Baked mac and cheese is such a staple comfort food! Nothing like a big bowl of mac n cheese on a rainy lazy day. It’s also a crowd pleaser and easy to make a big batch which makes it one of my favorite recipes when entertaining! I know there is countless baked Mac n cheese recipes around the web but I still wanted to share mine because it is something I feel I have perfected over the years.
I like to make this two different ways. The first being just using a sharp cheddar for an amazingly delicious simple mac n cheese. The richness of sharp cheddar cheese combined with the creamy goodness of the sauce makes my mouth water! In fact we had this for dinner tonight and I think I’ll warm myself up another bowl as soon as I can get the two year old to sleep. If he ever goes to sleep that is. I’ll probably have a few cupcakes and recees too if I’m being honest.
The next way I love to make this Mac n cheese is by adding goat cheese. I love love love goat cheese for its tanginess and creaminess. It’s the perfect cheese for baked mac n cheese because it’s flavor can hold it’s own in the sauce and it also adds another layer of creaminess. Is creaminess a real word? I say yes!
I love both of these recipes equally. I usually make the simple sharp cheddar version for weeknight dinners and use the goat cheese version when cooking for others. They are both staples in our house.
I honestly feel like there’s no bad cheese for Mac n cheese. I remember reading once that Mac n cheese was made by farmers wives back in the day to cook whatever left over cheese they needed to use up. I’m not sure how true that is but I do sometimes use whatever cheeses I have in the fridge. Especially if I only have a small amount of a cheese left that won’t be enough for anything else. I’ll just throw it in with the other cheese I’m using. I tend to have smoked gouda left over a lot randomly and it is EXCELLENT in Mac n cheese. Throw in some bacon and you’ve got yourself a nice little rich creamy and smoky dinner. But this is baked mac n cheese TWO ways so I’ll get back to the point!
The only cheese I can think of that I wouldnt. recommend for Mac n cheese is mozzarella or feta. Extra sharp cheddar and goat cheese are just what I think are best.
I first started using this Fannie farmers baked mac n cheese recipe years and years ago and my go to recipe now is just an evolution of that one. My main changes are using half and half instead of milk and cream and adding more cheese/different cheeses.
We like to eat these mac n cheeses two ways. We like it baked with panko on top, which is usually what I do if making it for parties or entertaining. The other way is to not bake it and just eat it off the stovetop. Both are great. We usually just eat it straight from the stovetop at home because my family likes it that way and I like not having the extra step of adding bread crumbs and baking it.
Ok enough talk let’s get to the recipe!
1 box elbow, cavatapi or casserole elbow macaroni
4 tbsps butter
4 tbsps white flour
1 pint (2 cups) half and half
1/8 cup whole milk
12 ounces (usually a block and half) of sharp cheddar. I like to get extra sharp cheddar
8 ounces sharp cheddar and 4 oz goat cheese (try to get the log of goat cheese and not the crumbled goat cheese because it’s smoother and usually comes in 4 oz logs)
Panko (if baking)
1. Boil your pasta with salted water. I always use kosher salt or real salt because I love the taste but obviously any salt is fine.
2. While your pasta is cooking melt your butter on medium heat.
3. When your butter is melted add flour and whisk until it gets to a golden brown color.
4. Pour in your half and half, whisk together and bring to a boil for about a minute continually whisking.
5. Lower to simmer and whisk often for 5 minutes.
6. Throw in milk and continue whisking often for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste at this point as well.
7. Slowly add in cheese and whisk together until smooth with heat on low.
8. Put cheese sauce and macaroni together and add panko on top if baking.
9. Bake at 425 for about a half hr or til golden brown on top.
If not baking then just serve immediately. Alot of times I’ll serve it straight from the stovetop one night and bake the leftovers with panko the next day (if there is any)
Tip : use block cheese for best flavor. You can break it into chunks then grate it up in a food processor for quicker grating. It’ll look something like this :
Or obviously if you have a grater attachment it would just be grated.
What’s your favorite comfort foods? Let me know in the comments below! And let me know if you try this recipe too!
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