick to stir? Hmm, going to have to think about that one.

  6. April, sorry, there’s none left.

  7. I just “learned” to make mac and cheese not long ago and I really like it now. Nice recipe.

  8. So how do you do yours? I’m guessing it involves chiles at some point.

  9. recipes2share says:

    My kids just love this – this is my staple cooking on Wednesday evenings, sports day here in France. Great to make ahead and bake as they come home for dinner.

  10. I like to make a large batch, then slice and wrap invidual portions. I’ll eat this for lunch every day for a week.

  11. This looks great. I can’t wait to try this out. Thanks for picking my suggestion and I am loving the book so far!

  12. Anonymous says:

    love the blog..do you can your own foods? Can you write about that?

    I am looking to start canning jellies, salsas, tomato sauce, etc.

    Or, can you point me to a site that has really easy directions? I looked but havent found many great sites.

  13. The only thing I’ve done so far is pickles. But I’ll be doing tomato sauce when my father-in-law’s garden gets ahead of how much we can eat.

  14. My mother who I lost on Dec 31, 2003 used to make baked macaroni and cheese a little differently than you. She used a quarter moon slab of cheddar cheese and cut it into little cubes like diced onion size. Then she would cook the macaroni and drain it, put a slice of butter and stirred till beutter melted then she beat an egg in a small bowl and poured it over the macaroni and stirred. Then the cheese was stirred into the macaroni. Once the cheese went in , in to the oven it went. It then cooked until the top was crusty.
    So when I make macaroni and cheese, I do it like my mom did.

  15. Julia, the order she did it in is a little different, but that sounds like it’s pretty similar. I’ll bet I’d have loved your mother’s.

  16. Oh my goodness that looks fantastic. It is only 9am and now I must have your mac-n-cheese. It really looks amazing.

    Megan of Bit of Nutmet

  17. Well, what’re you waiting for? If you can have waffles for dinner, and you can, then you can have mac and cheese for breakfast.

  18. Anne Lossing says:

    This dish looks absolutely yummy!! If I could buy any kind of decent cheese here, I’d try it for sure. I would probably use my homemade yogurt instead of sour cream or cream cheese.

    I’ve been getting your blog for awhile now, and I must say, it is definitely the most “saliva-inspiring” of any of the blogs I keep up with. Your recipes DO remind me of my grandmothers cooking, and my Mom’s too, as far as that goes.

    A dish that I would like to see you feature is fish chowder. Good old down east fish chowder. With some home made biscuits would be even better.

    Keep up the great work!

  19. I’d be afraid to try fish chowder without some help. I don’t have a good record with seafood. But if I can find a volunteer to help me, you’re on.

  20. Any Little Reason says:

    Now that I’ve wiped the drool from my keyboard….wow. This looks incredible. My mother-in-law has a similar recipe, which I’ve stolen…although hers incorporates cottage cheese instead of sour cream…which lends to an incredibly creamy rich flavor.

  21. I’ve had a couple of people recommend cottage cheese. I’ve never really liked cottage, but I like ricotta. Yeah, I know, it might as well be the same thing. Maybe I’ll give that a shot, and do provolone on top instead of Swiss. Hmm …

  22. whomajigi says:

    I’m making this right now, just waiting for my pasta to cook (yes, I did my dishes while waiting). Your site is awesome, I discovered it today. Huzzah!

  23. Okay, whomajigi. It’s been several hours now. Where are the pictures of your mac and cheese?

  24. I am making this tonight. I've got it all thrown together and it is going into the oven in a few minutes. One of our dinner guests has sworn off of mac & cheese for life (due to being force fed it at every other meal as a child, or so I'm told), but I am hoping this one can draw them back. We shall see.

  25. Wow, no pressure there, huh? Let me know how it comes out.

  26. Actually to call them “dinner guests” does make it sound a bit too formal. It is actually my “future” sister-in-law and her husband. They are living with us for a month or two while their new home is finished. So I may get them to try it, and maybe they won’t. Still, I can tell it should taste fantastic. As I said earlier, it is a lot like the way I normally make it, but an ingredient or two are different. I’m definitely looking forward to dinner tonight.

