It only takes three simple steps to make the rich sauce for this melt-in-your-mouth mainstay.
Southerners love macaroni and cheese like family. There’s even an old joke about it: You know you’re in the South when restaurant menus list mac ’n cheese as a vegetable. As kids and culinary-challenged college students, we might have settled for boxed macaroni sprinkled with cheesy powder (just a few shades paler than a traffic cone). But eventually, we all graduated to the serious stuff, like Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese. Job one: Grate your own cheddar. Pre-shredded varieties won’t give you the same sharp bite or melt into creamy goodness over your macaroni as smoothly as block cheese that you grate yourself. You can go reduced-fat (but then it’s even more important to prep your own). Grating won’t take long, and the rest of our recipe is super simple. Try it just once, and we guarantee that Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese will become your go-to comfort food.
Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Give up the box mix, making Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese from scratch is easier than you think. Even if you have never tried to make your own mac ‘n’ cheese at home before, this simple recipe will have you enjoying a bowl of warm, creamy, cheesy goodness in a matter of minutes. Baked macaroni and cheese is rich and delicious, and this is one of our most-requested recipes. So step up to the stove and step away with a dish full of this mac ’n’ cheese delight.
Test Kitchen Tip: It’s best to shred your own block of cheese, especially if using a reduced-fat product. Pre-shredded brands don’t always melt as well or deliver that extra-sharp flavor. You can use a box grater or a food processor with a shredding device.
Step-by-Step Video: Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese
1. Whisk Flour Into Butter
This classic macaroni and cheese recipe begins with simple preparation and everyday ingredients you probably have already. And, once you’ve made this the first time, you will find it to be an easy make-at-home treat. Preheat oven to 400°. Microwave 2 cups milk at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low heat; whisk in 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute.
2. Whisk In Warm Milk
This is the second easy step in the process of preparing our reader-favorite Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese. Using fresh ingredients, including milk and butter, will add a melt-in-your-mouth richness and flavor to this homemade macaroni and cheese, and in this step you can see the results of hand-mixing these ingredients as they begin to come together. After you’ve completed this step, your sauce will be almost ready.
Gradually whisk in warm milk, and cook, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes or until thickened.
3. Whisk In Cheese
This is the last step in creating a fantastic homemade sauce for our Baked Classic Macaroni and Cheese. Whisk in 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, 1 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, and, if desired, 1/4 tsp. red pepper until smooth; stir in 1/2 (16-oz.) package elbow macaroni pasta. Spoon pasta mixture into a lightly greased 2-qt. baking dish; top with extra-sharp Cheddar cheese. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly.