There is no better comfort food than macaroni and cheese. I remember it would be a treat if my parents ever made it, probably because Kraft’s vibrant sauce was a little-off putting, even though it tasted amazing to my sister and me.
Years later, I decided that it was time I finally tried to make real mac and cheese, sans powdered cheese and Spongebob noodles. I was pleasantly surprised by how simple mac and cheese is to make so long as you have a stove and an oven.
It starts with a béchamel sauce which is really just a mixture of flour, butter and milk, cooked so it can become thick, creamy and coat the noodles nicely. Then cheese is added to that sauce to make it well, cheesy and delicious. Cover the noodles in the sauce, bake it in the oven for a couple of minutes and viola, homemade mac and cheese.
This recipe uses classic elbow noodles, two types of cheese and crispy bacon (optional), the perfect combination if you ask me. Once you try it, you will never want to resort to boxed mac and cheese, even in the most desperate times.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4-6 bowls
1 box elbow pasta
1 lb bacon (optional)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 ¼ cup sharp yellow cheddar cheese
1 ¼ cup monterey jack cheese
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste (optional)
Dried parsley, to taste (optional)
⅓ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1. Grate your cheeses until you have 1 ¼ cup of each.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
3. Fry bacon in a large skillet until crisp (this will take the longest amount of time).
4. Once the water has boiled, add in your pasta. Cook according to box instructions, and then drain and set aside.
5. Place the cooked bacon on paper towels to remove excess grease.
6. To start the sauce, melt the butter over medium heat.
7. Once the butter is melted, add in your flour and whisk for about a minute until the mixture turns golden brown.
8. Add your milk to the butter and flour mixture and whisk. Cook the sauce over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally to avoid any lumps.
9. While sauce is cooking, tear up the bacon into small pieces.
10. To check if the sauce is ready to have cheese mixed into it, you can use the spoon test. If you stir the sauce with a wooden spoon, the sauce should not drip off the spoon since it has thickened significantly.
11. Add one cup of each cheese to the sauce (the other ¼ cup of each will be reserved for the topping). At this point you can also season the sauce with salt, pepper and whatever else you feel like adding.
I prefer garlic powder and parsley flakes. Be sure to taste the sauce before you add it to the pasta.
12. Add noodles to a greased 9×9 pan. Pour cheese sauce over pasta, add bacon (reserve some for topping), and stir.
14. Turn your oven’s broiler on.
15. Top the pasta with reserved cheese and bacon, breadcrumbs, and a few shakes of parsley.
16. Place under the broiler and let cook for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.
17. Let cool (if you have the willpower) and enjoy your homemade mac and cheese.
- Always grate your own cheese. The pre-shredded cheese has a floury coating, which can alter the texture of your sauce. If you grate your own, you will be sure to have a nice and creamy sauce.
- Don’t skimp on the salt. If your sauce does not taste cheesy enough to your liking, try adding some more salt before you grate more cheese.
- If you can’t find Monterey jack cheese, mozzarella can be used as a substitute.
- If you want to make a meal out of your mac and cheese, I suggest serving it with some rotisserie chicken and steamed broccoli (this was my favorite meal as a kid).
Still craving more mac and cheese? These recipes have you covered: