This popular recipe for baked macaroni and cheese is made with about 6 ounces of elbow macaroni, but it is full of cheese. The cheese sauce is made with 8 ounces of cheese, and more cheese is sprinkled over the top before it's baked. Half-and-half gives the sauce rich flavor and texture.
If you prefer a bread crumb topping, see the tips and variations below the recipe for a crunchy topping. Toss the breadcrumbs with the 1/2 cup of shredded cheese or omit the extra cheese.
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (6 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons butter (divided)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 cup half-and-half (or light cream)
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper (or less, to taste)
- 2 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (divided)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Butter a 1 1/2-quart baking dish.
- Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water following the package directions; drain well and set aside.
- Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Blend in flour, stirring constantly, until smooth and bubbly. Continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually add the milk and half-and-half. Continue cooking for about 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add paprika, black pepper, and 2 cups of the cheese; stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.
- Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings, adding salt, as needed.
- Combine the cheese sauce with the macaroni and transfer to the prepared casserole dish.
- Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Cut the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into small pieces and sprinkle the pieces over the casserole.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
Tips and Variations
- Bread Crumb Topping. Omit the extra 1/2 cup of cheese for the topping. Toss 1 cup of fine soft bread crumbs with 2 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the casserole before it goes into the oven.
- For a main dish option, add about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of cooked diced ham to the macaroni and cheese mixture.
- Stir about 1/4 cup of diced cooked bacon into the sauce along with the cheese and macaroni.
- Brown about 1/2 pound of ground beef or bulk pork sausage along with 1/2 cup of chopped onion. Drain thoroughly and add to the sauce.
- For some Tex-Mex color and flavor, add about 1/4 cup of sliced ripe olives, a small can of chopped mild green chile peppers, and 1/2 cup of diced red bell pepper. Use part or all pepper jack cheese in place of the cheddar. For heat, add some finely chopped jalapeno pepper.
- Replace the elbow macaroni with mini penne or small or medium shell pasta.
|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|
|Total Fat||85 g|
|Saturated Fat||49 g|
|Unsaturated Fat||24 g|
|Dietary Fiber||4 g|