  27. wanderluck says:

    Drew, just found this little Internet gem of yours – I’m in love. Seriously.

    In other news, while your recipe looks positively droolworthy (not exaggerating my literal salivation), I want to know what recipe you used before you went to the Bahamas. Personally, I like my mac n’ cheese creamy and gooey. Baked mac n’ cheese was never really a dish served in my family; we always made the REAL version of the blue box stuff. But I’ve learned to like the stuff in the casserole dish… slowly. Still… the old recipe? :)

    Kate @ foodie from the boonies

  28. Terry, I’m still waiting, how did it come out?

    Kate, I think I’m going to have to do my old recipe sometime this fall. I haven’t made it since I discovered this new one, and I kind of miss it. The only problem is, I know how to make 30 pounds of it. Gotta figure out how to cut that down.

  29. Anne Lossing says:

    Hi Drew, I would love to help with the fish chowder like MY grandmother always made … if you can do the biscuits.

  30. Anne, you’re on. Do you like plain buttermilk, cheesy, herbed, other?

  31. Anne Lossing says:

    What a difficult decision … they each have their advantages. My grandmother would have made big fluffy buttermilk biscuits, so maybe that is the way to go. Is there a way of coordinating that is easier for me to get back to your response?

  32. Anne, check your email.

  33. Drew there is an easy equation for adjusting total recipe amounts. X=Required/yield. As in your recipe makes enough for 100 so you divide how many you want it to be for let’s say 2/100= 0.02 so multiply all the ingredients by 0.02. Works the other way too 100/2 multiply everything by 50

  34. Aimee, this makes two dinner-size servings. (ie: More than just a side dish.) I’d multiply everything by four to do it in a 9 x 13 lasagna dish.

  35. I have a Mac+Cheese that is quite different from that, but based on the way my mum used to make it when I was growing up.

    The pasta bit starts the came, but the sauce is a little different: 200g of butter, an onion and 2 rashers of diced bacon are cookied for a few minutes. Then 30g of white flour is added, and the heat reduced for a minute. 450ml of milk is slowly added whilst stirring. Once it is all added, keep stirring on some heat until it starts thickening. Then add a quarter teaspoon of chopped parsely and a quarter teaspoon of curry powder. Add about 120g of grated cheese. Drain the pasta and mix it all together. Dish up into individual dishes and top with more cheese. Melt that and you’re done.

  36. Wade, that sounds like a much creamier version than this one. I’d like to try it, but I’ll have to divide it into two batches. I’m pretty sure the kids wouldn’t like the curry. I’m trying to get them used to spicier foods, but it’s slow going.

  37. Drew,

    It turned out well. The texture was pretty fantastic, just the way I prefer it. This was my first time using only cheddar, so the taste was certainly much different than what I am accustomed to. In the past I’ve made it with a mixture of cheddar and velveeta. I know velveeta isn’t really “cheese”, but you can’t shake the taste you grew up with, you know? I am thinking of making it again in the next week or so and playing around with different cheeses. Thanks again.

  38. Try adding some yellow American. That’s what I use when I make a creamy version: about two parts cheddar to one part American. And if I’m making it just for myself, enough Swiss to give it a bite.

  39. weLL..first i wanna say thank you for a great piece of recipe Like this that i have learned this day..but i one more thing i want to ask, is how about the pork ? i mean those meat ? is it unnecessary to use meat in making baked mac ? coz i think, it wiLL onLy became boring to eat if bake mac has onLy non-other than cheese..right ?

  40. Last night, after debating with my boyfriend and my friend, I decided to show off your website and pull off that delicious looking Mac ‘n cheese. So, I went to the grocery store and I couldn’t find anything with the label “Heavy Cream”.. So I went with Sour cream!

    …Or so I thought. As I got home, I realized it was cottage cheese!

    But it was just as good, and I made them both drool, along with the in laws. Broiling it at the end made it crispy and just.. Yuuum!!

  41. July, I’ve had mac and cheese with various meats mixed in before. (Yes, including the neon-orange boxed kind with chunks of hot dogs. Yay childhood.) But I don’t think the meat really integrates with it. What I mean is the meat isn’t any better because it’s mixed in, so I’d just as soon put it alongside.

    Reenie, the more I use different kinds of dairy in recipes, the more I think it doesn’t matter what kind you’re using.

  42. Just Say NO says:

    Your version looks awesome, Drew, but I think my BF would seriously have another heart attack if he even looked at it. We have a joke that it was my mother’s recipe for mac ‘n cheese that gave him two heart attacks 9 years ago. In truth, the mac ‘n cheese just happened to be baking in the oven both times. Mom’s recipe isn’t creamy, it’s more custardy because all the milk is congealed (not a pleasant description, but it is tasty!). The macaroni is tossed or layered with 1/2 lb. or more of cheese. A can of mushroom soup is thinned to pouring consistency with milk, some pepper and salt added, then poured over the cheese/macaroni mixture. Then milk is poured all over the macaroni until almost level with the macaroni. The pan is covered and “baked until the milk disappears” (mom’s instructions), about 1-1.5 hours @ 350F deg., with the last 15 min. or so uncovered. I sometimes mix in bacon crumbles or sausage, and top with bread crumbs for a crunchy crust.

  43. You know, after just telling july that I don’t like adding meat to my mac and cheese you come along and suggest bacon. So I’m caught between my “no meat in mac and cheese” rule and my “everything’s better with bacon” rule.

    Bacon wins.

  44. This recipe looks absolutely incredible, I am going to try it tonight! Question, can I bake this in one 8 or 9 in baking dish? And if so, does it need to be covered?

  45. Morgan, this amount should probably work in an 8-inch dish. Cover it for the first 20 minutes, then take the lid off to get a crust on top if you like crusty cheese.

  46. so… confession. I'm completely a mac and cheese fiend and am pretty much freaking out over here. this needs to be made NOW.

    but question, would it be a problem if I put breadcrumbs on top? I just feel like they're a necessity in baked mac and cheese. can't wait to make this!

  47. Julia, you're the one who's going to eat it. Do what makes you happy.

    But please, if that includes ketchup … don't tell me about it, okay?

  48. one other thing, at one point in the comments you said to multiply everything by 6 for a 9×13 pan, but later you said multiply by 4. which is it?
    thanks!

  49. Jennifer Huynh says:

    Your mac and cheese looks very delicious and mouth watering! I admire your recipes and the photos are very helpful. I was wondering is it possible to substitute/replace the sour cream? for yogurt? for fat-free milk? or any other?

  50. Jennifer, I’ve found you can substitute one form of dairy for another pretty freely in recipes. Obviously the total fat content will make a big difference in the final taste. With all the butter and cheese already in it, I can’t imagine why you’d go for fat-free milk. If you want to save the calories, just eat a smaller portion. (I’ll get down off my soapbox now.)

  51. I want to make the macoroni and chesse from the instructions that you put to make the mac and chesse do you think everyone will really enjoy it? I also have to ask you another question why you did’ not add milk to your mac and chesse? You also put the pot with the mac and chesse and you cover it with the lid, and then you leave it in the oven for 350 degress for like 20 minutes in the oven I’m I right or wrong? Then when the macoroni and chesse is done baking do you put it on top on top of the stove, and how long do you cook it for? I really love mac nd chesse with brown crust and edges, and I’m wondering will the mac nd chesse taste good if it is really brown. I also love the way your macoroni and chesse look like it looks really nice. I will also will make the mac nd chesse from the instruction, and i will give you the comment. Reply back as soon as possible thank you.

  52. Rhonda, I don’t add milk because I prefer a more “set” texture, like a lasagna, rather than creamy like the kind you get in a box.

    In the picture where I put it on the stovetop, that’s just where I set it while I take the lids off. The tray goes back into the oven — under the broiler, actually — to finish the top. I don’t cook it on the stovetop again.

    Like I said, my kids like it just fine without crisping up the top. If you don’t like the crust, you can stop right where you take the lid off.

  53. So if you don’t put the mac and chesse in the stovetop to make it crispy then what do you do to make the mac and chesse crisp, and how long do you leave it to make it crispy? Why you put sour cream in your mac and chesse does it make the mac and chesse kind of taste wired?

  54. You baked the mac and cheese with the tray? When you take it out it will look crispy already?

  55. When you put the mac and cheese under the boiler do you add water?

  56. All the questions you asked are already answered in the original post. Just read that carefully. Everything that I did is written there.

  57. What is a broiler?

  58. Hi again,
    I asked a question a little while ago, but it was right before the site went down so it seems like it was understandably overlooked.
    But I’m still wondering, at one point in the comments you said to multiply everything by 6 for a 9×13 pan, but later you said multiply by 4. Which is it?
    Thanks so much!

  59. Julia, you’re absolutely right. I was right when I said 6 times. The 4 times is for my square casserole.

  60. Too Many Noodles!!! says:

    To use the recipe of your math at six times, I needed a 9×13 and a 10×14 to fit all the noodles. Please advise me on how long to cook this trough of macaroni.

  61. Cook time should be the same as always, but you’ll need a much bigger pot, so bringing that much water to a boil will take longer.

  62. I LOVED this recipe!! I made it last night for me and my 5 kids. Thanks to you, I received many compliments on the dish. I served it with fresh garlic bread and some asparagus on the side. The asparagus was the only thing left to clear off of the dinner table at the end! hahaha! kids!

  63. April, I’ve never had to clear asparagus from the table. If the kids don’t finish it, my wife and I fight over the last pieces. Glad everyone liked the mac and cheese.

  64. Lindley Border says:

    I LOVE macaroni and cheese!!!! It makes me feel like a kid again. Great for those raw rainy days…warms you up all over. Soooooo creamy…………so satisfying…soooooooo filling and gooey and omg JUST HEAVEN!!!! Make it in BIG batches for you always have that safe lil warm place to run any time you feel like it!!!

  65. Hi Drew:) I am so thankful for this website because of the delicious recipes I always find here. This particular Mac N Cheese recipe is the best “ever”. My husband loves mac n cheese and now he perfers to eat mine although I am learning cook. Maybe one day I’ll be able to cook like my grandmother or Drew both are just as good.

    • Damn girl, don’t say that where Grandma can hear you.

      • Ok I know this post is years old but I can’t resist. I hardly ever make it because it’s a huge recipe, but I love my mac&cheese, and i think it’s better than yours (!) so I wanted to share it with you so maybe you’d do a … cheese-off, I suppose. I start with a simple bechamel in a BIIIIIG pot (4T butter, about 1/3 C flour, 1 C steaming-hot milk) then add sea salt and fresh pepper once the sauce is setting up. Then I add 8 oz neufchatel, cut in chunks and stir until melted. Then I dump in the cooked elbows (1lb pre-cooked weight, al dente and still steaming hot), turn the heat on low, and start mixing the pasta and sauce, slowly mixing in the 2 lbs of cheese as I go (blend of cheddar, monterey, mozz, and anything I might have on hand). I put in my buttered roaster to bake (about 45 minutes @ 350), then cover the top in provolone slices, and finish baking until melty on top. Maybe you could try my way (might want to halve the recipe to feed 6 -8 instead of 12-16) and let me know what you think.

      • Ooh, a throwdown!

        That one does look pretty good. I’ll have to give that one a shot.

      • Well if you decide to halve the recipe, cut the cook time in half too, or it will burn. I only cook it so long (forgot to mention that I cover it with foil until after the provolone is on) because in my roaster, it’s about 4 inches deep and I want it to be set all the way through. Half recipe makes about a 9×13 dish but only needs to bake about 20 minutes before adding provolone. It does reheat well, and is even great at room temp (which is why when I make it, it’s good for get-togethers). I’ve had people say they like it cold, even, but I personally hate cold pasta.

        P.S. – the bechamel recipe I included above is the ‘base’ one that I use and I should have specified that when I make the full-size version of this, I double it. So if you halve this recipe, the sauce as written would be correct.

      • Thanks for the clarification.

  66. Ginnifer says:

    I don’t like cheddar as much. If I used colby jack should I still use sour cream?

    • Sure, swapping out an ingredient you don’t like for a similar one you do like is how you make a recipe yours.

  67. I make my mac n cheese with sour cream & Mayo…(yes mayo)..lol YUMMO

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