Oven Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Oven Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Ah – comfort food. Hot, filling, and made up of flavors you remember from childhood.  That’s the secret behind this Oven Baked Macaroni and Cheese.

And it’s even better when it’s homemade and free of all the preservatives and artificial colors that are routinely added to our usual comfort foods.  Take the Kraft version of “Easy Mac and Cheese”:

Whey, Maltodextrin, Corn Syrup Solids, Palm Oil, Modified Food Starch, Milkfat, Salt, Milk Protein Concentrate, Medium Chain Triglyceride, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Citric Acid, Sodium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Lactic Acid, Calcium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Monosodium Glutamate, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Artificial Flavor, Cheese Culture, Enzymes.

Some of this is present in all cheese (cheese culture, enzymes), but the rest?  We can do better.  Way better.  This Oven Baked Macaroni and Cheese is made with all-natural ingredients, uses things you most likely have on hand right now, and produces a rich, creamy main dish you can serve with confidence.

Why Oven Baked Macaroni and Cheese?

When making macaroni and cheese, you have a choice right at the beginning – stovetop version or baked version.  The stovetop version might be a little shorter, but I prefer the baked version, topped with buttery, toasted bread crumbs.  I think you will, too.

The Possibilities are Endless.

With that direction settled, then it’s just the basic process: Make a cheese sauce, partially cook some pasta, mix the two together, top with crumbs and bake until set.  Within that boundary, go crazy!  Use whatever cheese you have on hand.  Add some protein, like imitation crab meat shown here, or even browned and drained hamburger or sausage.  Mix up the spices.  Add some Mexican Tajin to the breadcrumbs mixture on the topping.  There are a million variations you can try.  And all of them will have your family asking for real macaroni and cheese rather than the boxed, over-processed version.

This recipe makes a huge amount, but it freezes really well.  I use foil pans from the dollar store, wrap one in foil, then plastic wrap, and freeze for up to two months.  Just remove, and bake at 350F for an hour.  OR – the recipe can easily be cut in half – it works fine just as it is.

You can add protein to the dish – just make sure it’s fully cooked before adding, as the temperature reached in baking will not cook meats or fish to a proper temperature.  Be sure to drain well before adding!

If you’re looking to “elevate” the dish, use a combination of sharp cheddar with Gruyere cheese, and add about 8 oz of cooked lobster or crabmeat.  For the kids, use their favorite cheese and add chicken.  Let me know what variations you came up with – the possibilities are endless!


For grating 6 cups of cheese, nothing beats a good food processor.  The Magimix Food Processor can do it all:

The Magimix Food Processor

The Magimix Food Processor is built to last with a 30-year guarantee! Check out the video of the unit in action.


Oven Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Oven Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Oven Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Oven Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Homemade cheese sauce mixed with pasta, topped with buttery bread crumbs and baked until toasty.  This comfort food favorite will please a crowd.  Makes 12 servings!  (I usually freeze half).
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Oven Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Don Herman

Ingredients

  • 8 tbsp Butter 6 for the sauce, 2 for the bread crumbs
  • 6 slices Bread torn into 1/4 – 1/2″ pieces
  • 5 1/2 cups Milk
  • 1/2 cup Flour all-purpose
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 24 oz Cheese grated, about 6 cups
  • 1 lb Elbow Macaroni

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375F.  Grease a large 3-quart or 2, 1 1/2 qt baking dishes.  (I use 2 foil pans from the dollar store – one for serving immediately, and one for wrapping in foil and freezing.
  • Cook the macaroni in a large pot of salted water until almost done – not crunchy, but not to where you would serve it.  Drain well, return to pan over heat and stir just until it wants to start to stick to the bottom.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan large enough to hold your bread crumbs.  Add the crumbs and toss to coat.  Set aside.
  • Heat the milk over medium heat until just steaming but don’t let it boil.  
  • In a large pot or deep skillet, melt the remaining butter until hot and bubbling.  Add the flour and whisk steadily for a little over a minute, until it begins to smell nutty and cooked.
  • As you continue to whisk, add the hot milk to the butter/flour mixture.  Cook for a few more minutes until the mixture turns thick and bubbly.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne.  Add 4 cups of the cheeses (reserving 2 cups for topping) and stir to melt until smooth and creamy.
  • Pour the mac and cheese into your prepared dish(es).  
  • Top first with the remaining cheese, then the bread crumbs.
  • Bake until the crumbs are browned – about 30 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes before serving.
    Oven Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Notes

