Baked Mac and Cheese

$6.16 recipe / $1.03 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.15 from 7 votes
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Macaroni and cheese is one of those dishes that I will literally never get tired of and I love it in all of its different forms. Whether it’s super creamy stovetop mac and cheese, one pot mac, mac and cheese with add-ins, or this thicker casserole-like baked mac and cheese, they’re all divine. Baked mac and cheese is great when you want a thicker, cheesier mac with a crunchy, buttery topping. Okay, I need to stop talking and show you how to make this like, RIGHT NOW.

Side view of macaroni and cheese being lifted out of the casserole dish.

Why Bake Macaroni and Cheese?

Usually, when I make mac I’m in a hurry to eat that creamy, cheesy goodness so I just eat it straight out of the pot without taking the time to bake it. But if you want even MORE cheese and a crispy crunchy flavorful topping, baked mac and cheese is the way to go. The pasta soaks up all that delicious flavor and you get a super rich casserole like mac and cheese that is unparalleled. Adding these few extra steps gives this macaroni and cheese main character energy, taking it from just another side dish to the star of the show.

How to Give Mac and Cheese More Flavor

To make the absolute BEST mac and cheese, we gave the cheese sauce two extra punches of flavor with chicken broth and a HEFTY dose of herbs and spices. Not only is the cheese sauce seasoned throughout, we then topped the casserole with a buttery mix of breadcrumbs and even MORE SEASONING. I’m telling you, this mac and cheese is a force to be reckoned with.

What’s the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese?

Cheddar cheese is the classic option for mac and cheese, but we decided to mix in a little extra to give the cheese sauce more flavor and depth. Instead of buying several types of cheese, we simply mixed in some store-bought shredded Italian cheese blend for a quick pop of flavor. Other cheeses that are great in mac and cheese include:

  • Gouda
  • Fresh Parmesan
  • Monterey jack
  • Pepper jack
  • White cheddar
  • Goat cheese
  • Brie

Use one of the cheeses listed above or toss in the odds and ends of the cheeses in your fridge for a unique twist!

Can Baked Mac and Cheese Be Reheated?

Baked mac and cheese is a little less saucy than its stovetop counterpart and the macaroni will continue to absorb the sauce as it’s refrigerated. So, while I happily wolfed down bowl after bowl of this mac after reheating, it doesn’t stay quite as saucy. For a mac and cheese that’s a little saucier upon reheat, check out our super creamy stovetop mac and cheese.

Overhead view of the baked mac and cheese in the casserole dish.
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Baked Mac and Cheese

4.15 from 7 votes
Baked mac and cheese is an extra rich and cheesy pasta casserole that is baked to perfection with a buttery and crunchy topping.
Side view of baked mac and cheese being lifted out of the casserole dish with a wooden spoon.
Servings 6 1 cup each
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 45 minutes
Total 55 minutes


Mac and Cheese

Seasoned Breadcrumbs

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  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Add the chicken broth, heavy cream, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper to a sauce pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally.
  • Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium and allow the mixture to simmer for 7 minutes, whisking often, to reduce.
  • Remove the sauce from the heat. In a separate bowl, combine the shredded cheddar cheese and Italian cheese blend. Reserve about 1/4 of the cheese mix to use as a layer in the casserole dish. Add the remaining cheeses to the sauce a handful at a time, whisking it into the sauce until fully melted before adding more. Continue whisking in the cheese until all of it has been added and the sauce is smooth. Set the sauce aside (whisk occasionally to prevent a skin from forming).
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the macaroni. Once boiling, add the macaroni and boil just until tender (about 7 minutes). Drain the macaroni in a colander.
  • While the macaroni is boiling, make the breadcrumbs. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add the Panko, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook for about 3 minutes, or just until the breadcrumbs begin to toast. Remove the breadcrumbs from the heat and allow them to cool slightly.
  • Stir the drained macaroni into the cheese sauce until well combined. Grease an 8×8-inch baking dish.
  • Layer half of the macaroni into the baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved shredded cheese mixture over the macaroni. Layer the second half of the macaroni over the cheese.
  • Combine the cooled breadcrumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, then sprinkle over top the macaroni and cheese.
  • Bake the macaroni and cheese in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling up around the edges and the breadcrumbs on top are golden brown. Allow the mac and cheese to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


Serving: 1cupCalories: 489kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 17gFat: 32gSodium: 705mgFiber: 2g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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How to Make Baked Mac and Cheese – Step by Step Photos

Cheese sauce ingredients in the pot minus the cheese.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF then begin the cheese sauce. In a medium saucepot combine 1 cup chicken broth, 1 cup heavy cream, ¼ tsp Italian seasoning, ¼ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp smoked paprika, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper, and ½ tsp salt.

Heated broth, cream, and seasonings in the pot.

Whisk the ingredients together and heat over medium-high until the liquid comes to a simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat down to low and let simmer for about 7 minutes to reduce.

Cheese being added to the sauce in the sauce pot.

Combine 1 cup of shredded cheddar and 1 cup of shredded Italian cheese blend in a bowl. Set aside about 1/2 cup of the mixed cheese to layer between the pasta in the casserole dish. Remove the sauce from the heat and begin adding the remaining cheeses to the sauce, one handful at a time, whisking until fully melted before adding more. Reserve the remaining cheese for the topping.

Cooked macaroni being held in a spoon over the pot.

Meanwhile, boil 8 oz. macaroni noodles just until tender (about 7 minutes). Do not overcook the noodles as they will soften more while baking. Drain the noodles, then return them to the pot with the heat turned off.

Toasted breadcrumbs in a skillet.

While the macaroni is boiling, make the seasoned breadcrumbs. Combine ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs, 2 Tbsp butter, ¼ tsp Italian seasoning blend, ¼ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp smoked paprika, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp freshly cracked pepper in a skillet. Heat over medium-low until the butter has melted and everything is coated evenly in spices. Set the breadcrumbs aside to cool.

Cooked macaroni being stirred into the cheese sauce.

Stir the cooked and drained macaroni into the finished cheese sauce until all of the noodles are coated in sauce. Grease and 8×8-inch baking dish.

Shredded cheese being layered on top of the mac and cheese in the casserole dish.

Add half of the macaroni and cheese to an 8×8-inch baking dish, then layer in the reserved ½ cup shredded mixed cheeses.

Seasoned bread crumbs being sprinkled on top of the mac and cheese.

Add the remaining half of the macaroni and cheese on top. Add ¼ cup shredded cheddar to the seasoned breadcrumbs, then sprinkle the mixture over the macaroni and cheese.

Baked macaroni and cheese in the casserole dish.

Bake the macaroni and cheese in the preheated 375ºF oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling around the edges and the breadcrumbs on top are browned. Allow it to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Side view of baked mac and cheese being lifted out of the casserole dish with a wooden spoon.

Yaassss mac and cheese heaven! 🙌

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    1. It would definitely have a different flavor that I don’t know that I would recommend without trying it first.

  1. Where is the butter and flour? That is what makes the sauce. Next time will sauté butter and flour and then add the spices and then add the liquid.

  2. I made this last night and it was really delicious! Definitely will be making it again.

  3. So flavorful! All the seasonings make such a big difference to make this bold without being overpowering. My family goes crazy for the crunchy topping as well. It was easy to mise en place so I could cook/bake it up quickly after a busy day. Can’t wait to make it again.

  4. I don’t usually leave reviews, but this was soooo good! I was a little confused by the cheese measurement since the noodles were by weight but the cheese was by volume. I ended up doing 8 oz of each cheese and everything worked out perfectly. This ones a keeper!

  5. I’ve always topped mine with slices of American cheese, but this breadcrumb topping sounds great, can’t wait to try! Also, leftovers are great eaten cold!

    1. I think a day or two leftovers taste just as good. Just like greens and green beans because all the goodness gets a chance to marinate in overnight submerged in the seasonings. That flavor sinks in and magic happens. 😂 😋

  6. Sounds much fancier than my usual baked mac and cheese. To reheat and make it creamy, I take the leftovers and add other stuff like cooked broccoli, fried onions and ham but even more plain, I set the mac in a stovetop pan and break it up a bit. I add a tiny bit of cream depending on how much I have leftover, anywhere from one to four tablespoons and reheat right on the stovetop stirring occasionally. It comes right back together in a smooth creamy sauce!

    1. DELISH! 10/10 recipe. I tried to make it my own a little by adding cheetos to the breadcrumbs, it was scrumptious! Though, the original recipe is just as great! I never doubt your recipes ✅