Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese is the definition of comfort. Pasta and creamy cheese sauce, baked to perfection, and topped with a golden crust. Get ready, your family will request this over and over again.
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I’ve only eaten boxed mac & cheese once in my life. There. I said it. My mom’s theory was, you can make the real thing in the same amount of time, so why buy the boxed stuff? She is 100% correct, and homemade tastes 1000% better.
Most of the time my mom made the traditional version: macaroni, cheese, and a little butter. However, she made Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese whenever I requested it, and for special occasions. My parents are from Trinidad, and Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese is a staple at any party/gathering. So I knew for every family or social event we attended, I could get my fix.
I never learned to cook as a kid; as a matter of fact, I didn’t learn much more than eggs and pasta until college. When I moved out right after college, I figured I should learn how to make a few basic dishes, and Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese was first on the list. My mom didn’t have a recipe though…it was “a little of this, a dash of that”. I watched her make it a couple of times, and it took some trial and error, but I finally got it right.
Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese is one of my favorite dishes on earth. The creamy cheese sauce, the seasonings, the crumb topping. You name it, I love it. It gets rave reviews from all my friends, and my friend Kara requests it whenever she comes to visit.
BAKED HOMEMADE MAC AND CHEESE INGREDIENTS
- Elbow Macaroni – another option is Cellentani, a longer, double-curved elbow shape
- All-Purpose Flour
- Evaporated Milk: use full fat. 2% evaporated milk, or even 2% regular milk result in a sauce that’s too thin
- Onion & Garlic
- Fresh-cracked black pepper and sea salt
- Mustard: I use yellow mustard. I wouldn’t recommend anything more coarse, because it will change the overall texture
- Cheese – I use sharp Cheddar, because it stands up well to the other ingredients
- Corn Flake Crumbs or Seasoned Bread Crumbs (I typically use corn flake crumbs)
KEYS TO THE PERFECT BAKED HOMEMADE MAC AND CHEESE
Yes, Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese is more time and labor-intensive than traditional. But trust me, it’s worth it.
- Cook the macaroni for about 9 minutes, and it will finish cooking in the oven
- Melt the butter over low heat. Once melted, sprinkle in flour a little at a time and whisk constantly, to prevent lumps
- Add evaporated milk slowly! I add about 2 ounces at a time, whisk for 8-10 seconds, and repeat. If you dump all the milk at once, the sauce won’t thicken properly.
- I add finely minced onion & garlic into the cheese sauce, which my mom always did. If you don’t want to use fresh, use onion powder and garlic powder
- The cheese is the final step to the beautiful sauce. You want a rich sauce that clings to the back of the spoon, and when you slide your finger down the spoon, the sauce doesn’t come back together
- Top the mac and cheese mixture with corn flake crumbs, plus a little extra cheese to develop a beautiful golden crust
ALL THAT GLORIOUS CHEESE
I’ve always used Cheddar for Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese, and once I discovered Cabot Cheese about 2 years ago I haven’t looked back. My preference is a Sharp cheddar, as it adds a wonderful bite. I know some recipes use a mix of cheeses, and that is on my list to try at some point, because there’s no such thing as too much cheese. Just make sure to use cheeses that melt well, or you’ll end up with a mess. Some people add a bunch more cheese on top before baking, but I prefer the crumb topping to be the finishing touch.
I don’t make Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese that often, because I have no self control. I make a small portion, and plan to save half of it for another meal. Then I find myself taking “just one more bite” here and there. And before you know it, I’ve eaten the whole thing. Even when I make it for parties, I find myself eating way more than I should. So Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese is an occasional treat for me.
SHOP THIS RECIPE
- 1 1/4 cups dry elbow macaroni (about 4 ounces)
- 2 Tablespoon butter
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
- 1 Tablespoon finely minced onion
- 2 cloves finely minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons fresh-ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons yellow mustard (optional)
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
- Corn flake crumbs (for topping)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder (if you do not use fresh onion)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder (oif you do not use fresh garlic)
Pre-heat oven to 375F
In a pot of boiling, salted water cook macaroni for about 9 minutes. It will still be quite al dente, but will finish cooking in the oven later. Drain macaroni and set aside.
In large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add 1/2 Tablespoon of flour, whisk until combined. Repeat. There should be no lumps!
Slowly add evaporated milk. I add about 2 ounces at a time, whisk for 8-10 seconds, repeat. This will ensure a thicker sauce. If you dump all the milk at once, the roux will be very thin
Add salt, pepper, mustard, onion and garlic. Whisk well to combine.
REMINDER: for onion & garlic. You will use either fresh OR powder, not both!
Add cheese to roux, and whisk until cheese is fully melted. Continue stirring slowly and constantly for another 2-3 minutes
CHEESE SAUCE CONSISTENCY: you want the cheese sauce to have a rich consistency. The sauce should hold to the back of a spoon and, when you swipe down the spoon with your finger, the sauce does not come back together
Add macaroni to cheese sauce, and mix well.
Spray baking dish generously with cooking spray. Add macaroni and cheese sauce. Sprinkle with corn flake crumbs, plus a little bit of cheese. If desired, add a few bits of butter
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce is set. Remove from oven, and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Enjoy!