To Bake Or Not To Bake:
You dont have to bake the mac and cheese in this recipe. Everything gets fully cooked and is essentially ready to eat after the cheese and noodles are added. However, I love the extra gooeyness that comes when the cheese is baked and I think baking it adds a level of sophistication you just dont get without.
Creamy Baked Mac And Cheese
The Chunky Chef09/30/2019
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This baked mac and cheese is a family favorite recipe, loved by both children and adults. It uses a combination of cheeses, layered in the dish as well as melted into a rich and creamy cheese sauce, for the ultimate in cheesy deliciousness! Perfect for a comforting dinner or as a holiday side dish!
BAKED MAC AND CHEESE
Baked mac and cheese. Its nearly the universal comfort food, and there are SO many variations! In fact, I almost didnt post this recipe, as there are SOOOO many mac and cheese recipes available, and most people already have their favorite way of making it.
Of course, theres no right way or wrong way, so Im here sharing the way I like to make my mac and cheese .
Variations Of Crock Pot Mac And Cheese
- Pasta Shapes to mimic the classic recipe, I normally use elbow pasta. But any short-cut pasta works just as well! Medium shells, penne, rotini, etc. Just note that different pastas will have slightly different cook times, so use the recipe times as an approximate.
- Cooking Liquids like I mentioned above, I prefer the taste and consistency of chicken broth, evaporated milk and heavy cream. However, feel free to test out different proportions of those liquids, or try out different liquids. Just note that I can only vouch for this recipe as written.
- Cheeses As with most mac and cheese recipes, the types of cheese called for are not the only ones you can use. Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, Colby, Gruyere, sharp cheddar any and all!
- Seasonings feel free to add in additional seasonings that you love in your mac and cheese.
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How To Make Crock Pot Mac And Cheese
- Add pasta and liquids to the slow cooker. Sprinkle in seasonings and stir.
- Cover and cook 1 hour. Stir. Cover and cook another 10 minutes.
- Stir in cream cheese and grated cheese. Cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Stir and serve.
How easy is that?! No fancy cream sauce to make just hands-off cook time so you can go relax!
The Best Homemade Baked Mac And Cheese
The BEST Homemade Mac and Cheese of your LIFE. Outrageously cheesy, ultra creamy, and topped with a crunchy Panko-Parmesan topping, this mac and cheese recipe is most definitely a keeper. I used three different cheese and a homemade cheese sauce to take this macaroni and cheese recipe over the top. Love cheesy recipes? Make sure to try this Lazy Day Lasagna and Cheesy Kielbasa Rice and Broccoli Skillet next week for dinner!
This post is sponsored by Walmart and SheKnows Media.
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Making Mac And Cheese Ahead Of Time
- Make as directed , transfer to baking dish and cool completely. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate 1-2 days ahead.
- Before baking, let dish sit on counter for 30 minutes.
- Bake at recipe temperature for 25-35 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
As a caveat, this recipe, as with most mac and cheese recipes, loses some of its creaminess when made ahead. This dish has been tested when made right away, which yields the best results.
I would increase the amount of sauce slightly if you need to make this recipe ahead of time.
Cooking Tips For Crock Pot Mac And Cheese
Ive tested this recipe more times than Id like to admit, and through all those trials and errors, Ive come up with a few helpful tips.
- Spray the crockpot. I know it might sound weird, but it really helps keep the pasta from sticking too much to the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Use the right liquids. For most of my attempts, I was using regular, whole milk, and every time it would thicken way too much and sort of seize up on me. Ive found that a mixture of chicken broth, evaporated milk, with a little heavy cream for richness, yields the best creamy sauce.
- Grate your own cheeses. I know I know. Its SO tempting to open a bag of pre-shredded cheese from the store and Ive done it on occasion. But most commercial pre-shredded cheeses are coated in cellulose, which essentially keeps the cheese from all clumping together in the bag. Ever noticed how bags of pre-shredded cheese that are coming up on their expiration date usually have clumps of cheese stuck together inside? Its because the cellulose is just about gone from the cheese. That coating prevents the cheese from truly melting down into a gloriously gooey cheese sauce, and can leave your sauce a bit on the gritty side.
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How To Make Homemade Mac And Cheese
Making homemade macaroni and cheese is surprisingly easy and quick!
How To Make A Roux
First time making a roux? No problem! Check out this super simple tutorial:
Congrats, youve made your roux! This will give your mac the thick and creamy texture youre looking for.
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How To Store Roux
Having a stash of cooked roux in your fridge or freezer saves time when it comes to making sauces and soups. Here’s how to store it so it’s ready when you are:
- Carefully pour the finished roux onto a baking sheet or into ice cube trays and place in the refrigerator to cool.
- Refrigerate the roux for several hours or overnight until it has hardened completely.
- Roux will keep indefinitely when stored in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container. Roux made with vegetable oil can be stored at room temperature for several weeks, but roux made with butter or fat should always be refrigerated.
How To Make Homemade Roux For A Creamy Sauce
To make a simple and flavorful roux, start by melting a stick of butter in a medium saucepan.
Whisk in the salt and pepper. A very important step is to continue stirring for a good 2-3 minutes until roux turns a bit darker in color. It becomes richer and even more fabulous.
Slowly whisk in the milk until mixture is thick and creamy. This step will take a couple minutes over medium heat.
Stir in cheese until creamy and cheese is melted through. I prefer a finely shredded mild cheddar. It melts quickly and has a perfect cheddar flavor.
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What Makes It Extra Cheesy
For this extra cheesy homemade mac and cheese, I did use slightly more roux and added about 30% more cheese than I generally do to my simple stovetop mac and cheese recipes. And Im not even sorry about it. The thicker sauce and extra cheese made this mac and cheese so lusciously creamy and cheesy that I couldnt stop sneaking forkfuls between photographs. AND the best part is that it even stays smooth and creamy when reheated in the microwave. Mac and cheese heaven!
Why This Mac And Cheese Sauce
Out of all the recipes on the internet, why choose this cheese sauce for mac and cheese?
- 7 simple ingredients
Technically the hot sauce is optional, but I promise it makes this cheese sauce SO GOOD. A little vinegar really does bring out the flavor of the cheese sauce.
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Cook The Fat And Flour Together
Begin by heating 2 tablespoons oil or fat in a saucepan over medium heat until a pinch of flour sprinkled into the oil will just begin to bubble.
Then, whisk in 3-1/2 tablespoons of flour to form a thick paste the consistency of cake frosting. Continue whisking as the roux gently bubbles and cooks to the shade desired. Do not allow the roux to bubble too vigorously, or it will burn rather than brown.
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Macaroni And Cheese Variations
This recipe is easy to adapt to other variations. Here are some of our favorites:
Baked Mac and Cheese: Once the pasta and cheese sauce are combined, add it to a baking dish and bake with a little more cheese and breadcrumbs sprinkled on top. We shared this Baked Macaroni and Cheese a while back.
Garlic Mac and Cheese: Fresh garlic and roasted garlic are excellent in this recipe. Add either to the butter just before adding the flour. For fresh, Id use 2 to 3 cloves. For roasted garlic, you can increase to 6 cloves or more. See our recipe for making roasted garlic.
Use a Variety of Cheeses: Cheddar isnt the only cheese to use. Try easy melting Gruyere, Fontina or Monterey Jack. For more flavor, a bit of parmesan or pecorino cheese is lovely, and for a more adult dish, try blue cheese!
Spiced Macaroni and Cheese: Mustard , nutmeg, and a pinch of cayenne pepper are classic additions to the cheese sauce. Smoked paprika is also delicious.
Broccoli Mac and Cheese: A kid favorite! Stir roasted broccoli or steamed broccoli into the pot before serving. Heres how we make roasted broccoli.
Lighter Mac and Cheese: Swapping half of the cheese sauce for pureed cauliflower cuts calories and still tastes incredible.
Special Equipment Used In This Recipe
- Box Grater remember, the best mac starts with freshly shredded cheese!
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Post has been updated in September 2019 with new photos and additional information.
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @the_chunky_chef on Facebook and Instagram!
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The Best Mac And Cheese Recipe
Theres nothing like homemade mac and cheese, am I right? What makes the perfect mac and cheese in your opinion? Good ol Kraft right out of the box? Homemade thick and cheesy on the stovetop? Baked with a crispy topping and lots of ingredients inside?
I think its a bit different for everyone, but let me tell you about my perfect mac and cheese. I like a thick and creamy perfectly flavorful cheese sauce like my picture above shows. If that sounds good to you, then you will LOVE this recipe too
See my Bacon Mac and Cheese Recipe too! Be sure to follow for daily recipe inspiration!
Make The Cheese Sauce
While the macaroni is cooking, make the cheese sauce. It’s really easy but there are a few notes that we’ll go over to ensure your success!
Make a Roux
This homemade mac and cheese sauce starts with a roux. What is a roux? It’s a mixture of fat and flour that is used to create thick sauces. Start by melting the butter and then adding the dry ingredients .
Use a whisk to combine the ingredients until the mixture is homogenous . Let it cook for about 60 seconds before moving on!
Add wet ingredients.
After the roux has cooked for 60 seconds, add the milk and whisk the mixture really well. Add the sour cream or Greek yogurt and whisk again. At this point the mixture will be fairly runny. Cook over medium heat whisking every 10-15 seconds until the sauce starts to thicken.
Do NOT let this mixture boil! If you do you may end up with a mac and cheese sauce that is too thick. Once the sauce has thickened enough to stick to a spatula, turn the heat to low. Then it’s time for the next step…
Add the cheese & whisk until smooth
Add the cheese and whisk until the sauce is smooth and all the cheese is melted. This will take 1-2 minutes over low heat. At this point it is important to taste the cheese sauce and adjust the salt/garlic according to your tastes!
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What Is A Mac And Cheese Roux And Why Do I Need It
A roux is essentially a way to thicken a sauce or liquid. You need a fat and a flour in order to make this thickening agent and then you need to heat it to activate it.
The reason why you dont want to skip the roux for this mac and cheese sauce recipe is that the roux is what helps make it thick and luscious.
Baking Mac And Cheese
- Baking macaroni and cheese is optional. I always bake my mac and cheese further as it tastes so good. But if you dont have an oven or the time, then just mix and serve.
- Do top with breadcrumbs when baking as they add a lovely crispy and crunchy layer.
- Feel free to add seasonings, herbs and spices of your choice. I keep it simple with crushed black pepper and a bit of ground nutmeg. A dash of mustard powder also perks up the flavor.
- To add some fiber and extra nutrition to in the dish, simply mix in some steamed veggies.
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What Youll Need To Make Mac And Cheese
I use three different kinds of cheese in this recipe: Gruyère, extra-sharp Cheddar, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Using more than one type of cheese adds dimension to the dish. Be sure to use an authentic Swiss-made Gruyère that bears the AOP seal, which shows that the cheese is made according to strict government-mandated quality standards.
Similarly, its important to use authentic Parmigiano Reggiano. You can always tell if its the real deal by looking at the rind, which is embossed with the name over and over.
I go the traditional route with the pasta and use macaroni, but any pasta that has lots of nooks and crannies will work nicely. Your goal is to use a shape that catches and holds onto as much of the cheesy sauce as possible.
Southern Baked Mac & Cheese
There are three major takeaways from Millie Peartree’s famous baked mac & cheese.
Salt and pepper, to taste
If you dont like sharp cheese please feel free to use mild or any other cheese you like
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