Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe (2024)

By Eric Kim

Updated Feb. 28, 2024

Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe (1)

Total Time
1 hour
Read community notes

This macaroni and cheese recipe, inspired by Stouffer’s, delivers the best of all worlds: creamy, saucy comfort, with a consistency that’s slightly more set than a stovetop version, thanks to a final bake in the oven. It stays voluptuous and molten as a result of a higher ratio of sauce to noodles, which are cooked completely so they don’t soak up as much liquid. The Velveeta is necessary here, as it has sodium citrate, which prevents the sauce from separating in the oven. Elbow macaroni works fine, but cavatappi is an especially fun shape to eat with its telephone-cord bounciness.

Featured in: The Platonic Ideal of Macaroni and Cheese

Learn: How to Make Mac and Cheese

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Yield:6 to 8 servings

  • Salt
  • 1pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni
  • ½cup unsalted butter
  • ½cup all-purpose flour
  • 6cups whole milk
  • 1pound sharp or extra-sharp yellow Cheddar, coarsely grated (5¼ cups)
  • 8ounces Velveeta, torn into pieces
  • 4ounces Pecorino Romano, coarsely grated (1 cup)
  • ½teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • ¼teaspoon onion powder
  • Pinch of ground cayenne
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (8 servings)

955 calories; 58 grams fat; 34 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 14 grams monounsaturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 64 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 14 grams sugars; 44 grams protein; 1311 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe (2)


Make the recipe with us

  1. Step


    Heat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until just past al dente. Drain and set aside.

  3. Step


    Return the empty pot to the stove (no need to clean it) and set over medium heat. Melt the butter and simmer, whisking occasionally, until the butter stops spurting and quiets down, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, whisking, until smooth like gravy, about 1 minute.

  4. Step


    Whisk in the milk. Raise the heat to high and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, then immediately reduce the heat to low and continue simmering until the sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon, 2 to 5 minutes. At this stage, the sauce should be smooth but relatively loose. Take the pot off the heat.

  5. Step


    To the pot, add the Cheddar, Velveeta, Pecorino Romano, mustard powder, onion powder and cayenne, and season generously with salt and black pepper. Whisk until the cheese is melted and smooth like nacho cheese. Add the drained pasta, breaking up any clumps, and stir until evenly coated in the cheese sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

  6. Step


    Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or dish and bake until bubbling at the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.



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Cooking Notes


I'd encourage the posters who want more "interesting" cheese, or an 18th-century French version of the dish, to actually read the story accompanying the recipe--there's a place for all of that but that's not what this recipe is intended to provide.

Janet H.

I wanted to make this recipe, as I have always loved Stouffer's version. After looking through the entire list of notes for helpful hints, it appears that only one person actually made the recipe before commenting (thank you, Steve). I made the recipe as written, and although the proportions of butter to flour in the roux seemed like it would be thin, it worked perfectly. It is a perfectly-balanced macaroni and cheese. I broiled the finished top for a minute to get extra color.


Great recipe. Re Velveeta -- my mom was the sort of mother who, in the 60's, insisted we eat Pepperidge Farm instead of Wonder Bread, and made all her cakes from scratch. She didn't allow much processed food in the house. But for my favorite birthday treat of "frankfurter noodle casserole" (mac 'n cheese with Hebrew National hot dogs mixed in), she reluctantly used Velveeta in the sauce. Nothing else would do.


Seriously, the texture you get from a processed cheese like Velveeta is half the point. There are plenty of great homemade mac and cheese recipes that don't use Velveeta. Go make one of those instead of defeating the entire purpose of this recipe.

Mostly Vegan

Easy Velveeta replacement. For those who aren't fans of Velveeta's taste there is a simple replacement. You can get a bag of food grade Sodium Citrate from Amazon for a few dollars. Just add a pinch to the cheese sauce you make and it will serve the same purpose as the Velveeta without the downsides of Velveeta. This trick works wonders in Cheese Fondue as well. It will keep most any melted cheese mixture from separating.


That's how my mom made it - with eggs. I love the creamy/Stouffers style, too, but hers was the best. It's a totally different texture and dish. And, while I'm here, all you Velveeta haters and shamers, just please get over yourselves. If you don't want it, don't use it! No one's forcing you.

Euphemia Thompson

Read the text of the article. The reason for the Velveeta is both chemical and culinary. There is no substitute.

Double A

Made it tonight, wouldn’t change a thing. Was inspired by the vid on NYT on the weekend. Always make the recipe the way it is written the first time. The second time make your modifications. If you modify them before doing the original, you might never cook the recipe the way the author had intended. People always assume they know more than the person who actually wrote the recipe.


This is the way we made mac and cheese when I was a child. We had a family cow so any way of using extra milk was welcome! I still follow this method and always make sure to use the Velveeta. Depending on the audience I will add various seasonings, meats, and vegetables. This dish freezes well.


Strange to see the rush of comments when a recipe first posts. Did you actually make it within 5 hours of publishing? Made this last night and it was pretty good! Definitely was Stouffer's reminiscent. Easy to follow but equal parts butter/flour doesn't give me something like gravy, but I added in the milk slowly and avoided any lumps. It's nice that Velveeta comes in smaller wrapped "fresh packs' now for those worried about leftover processed cheese. Added some reserved cheese on top.

Edward Baker

Instead of all the cheddar, take away four to six ounces and replace it with Stilton. Gives it a nice bit.

Mary from Terry, MS

I've used cream cheese in lieu of Velveeta. It provides the needed creaminess and is less salty than Velveeta. I've also put uncooked pasta - yep, raw pasta - in the sauce and baked it in the oven. You need to have lots of sauce for the pasta to absorb but I swear it comes out with a better texture and doesn't risk overcooked pasta like boiling does.


Just made this last night. Followed the recipe to a T, except for the onion powder that I didn't have. It was perfect! I think next time I will sprinkle bread crumbs on top before baking.


Add frenchs fried onions on top. Bake longer to get the best cheese bits. Yum.


Back in the mid-1970’s, in The American Way seat-back magazine on American Airlines, was a monthly recipe. James Beard wrote the column; one month he gave his recipe for Mac and Cheese. It started with a roux to which was added dried mustard, thyme, and hot pepper sauce (just a little), adding lots of milk and a cup of heavy cream, and good cheddar cheese, a little grated parmesan (good quality cheese was key). I still make it. Begone with Velveeta.


I was underwhelmed by the flavor of this. It stays creamy when baked, that is the best thing I can say about it.


Excellent! Made as written, but held back about a cup of sauce. We served it for a Super Bowl party as part of a Mac and Cheese Bar, offering optional toppings: scallions, roasted tomatoes, bleu cheese, bacon, chili crisp, etc. This was perfect for 12, but we had other foods, as well. Alas, a couple of the kids (who are gourmets in this regard) found it unsatisfactory. Otherwise, very popular!

john j

Canned tuna ?

john j

Has anyone added Cancuna to the recipe?


This was a delicious baked mac and cheese, even without the breadcrumb topping. However I found I had to add significantly more mustard powder and cayenne than the recipe called for to bring out the flavours. Still a great, classic recipe!


Best mac and cheese ever! And Velveeta cheese is essential to it’s success so have at it!!!


Have any of you tried Pati Jinich's Poblano mac and cheese? She makes a poblano "milk" in the blender with which she makes the bechamel. It's really, really delicious. Would be great in any mac and cheese, I think.


Made as written with 2 percent milk. Almost better the next day.

Craig Burdick

Comfort food, yes. But, seriously good. Stop judging and just make the dish. Please


I just can’t recall if I already said we love Eric and this recipe is perfect as is and makes everybody so happy. Thank you!


I broke a rule of my mom’s when I made this: don’t double a recipe when you haven’t made it before. That made it difficult to mix. BUT it turned out great! The crowd went wild. Note: I did add a couple dashes of nutmeg, which I pretty much always do when I make a white sauce or cheese sauce.


Absolutely delicious and perfect. Followed the recipe exactly - other than a little more dry mustard powder, and more than a pinch of cayenne. Be sure to keep adding salt and pepper till you’re happy with the taste, before baking. It filled my 9x13 baking dish to the brim! Makes a ton. It’s fabulous, just make it!

Jon C

Absolute crowd pleaser as written. You could church this up numerous ways, but I recommend just making it. Outstanding as is for mac and cheese everyone will like.


I'm a moderately pretentious cook but above all just love food that tastes good. I've made this several times, and it gets rave reviews from everyone who tries. I substitute parmesan for pecorino and jarred dijon mustard for powder. Works well to make the day before and reheat on location (thanksgiving!). Make ahead/reheat does *not* work well using GF pasta.


Delicious but mine came out slightly grainy. Overcooked the cheese sauce maybe? Will def. Try making it again tho!

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Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe (2024)


What is the trick to keeping mac and cheese creamy? ›

Cook your noodles in milk instead of water

Cooking your noodles in milk instead of water makes your resulting mac and cheese creamier. According to The Kitchn, cooking your noodles in milk instead of water makes the sauce creamy before you even add the cheese sauce.

What does adding more milk to mac and cheese do? ›

Sauce too thick? Stir in a splash of milk and mix until the sauce has loosened up. (This is also a great trick for reheating mac and cheese - if you're microwaving leftovers and the sauce seems to have dried up, stir a splash of milk or half-and-half into the pasta to bring the sauce back to life!)

What are the three best cheeses for mac and cheese? ›

What Is the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese? Sharp cheddar is the overwhelming popular choice, but for extra-creamy results, we think medium cheddar is even better. Other delicious options include Gruyère, smoked Gouda, and Monterey Jack.

Should you use milk or cream in mac and cheese? ›

Creamier Mac and Cheese Starts with Milk

Instead of water, cook your pasta in milk! Now, you usually add milk later in the cooking process to make the cheese sauce, but for an extra touch of luscious creaminess, incorporate the milk at the very beginning of cooking.

Why is evaporated milk better for mac and cheese? ›

Evaporated milk is a highly concentrated source of milk protein micelles—bundles of proteins that can act as powerful emulsifying agents—which help to keep the sauce creamy and smooth.

What happens if you add more butter to mac and cheese? ›

You could start by adding double the butter called for on the box and adjusting as needed -- it may require some trial and error the first time around, but it will be worth it. The result will be a bowl of mac and cheese that is so rich and creamy that you may even forget that it came from a box.

What is the best milk for mac and cheese? ›

Milk: Keeps our cheese sauce super creamy. I use whole milk or reduced-fat milk. Mustard and spices: A combination of Dijon mustard, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt makes this macaroni and cheese extra delicious. Cheese: I use white cheddar and parmesan or pecorino cheese.

How do you make baked mac and cheese moist again? ›

Pour about a tablespoon of milk per cup of mac and cheese into the dish and mix well. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place it in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until it's heated through.

Why does my mac and cheese taste bland? ›

Try adding a little more salt first, because that might fix it. If the problem was the cheese you use doesn't have much flavor, then try adding some other flavors, such has mustard or hot sauce. The next time you make it, try to find some more strongly flavor cheese, or adding more cheese.

How to stop mac and cheese from congealing? ›

Always add the cheese off the heat. Grate it in advance, add it a bit at a time, whisking until it dissolves, then add more. Don'tget impatient and dump it all in at once. Adding cheese while the pan is on the heat tightens the proteins, which will make lumps in your sauce.

What cheese has the most flavor for mac and cheese? ›

Choosing the best cheese for your mac and cheese
  • Gouda - aged gouda can spike your mac and cheese with deeper, pungent flavors, while a smoked Gouda has a meatiness that never disappoints.
  • Blue cheese can add real zing to any mac and cheese.
  • Feta features a tart and salty Mediterranean taste.

How does Gordon Ramsay make the best mac and cheese? ›

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, combine the pasta and milk. ...
  2. Once the pasta is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper. ...
  3. Divide between serving bowls and top with the bread crumbs.
  4. Enjoy!
  5. All your favorite recipes, stored in one place.
May 4, 2023

What two cheeses go well together for mac and cheese? ›

For a mac and cheese recipe, consider the combination of sharper cheddar cheeses and a flavorful Parmesan. This cheese adds a boost of fruity, nutty notes to your favorite macaroni recipes.

How to keep mac and cheese from drying out overnight? ›

For all methods, to keep the mac and cheese from drying out, stir 1 tablespoon milk into each 1 cup mac and cheese before reheating. Before you reheat mac and cheese, you want to make sure it's stored properly.

How to keep mac and cheese creamy when reheating? ›

Add 1 tablespoon of milk per cup of mac and cheese and mix to incorprate as much as possible. *If you'd like to add more creaminess and flavor, substitute half-and-half or cream. 3. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in the oven at 350°F for 20-30 minutes, or until heated through.

Why use evaporated milk in mac and cheese? ›

Similar recipes call for cooking pasta in milk, which can scorch. Cooking in water and adding evaporated milk toward the end fixes this problem. Evaporated milk contains protein micelles, which help keep an emulsified sauce smooth and creamy.


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