Sauce

how to make mac n cheese sauce from scratch | Family Cuisine

Macaroni and cheese is a classic dish that has been enjoyed for decades. It is a must-have on any Thanksgiving table, as well as at birthday parties, family reunions, and other casual gatherings. However, many people have

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How to make mac n cheese sauce from scratch

Classic Homemade Mac and Cheese made with bite-size pasta, cheddar cheese, and a simple creamy sauce all baked to perfection in the oven. This recipe includes tips, tricks, and photos for making PERFECT baked mac and cheese.

This mac and cheese recipe has many similarities to another of my favorites; One Pan Baked Ziti. They are both creamy, and dreamy, comfort food that gets baked to cheesy, bubbly perfection in the oven.

Reading: how to make mac n cheese sauce from scratch

Mac and Cheese

I’m pretty sure that most adults love a great homemade macaroni and cheese recipe just as much as our kids do! My kids will enjoy a box of Kraft macaroni and day, but everyone gets especially excited when I make this homemade mac and cheese, and for good reason!

This recipe is incredibly easy, and your kids would probably love to help you make it! I let my littles help grate the cheese and measure the noodles.

For me, mac and cheese has to have a smooth and creamy cheese sauce, and I’ve had enough trial and error in this department to understand that there are a few simple things you can do to achieve that smooth sauce we all want in our macaroni!

How to AVOID grainy cheese sauce:

  • The type of cheddar makes a difference. High quality aged cheddar cheese will give you a stronger taste and smoother texture. More mild and inexpensive cheddar cheeses will have less flavor and almost a grittier taste.
  • Use fresh grated cheese. Pre-shredded store-bought cheese will not melt the same as freshly grated cheese, and grating the cheese helps it melt smoothly and evenly in the sauce.
  • Bring the cheese to room temperature. I like to grate the cheese very first, before moving forward with the recipe. That allows it to sit at room temperature while I prepare the white sauce.
  • Use low heat. In order for the cheese to melt properly and smoothly we want it to have gradual changes in temperature (like how we shredded it and allowed it to come to room temperature at the beginning of the recipe). When it’s time to add the cheese to the white sauce, remove the sauce from heat and let it cool for a few minutes. It only needs to be warm enough to melt the cheese.
  • Don’t over-stir the sauce once the cheese has melted. Add the noodles and quickly assemble in pan and put into the oven.

AVOID pre-shredded Cheese!

I know they are sooo convenient, but not only do pre-shedded cheeses just not taste as great, they are also mixed with various types of powder which prevent them from melting as well as freshly shredded cheese. So while it’s not life or death, I highly recommend getting out your block grater and shredding fresh cheese for your homemade mac and cheese! You won’t regret it!

8 Simple Ingredients is ALL you Need:

  • Elbow macaroni: It’s my favorite for this recipe, but any other bite-sized pasta will work.
  • Butter: salted or unsalted will work-just adjust the amount of salt you add, depending on the butter.
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Milk
  • Half and half
  • Shredded Cheddar cheese: the higher quality aged-cheddar, the better!

Perfect Mac and Cheese in 5 Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven. Preheat to 325 degrees and lightly grease a square baking dish.
  2. Cook the macaroni. Slightly undercook your noodles (about 1 minute under al-dente). Drain and set aside.
  3. Make the roux. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Blend in the flour, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Add milk and cheese. Stir in milk and half and half, slowly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup shredded cheese to the sauce and stir just until melted. Add the cooked macaroni noodles and toss to coat them in the sauce.
  5. Pour into baking dish. Pour half or the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over the top. Pour remaining pasta over it and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Three process photos for making mac and cheese in a skillet including melting butter, adding flour, cream and milk to make a roux, and then adding shredded cheddar cheese.

To bake or not to bake:

Read more: how to make pizza dipping sauce | Family Cuisine

You don’t have to bake the mac and cheese in this recipe. Everything gets fully cooked and is essentially ready to eat after the cheese and noodles are added. However, I love the extra gooeyness that comes when the cheese is baked and I think baking it adds a level of sophistication you just don’t get without.

Overhead view of a skillet with homemade macaroni and cheese in it, ready to eat.

What Type of Cheese?

This classic mac and cheese recipe is made with cheddar cheese. I particularly love medium or sharp cheddar cheese but any type will do. If you want a more luxurious mac and cheese or you’re really trying to impress a crowd, you could use a combination of different cheeses. Just be sure to select a type of cheese that is good for melting, like white cheddar, smoked gouda, gruyere, brie, goat cheese, mozzarella, or fontina.

Freezing and Storing:

This recipe freezes well. Just like with my other freezer friendly meals, I love to prepare two and freeze one for another day. You’ll want to freeze this dish prior to baking it in the oven! Make sure to let the mac and cheese cool completely then pour it into a freezer friendly dish, cover it well and freeze if for up to 3 months.

A square white baking dish with mac and cheese and shredded cheese topping, ready to go in the oven.

To reheat:

  • From frozen: Bake from frozen at 350 degrees F for 70-80 minutes or until warm throughout.
  • From thawed: Cover the mac and cheese with a sheet of aluminum foil and bake it at 325ºF for 20 minutes.

A white bowl with homemade mac and cheese in it and a spoon.

Read more: how to make gluten free cheese sauce | Family Cuisine

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Read more: how to make gluten free cheese sauce | Family Cuisine

Read more: how to make homemade green enchilada sauce | Family Cuisine

Have you tried this recipe?!

RATE and COMMENT below! I would love to hear your experience.

Read more: how to make gluten free cheese sauce | Family Cuisine

Read more: how to make homemade green enchilada sauce | Family Cuisine

I originally shared this recipe in July 2014. Updated August 2019.

Read more: how to make gluten free cheese sauce | Family Cuisine

Read more: how to make homemade green enchilada sauce | Family Cuisine

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