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Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

How to make mac and cheese - white casserole dish filled with macaroni and cheese - white casserole dish with filled with mac and cheese. A scoop is taken out
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Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Serving a crowd? Feel free to double this recipe and bake it in a 9×13 dish.


For the topping:

  • 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Pinch cayenne pepper

For the macaroni:

  • 10 ounces elbow macaroni pasta or cavatappi
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

For the sauce:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 10-ounce brick of cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3 cups thickly shredded cheddar cheese)
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder


  • Minced parsley or chives (optional)


1 Prepare the pan and heat the oven: Butter an 8×8 pan and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2 Make the topping: In a small bowl, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add panko, Parmesan, salt, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

3 Boil the pasta: Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium high heat. Add the macaroni and salt. Cook until the pasta is firm-tender, or al dente. Usually, this takes about a minute or two less than the cook time recommended on the box.

4 Drain and butter the pasta: Drain the pasta into a colander. Add 1 tablespoon butter to the same pot you boiled the pasta in. Add the drained pasta back to the pan and stir to coat. Remove from heat. You’ll get back to it later.

5 Make the sauce: In a large, high sided skillet set over medium heat, add the cream cheese, 1 cup of milk, and all of the spices. Break apart and smash the cream cheese with a spatula as it begins to soften and melt. Once the cream cheese is in pieces the size of a nickel or smaller, whisk the mixture until it’s homogeneous and thickened, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Creamy Mac and cheese recipe - hand sprinkling shredded cheddar cheese into a cheese sauce and stirring it together.

6 Add the remaining milk and cheddar cheese: Whisk the remaining 1 1/2 cups of milk into the sauce. Add the cheddar cheese one cup at a time, whisking continuously. Make sure each cup is incorporated before adding the next.

7 Add the pasta to the sauce: Once the sauce is thick like heavy whipping cream and homogeneous, add the pasta. Stir to coat. It will look soupy. That’s what you want. Transfer the mixture to the buttered 8×8 pan. Smooth the top.

Easy mac and cheese - hand in frame holding a pot with elbow macaroni and pouring it into a pan with cheese sauce and more elbow macaroniHomemade mac and cheese - macaroni noodles being stirred into a creamy cheese sauce with a wooden spatula

8 Top with panko and bake: Sprinkle the panko mixture over the top of the mac and cheese. Place in oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges. Cool briefly before serving.

Best mac and cheese recipe -- hand sprinkling breadcrumbs ontop mac and chees in a white casserole dishKraft mac and cheese - woman's hands holding a white casserole dish filled with baked mac and cheese

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