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.
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:
- Fresh Parmesan
- Monterey jack
- Pepper jack
- White cheddar
- Goat cheese
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.
Baked Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese
- 1 cup chicken broth ($0.16)
- 1 cup heavy cream ($1.66)
- 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning ($0.02)
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika ($0.02)
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper ($0.01)
- 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper ($0.02)
- 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese ($1.17)
- 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend ($1.50)
- 8 oz. macaroni ($0.67)
- 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.
How to Make Baked Mac and Cheese – Step by Step Photos
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Add half of the macaroni and cheese to an 8×8-inch baking dish, then layer in the reserved ½ cup shredded mixed cheeses.
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.
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.
Yaassss mac and cheese heaven! 🙌