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Baked Macaroni and Cheese

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This classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe is easy to make & topped with crispy panko breadcrumbs. It's a kid favorite but sophisticated enough for adults!

Is there anything more romantic than pasta for a stay-at-home Valentine’s Day? I obviously think not, which is why I’m sharing this recipe with you today. The thing is, Valentine’s Day falls on a Thursday this year. So if you’re a mom and date night out sounds unrealistic on a school night, this easy baked macaroni and cheese in cute red ramekins sounds much more realistic. And honestly fun!

Two red ramekins with baked macaroni and cheese and breadcrumbs on top

How do you make macaroni and cheese

Start by making a roux. This is the most important step to for getting that creamy sauce and the perfect texture for the mac and cheese. Whisk together equal parts butter and flour until golden. Then whisk in the cold milk and break up any flour clumping. You’ll know the roux is ready when the mixture sticks to a wooden spoon like in my image below.

Once the roux bubbles and becomes thick, add the cheese, some dijon mustard or powdered mustard, and salt and pepper.

Collage of saucepan showing steps to make the sauce for the baked macaroni and cheese

Mix the roux with the cheese until everything is well blended. And then add on the pasta. I used classic elbow pasta and I cooked it al dente since we’ll be baking it later on.

Collage of two images showing the final sauce and then the pasta going on top of the sauce

When you mix everything together, it’s pretty much ready to go! But we’re making baked macaroni and cheese here, so we must be patient for just one more step – the baking! If you saucepan is oven-safe or you’re using a cast iron pan, you can top the mac and cheese with breadcrumbs and pop in the oven.

Macaroni and cheese getting mixed with a wooden spoon in a large sauce pan

Ok one more look at that extra cheesy velvety creamy sauce. You guys, it’s not everyday I cook things like this especially after that healthy month of January we had. Yummm this is definitely one to try if you’ve been holding off on the pasta all month!

Large saucepan of macaroni and cheese before it gets baked

How do you make baked mac and cheese

Since we’re making this baked mac and cheese recipe for Valentine’s Day, it’s fun using ramekins and dividing up the portions so it’s single serve in individual bowls. Scoop about 2 ounces of pasta into each ramekin and set the bowls on a baking dish. This makes it easier to place in the hot oven and remove it after it’s done baking.

Sprinkle on some bread crumbs or panko breadcrumbs and bake them until golden and bubbly.

Macaroni and cheese transferred to ramekins and getting set on a baking sheet to bake

When they come out of the oven, the mac and cheese will be extra cheesy with a crisp golden topping and truly irresistible! It’s so easy to make this homemade macaroni and cheese. We do buy the boxed stuff for quick lunches here and there. But there’s honestly nothing better than making mac and cheese from scratch. The flavor is just so much more rich and decadent.

And what’s awesome about this baked macaroni and cheese recipe is that it’s a childhood favorite that all kids absolutely love, but it has a sophisticated flavor and texture that even adults would love. And I’m actually proposing these for Valentine’s Day this year – easy peasy cheesy night at home!

Two red ramekins with baked macaroni and cheese with a napkin and spoons on the side

What cheese is best for baked mac and cheese

I think this comes down to your preference. But generally most recipes will have 2-3 types of cheese. I use sharp cheddar and Gruyere, which is a very popular combination. You can make this with white cheddar, mild cheddar or medium cheddar. If you can’t find Gruyere, Jarlsberg Swiss cheese or regular swiss cheese works well. If you want to throw in a third cheese into the mix, I highly recommend mozzarella cheese, colby cheese or jack cheese.

Whatever you cheese you choose though, it’s best to buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself, instead of buying pre-shredded cheese (more on that below in the tips section.)

Tips to make the best baked mac and cheese

  • Cook pasta al dente, or two minutes shy of the recommended cooking time. You want the pasta to be slightly under cooked because it’s going to continue to bake in the sauce in the oven. If you overcook it on the stovetop beforehand, it will likely get too mushy and break apart while baking.
  • Cool the pasta before tossing it in the sauce.  Normally we want to coat the warm pasta in whatever sauce we’re making immediately. But doing so for baked macaroni and cheese can cause the elbow macaroni to absorb too much of the sauce and make it soggy after cooking. It’s a good idea to rinse the pasta after cooking, drain and allow it to cool while you’re making the sauce.
  • Grate your own cheese for the cheese sauce. Store-bought shredded cheese is convenient and works well for topping the mac and cheese. However it doesn’t work well for the cheese sauce because it has anti-caking agents which can prevent the cheese from melting efficiently and sticking together in the sauce. Also, it can sometimes have a powder residue or grainy texture from those caking agents.
  • Use panko breadcrumbs for topping. I used regular breadcrumbs in my photos but panko in my video. I love the extra crunchy topping of the panko and I think it combines really well with the cheesy sauce.
Close up shot of baked macaroni and cheese with spoon removing a bite

This is a fun and indulgent recipe that is buttery, cheesy and creamy! But hey, I did use 2% milk, so that’s something! But for reals, I know there are a ton of favorite baked mac and cheese recipes out there. This one is simple, easy-to-make and comes out so delicious, so I hope you give this one a try!

It’s epic.

It’s marvelous.

It’s the cheesiest recipe on my blog!

If you’ve tried this feel good Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!

For more pasta recipes, check out:

5 from 4 votes
Two red ramekins with baked macaroni and cheese with a napkin and spoons on the side
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
40 mins

This classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe is easy to make & topped with crispy panko breadcrumbs. It's a kid favorite but sophisticated enough for adults!

Course: Entree
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Arrabiata Pasta, Kid Friendly, valentine's day
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 598 kcal
  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Parsley for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and spray and 8-inch square glass baking dish (or 6 ramekins) with cooking spray.
  2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta al dente according to package instructions. Drain, rinse and set aside to cool.

  3. In another large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter, then add the flour to make the roux. Whisk the flour and butter until they are combined and golden, about 2 minutes.
  4. Slowly pour the cold milk into the roux, whisking as you pour. Add the Dijon mustard and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer, occasionally whisking until sauce is thickened, about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Stir in the cheese, then fold in the pasta. Transfer to an oven-safe baking dish (or dishes). Sprinkle with panko breadcrumbs. Bake until the breadcrumbs are golden and the edges are bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 3-4 days in the fridge.

Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are some common substitutes that would work well in this recipe.

  • Use other types of shredded cheese in place of gruyere and cheddar if you'd prefer.
  • Instead of panko breadcrumbs, you can also use regular breadcrumbs

Nutrition: Please note that the nutrition label provided is an estimate based on an online nutrition calculator. It will vary based on the specific ingredients you use.  This information should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice. The nutrition value is for one ramekin serving, which has approximately 2 oz of pasta

Nutrition Facts
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Amount Per Serving
Calories 598 Calories from Fat 261
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 29g 45%
Saturated Fat 17g 85%
Cholesterol 90mg 30%
Sodium 387mg 16%
Potassium 346mg 10%
Total Carbohydrates 54g 18%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 8g
Protein 29g 58%
Vitamin A 17.8%
Vitamin C 0.3%
Calcium 69.8%
Iron 7.5%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


  • Reply
    February 24, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    True. Nothing better than making Mac & Cheese from scratch. Adding some Dijon mustard gave a twist to the creamy taste. Yummy

  • Reply
    February 17, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    I made this on Valentine’s Day for my Valentine and it was DELICIOUS! The recipe was so simple but the flavor and seasoning was PERFECT! Thank you so much!

    • Reply
      Yumna Jawad
      February 17, 2019 at 8:46 pm

      Wow I’m so happy to hear that! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  • Reply
    February 12, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    Looking delicious!

  • Reply
    Lina Shaar
    February 11, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    The easiest and best mac and cheese recipe i’ve ever made!!

    • Reply
      Yumna Jawad
      February 12, 2019 at 10:31 am

      Yay! So glad to hear that! Thank you so much 🙂

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