Why heat the macaroni after cooking?  If you combine the cooked pasta to the cheese immediately after draining, you’re going to introduce quite a lot of water to the dish, as a quick draining just doesn’t quite do it.  Adding the pasta back to the pan will dry it out further, allowing the cheese sauce to more thoroughly coat the pasta.
Why torn bread and not just prepared bread crumbs or Panko?  It’s all about texture.  Prepared bread crumbs in this particular dish actually makes for a “gritty” texture in your mouth.  Panko is a bit better, but nothing beats the satisfying crunch of these small toasted bits of buttery bread.  
This recipe makes a huge amount, but it freezes really well.  I use foil pans from the dollar store, wrap one in foil, then plastic wrap, and freeze for up to two months.  Just remove, and bake at 350F for an hour.  OR – the recipe can easily be cut in half – it works fine just as it is.
You can add protein to the dish – just make sure it’s fully cooked before adding, as the temperature reached in baking will not cook meats or fish to a proper temperature.  Be sure to drain well!

icon icon

If you’re looking for more make-ahead-and-freeze recipes, try out my Kansas Bierocks recipe.

What did you think? Leave me a note to let me know how it worked out for you.

Recommended Articles

7 Comments

  1. 5 stars


    Oh my… I’m salivating and I’m not even hungry, lol. Your dish looks amazing. I have 4 year old twins who absolutely love Mac and cheese. It seems like that’s the only thing they want to eat. I’ve tried to mix it up a bit by adding some protein to the recipe. I usually use the stove top, but after reading this I’m going to try baking the Mac and cheese. Especially since the recipe is huge and can be frozen and served again. I think I’m going to add chicken and broccoli as my protein and veggie. If it turns out looking anything like yours I know my kids will eat it up. Thank you for writing this article and giving out this recipe!
  2. Hello,

    What a yummy post. I couldn’t stop salivating as I read the post. I was so impressed with the recipe and I will try it cos I love trying new cuisine and baking. I will bake it this weekend for my family. It is so yummy and healthy too. Thank you for writing this post. One question, since macaroni is a processed food won’t it damage my dieting menu?

    1. It could if you choose the wrong macaroni!  I use an organic variety, with no preservatives, and it’s easy to find in most grocery stores here.  Enjoy!

  3. Well, you definitely did not miss anything when it comes to preparing this meal. I am really glad you also gave a recommendation for food processor. Finding good food processor is not so easy these days. I will make sure I check it out on Amazon.

    I love eating baked macaroni and cheesy and I will definitely add your recipe to my list. We make our specialties a little different here in Easter Europe.

    Thank you. It was really informative.

    Strahinja.

    1. You are welcome.  Enjoy a very traditional American-style dish.  I will be visiting Budapest this summer, so perhaps I’ll learn some new ways to make things.

  4. Hi

    Who doesn’t like mac and cheese as it is comfort food that all cheese lovers adore.  I have been making mac and cheese for a number of years and so are familiar with how to make it.  It is always good to see how your recipe compares to others, and I see we are pretty close.  

    As I am based in Europe I am glad my local cheese is made natural will no additional colors or preservatives.    Can any cheese be used, as  I prefer a cheese which has a bite to it?  I am glad I bumped into your website and will bookmark it for further recipes.

    Thank you 

    Antonio

    1. For this dish, you want a younger, easier-melting cheese, but other than that, pick whatever you like!  I’ve used Gruyere which has a nice bite to it.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating