Indulgent old-fashioned baked mac and cheese, an American classic that will bring back memories. An easy recipe that makes the most of the simplest ingredients.
Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t. And this old-fashioned baked mac and cheese recipe is probably one of the most popular versions of the dish.
For more macaroni and cheese, check out Mac and Cheese Without Flour, Without Milk, Tuna Mac and Cheese, Gouda or Ricotta Mac and Cheese, and Copycat Chick-fil-A Mac and Cheese. Like I’ve said, mac and cheese are a big hit, so we keep making this dish in one way or another.
You could also try a Mac and Cheese Burger. Have you ever had that?
- Elbow macaroni: They are the right pasta for this recipe, but if you don’t have it, don’t stress about it; any short pasta will do.
- Cheese: I used two kinds of cheese: the typical sharp Cheddar and Gruyere. I love Gruyere because it has an intense flavor and melts perfectly, but if you don’t have it, replace it with more Cheddar. Save about ⅓ cup of the Cheddar for sprinkling on top of the dish before baking.
- For the roux: Butter (salted or unsalted), all-purpose flour, and whole milk.
- Egg: One small egg for this single batch (or one large egg if you make the double batch). The egg is optional, but it does help give the old-fashioned mac and cheese its typical taste and texture.
- Spices: Mustard, sweet paprika powder, salt, and pepper. I sometimes add about ½ teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Prepare: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter the casserole dish.
- Cook pasta for 1 minute less than indicated on the package. Drain well (1).
- Grate cheese. Set aside (2).
- Make the roux in a large saucepan. Melt the butter and sprinkle the flour on top, stirring for about 1 minute (3).
- Add the milk slowly while whisking continuously to avoid lumps (4).
- Simmer: Stir in the mustard, sweet paprika, salt, and pepper and simmer the sauce for a couple of minutes until thickened while stirring constantly (5). Turn off the heat.
- Add 2 cups of the Cheddar cheese and all the Gruyere cheese (6). Stir well until almost completely melted, then stir in the egg (7).
- Adjust the taste with more salt if necessary.
- Add macaroni and stir well to combine (8).
- Assemble: Pour everything into the prepared baking dish and add the remaining ⅓ cup of Cheddar cheese (9).
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden (10). Serve immediately.
- Make stovetop old-fashioned mac and cheese. All you have to do is cook the pasta for the full time it needs and leave out the egg. Mix all the ingredients in the saucepan you used for making the sauce and serve.
- Top the dish with breadcrumbs before baking. Mix the remaining ⅓ cup cheese with a good handful of panko breadcrumbs and sprinkle the mixture over the dish. If the topping is not golden enough after the baking time is up, place the dish under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes or until the top has the desired color.
- Add something. My favorite addition is small, blanched broccoli florets. I add them to the dish before assembling it. You can also add fried bacon pieces, chopped cooked chicken or ham, defrosted peas, diced red peppers, a can of drained tuna, etc.
Cheese: Use freshly grated cheese. Pre-grated cheese contains additives that prevent it from melting nicely, so the sauce will not be as smooth and cheesy as you like.
Salt: Don’t forget to check the salt before assembling the dish. Depending on the type of salt you are using and on the cheese itself, you might need to add an extra pinch or two of salt.
Egg: If you make a double batch of old-fashioned baked mac and cheese, it’s sufficient to use 1 large egg. For this single batch, use a small egg.
Roux: Once you start pouring the milk into the roux, make sure you whisk constantly; it’s the only way of avoiding lumps. If your mixture is lumpy anyway, pour everything into a bowl and use an immersion blender to blend the mix. It’s not very professional, but it works.
Baking dish: I use a casserole dish of approximately 10x6x2 ½ inches (26x15x6 cm) for a single batch. You don’t have to be exact, but if you don’t have the same size, it’s preferable to use a slightly smaller baking dish than a larger one; the mac and cheese layer should not be spread too thin.
Don’t overbake the dish, or it will become dry.
I prefer to serve any mac and cheese immediately; however, preparing the dish is possible. BUT leave out the egg!
Prepare everything and assemble the dish. Let it cool, cover it well and refrigerate. Once ready to bake, bring the dish to room temperature; otherwise, it might take slightly longer to cook in the oven.
You can also freeze the unbaked casserole. Thaw in the fridge, bring to room temperature and bake.
It’s traditional for old-fashioned baked mac and cheese, but you can leave it out if you like. The egg will bind the dish a bit more, making everything a bit cakey-like. If you leave it out, the sauce will be creamier.
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Reheat in the microwave before serving.
How to serve baked macaroni and cheese?
- Main dish: You will not need much on the side; I actually only ever served this dish with a fresh salad with balsamic dressing or regular vinaigrette. Or with steamed or roasted vegetables.
- Side dish: It’s an excellent side for any festive meal, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Try it with Air Fryer Turkey Legs or any other turkey roast, with Thanksgiving Chicken or other roast chicken dishes.
- If you're unsure whether to serve this recipe with a side or a main dish, check out our collection of recipes that pair well with macaroni & cheese.
More Pasta Recipes
Give my quick recipes a try for your next family meal! Feel free to reach out if you need any assistance!
Old-Fashioned Baked Mac and Cheese
- Large saucepan
- Casserole dish of approximately 10x6x2 ½ inches (26x15x6 cm)
- 9 oz macaroni 250 g
- 2 ⅓ cups sharp cheddar divided, 200 g
- 1 ¾ cup Gruyere cheese 150 g
- 2 tablespoons butter 30 g
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour 40 g
- 1 ½ cups full-fat milk 350 ml
- 1 ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt or Kosher, more to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 egg small, Notes 1, 2
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter the casserole dish.
- Cook pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt generously and cook the macaroni for 1 minute less than indicated on the package. Drain well.
- In the meantime, prepare the rest of the recipe.
- Grate both types of cheese. Set them aside.
- Roux: Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Sprinkle the flour on top and constantly stir for about 1 minute until the flour turns lightly golden.
- Add milk: Slowly add the milk while whisking continuously to avoid lumps. Whisk until the mixture is lump free.Add mustard, sweet paprika, salt, and pepper and stir well to mix.
- Simmer the white sauce for a couple of minutes until thickened while stirring constantly.
- Add cheese: Turn off the heat and stir 2 cups of the Cheddar cheese and all the Gruyere cheese into the sauce. Stir well until almost completely melted. Crack the egg on top and stir it in as well.
- Adjust the taste with more salt if necessary.
- Add macaroni and stir well to combine.
Bake mac and cheese:
- Assemble the dish: Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with the remaining ⅓ cup Cheddar cheese.
- Bake: for 20-25 minutes until the top of the dish is lightly golden. Don’t overbake the dish, or it will become dry. Serve immediately.
- Using an egg is traditional for old-fashioned baked mac and cheese, but you can leave it out if you like. The egg will bind the dish a bit more, making everything a bit cakey-like. If you leave it out, the sauce will be creamier.
- One large egg will be enough if you make a double batch of mac and cheese.