Trust me, old-fashioned baked macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. It’s a dish that never goes out of style and brings together flavors and textures that are incredibly satisfying.
Whether it’s a chilly day or a family gathering, this creamy and delicious dish is the perfect way to warm your heart with a tasty meal. For more delightful cheese recipes check out Potato Au Gratin, or balls of air fryer macaroni and cheese.
Choosing the Right Ingredients
When making old-fashioned baked macaroni, selecting the right ingredients is essential for achieving the best taste and texture. In this section, I’ll discuss my favorite choices for cheese, pasta, and additional seasonings and toppings.
Cheeses for the Perfect Flavor and Texture
Throughout my culinary adventures, I’ve always relied on the timeless appeal of mild cheddar cheese. However, feel free to explore other types of cheese such as cream cheese, gruyère, gouda, or a combination of mozzarella and Parmesan for that stringiness and delightful nutty flavor.
Additionally, if you are always on the go, you can go for pre-shredded cheese for your cheese recipes.
The Best Pasta for Mac and Cheese
When it comes to selecting pasta, I always go for the classic elbow macaroni. But for this recipe, I twisted the pasta into ziti. You can always go against the standard and experiment with other shapes such as penne or cavatappi.
Additional Seasonings and Toppings
You can get creative with toppings and add a personal touch to your mac and cheese recipe. My go-to options are:
- Bacon bits: Crispy, cooked bacon adds a smoky, salty flavor that enhances the overall taste.
- Diced ham: Mixing in diced ham adds a savory, smoky twist to the classic mac and cheese.
- Extra cheese: Add another layer of shredded cheese on top before baking for an extra cheesy and gooey topping.
You can make your own special version of mac and cheese by mixing different yummy cheeses, selecting your favorite pasta, and adding personal touches with seasonings and toppings.
Preparing Old Fashioned Baked Macaroni and Cheese
As a big fan of comfort food, let me tell you how I love making homemade mac and cheese for dinner. This creamy dish is perfect for gatherings, or even a satisfying family meal. Let’s dive right into the process of making baked macaroni and cheese, starting with the cheese sauce:
Making a Roux for the Cheese Sauce
Creating a smooth cheese sauce begins with making a roux. First, I melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.
Once the butter is melted, I whisk in an equal amount of flour to create a paste. It’s crucial to cook this mixture for a few minutes to remove the floury taste.
As for seasoning, I add a pinch of salt and a dash of ground black pepper to give a boost to the flavor.
Cooking the Pasta to Al Dente
While the roux is cooking, I boil the macaroni in a separate pot. It’s important to cook the pasta just until it’s al dente. This means it’s cooked but still has a slight bite to it. Cooking it this way ensures it won’t become mushy once you bake it with the cheese sauce.
Mixing Cheese Sauce and Pasta
After the roux is ready, I slowly whisk in the milk. I keep stirring the mixture until it’s thick and bubbly.
At this point, I add in freshly grated cheddar cheese.
Stir until it melts, creating a creamy and smooth sauce.
Finally, I combine the cooked macaroni and cheese sauce in a casserole dish.
Transfer the macaroni and cheese mixture into a suitable baking dish.
Mix the rest of the grated cheese with the panko breadcrumbs. Evenly distribute this blend across the macaroni and cheese.
Then, I preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and bake it for approximately 25 minutes until it’s bubbly and the top is golden brown.
And there you have it! My go-to homemade mac and cheese recipe.
Tips for Baking the Mac and Cheese
Preparing the Baking Dish
Before I begin baking my mac and cheese, I always make sure to prepare the baking dish properly. I use either a 3-quart or a 9×13 baking dish. I rub the inside of the pan with a bit of butter to ensure that the mac and cheese don’t stick to the sides.
Adding a Crispy Topping
This adds texture and a delightful contrasting crunch to the creamy dish. After I pour the macaroni and cheese mixture into the dish, I like to evenly scatter bread crumbs and cheese over the top. You can also use alternatives like panko or even crushed Ritz crackers.
Baking Time and Temperature Tips
To get the perfect consistency and achieve a golden brown crust for my baked mac and cheese, I bake it at 360°F for 25 to 30 minutes.
Some tips to ensure the best results:
- Make sure the macaroni is strained properly before mixing it with the cheese sauce.
- Creating a roux as your base can make the sauce creamy and stable.
- You can add eggs to have a firmer texture, but they are optional.
What Makes Mac and Cheese Too Thick?
Mac and cheese can become too thick due to an imbalance of cheese to milk, overuse of thickening agents like flour, extended or high-temperature cooking, or using cheeses that thicken considerably when melted.
Not using starchy pasta water to adjust the sauce consistency can also result in overly thick mac and cheese.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
If there are any leftovers from my baked mac and cheese, I store them covered in aluminum foil or an airtight container and refrigerate them.
To reheat the dish, I prefer to use a preheated oven at 350°F for about 20 minutes as it helps maintain its creaminess.
If you have some mac and cheese leftovers, you can freeze the dish. Remember that when reheating frozen mac and cheese, you should thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before putting it in the oven.
Variations and Add-Ins
When making baked mac and cheese, I love adding in some vegetables to make it a bit healthier and add some extra flavor. Some of my favorite vegetables to mix in are broccoli, peas, and carrots.
To make it even better, I like to sauté these vegetables in a pan with some butter or olive oil and season them with a bit of salt and ground black pepper. Adding these vegetable mix-ins can turn your mac and cheese into a family favorite!
Meat and Protein Options
When I want to add some protein to my mac and cheese, I usually opt for cooked bacon bits, shredded chicken, or ground beef. These options can add some heartiness and satisfy the taste buds of any meat lovers at the table.
Cooking tips for the meats include seasoning them with your favorite spices and ensuring they are cooked through before adding them to your pasta.
Creative Cheese Combinations
While the classic mac and cheese usually involves cheddar cheese, I enjoy experimenting with various cheeses to create new flavor profiles. One of my favorite combinations includes using pepper jack, parmesan, Gouda, and Gruyere, or mozzarella, which makes a creamy cheese sauce with a pleasant hint of spice.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I make a creamy cheese sauce?
I usually start by creating a roux with butter and flour to make a creamy cheese sauce. Once the roux is smooth, I slowly whisk in milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Then, I bring the mixture to a simmer before gradually adding my grated cheeses.
How can I add a crunchy topping?
To add a crunchy topping to my mac and cheese, I like to combine breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, and melted butter in a small bowl. Then, I simply sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the mac and cheese before baking. This creates a delicious, golden brown crust that contrasts nicely with the creamy pasta beneath.
Can I use different milks like almond or soy?
Yes, alternative milks like almond or soy can be used in homemade mac and cheese. I’ve found that unsweetened, unflavored varieties work best to avoid altering the taste of the dish.
Keep in mind that non-dairy milks may result in a slightly thinner sauce, so you may want to increase the amount of roux or cheese to achieve the desired consist or cheese to achieve the desired consistency.
Old Fashioned Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- 2/3 cup Macaroni
- 2 cups Grated cheddar cheese
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup Milk
- ½ tsp Black pepper
- ½ tsp Salt
- ⅕ tsp Nutmeg
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 2 Tbsp All-purpose flour
- Begin by cooking the macaroni in salted water until it reaches al dente perfection. After cooking, empty the water from the macaroni and put it to one side. Preheat your oven to 360°F (182°C) while you proceed with the remaining steps.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it is fully liquefied.
- Add the all-purpose flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to the melted butter. Stir the ingredients together thoroughly to create a well-blended mixture.
- Gradually pour the milk into the saucepan while continuing to stir. Ensure that the mixture remains smooth and free from any lumps.
- Incorporate the grated cheddar cheese into the saucepan and continue stirring. Allow the cheese to melt completely, ensuring a velvety consistency throughout the sauce. Maintain the heat for an additional 3 minutes to thoroughly blend the flavors.
- Add the cooked macaroni to the saucepan and stir gently until the pasta is entirely coated with the delectable cheese sauce.
- Transfer the macaroni and cheese mixture into a suitable baking dish, ensuring an even distribution. Smooth out the top for an appealing presentation.
- Combine the remaining grated cheese with the panko breadcrumbs. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the macaroni and cheese in the baking dish, providing a delightful crunchy texture.
- Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and allow the macaroni and cheese to bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling.
- Once fully cooked, remove the dish from the oven. Allow it to cool slightly before cutting the macaroni and cheese into individual portions, ensuring each serving is both visually appealing and satisfyingly delicious.
- Serve the scrumptious macaroni and cheese to your eager guests, who will undoubtedly appreciate the mouthwatering combination of tender pasta, creamy cheese sauce, and a delightful breadcrumb topping. Enjoy!