Indulge in the comforting nostalgia of Old Fashioned Baked Macaroni and Cheese. This crowd-pleasing classic combines tender elbow macaroni with a rich, creamy homemade cheese sauce for a deliciously creamy texture. It's an easy-to-follow recipe that brings back the simple joy of home cooking. Step-by-step photos and tips are included!
There's something truly comforting about a dish that can instantly transport you back to your childhood.
Today, we're going to whip up a classic that's sure to wrap you in a warm hug of nostalgia. This
Old fashioned baked macaroni and cheese recipe is a timeless favorite that's loved by both kids and adults alike. This recipe is all about simple ingredients coming together to create a symphony of cheesy goodness.
Follow along, and I’ll teach you how to make this family favorite.
Looking for more Mac and Cheese Inspiration? Don’t miss my Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Breadcrumbs, Crockpot Mac and Cheese, Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, Quinoa Mac and Cheese, Veggie Mac and Cheese, Ninja Foodi Mac and Cheese, and Air Fryer Mac and Cheese.
- Elbow Noodles: If you don't have elbow noodles, other small pasta shapes like shells or fusilli can be used.
- Butter: This adds richness to our cheese sauce.
- All-Purpose Flour: This helps thicken our sauce. If needed, gluten-free flour can be used instead for those with dietary restrictions.
- Whole Milk: This gives our sauce its creamy base. You could use 2% milk to lighten things up, or half-and-half for an even richer mac and cheese.
- Sea Salt: Feel free to adjust the amount to your liking.
- Mustard Powder: This gives a subtle tanginess that complements the cheese. If you don't have mustard powder, a bit of Dijon mustard could work as well.
- Black Pepper & Cayenne Pepper: These add a hint of heat. Adjust these to your preference, or try using white pepper or paprika for a different flavor profile.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese: Feel free to experiment with mild cheddar cheese, or even a mix of your favorite cheeses! I prefer to shred my own cheese - pre-shredded cheese doesn’t have the same flavor in my experience.
- American Cheese: This ensures our sauce is ultra creamy and smooth. I prefer Boar’s Head American from the deli, but you can make old fashioned baked macaroni and cheese with velveeta cheese if you like.
- Swiss Cheese: This adds a bit of nutty sweetness this baked mac n cheese recipe. Try substituting with Gruyere, Colby Jack, or Provolone.
Step by Step
Let's kick things off by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and greasing a 9 x 13 baking dish.
Get a large pot of salted water boiling and cook your elbow noodles according to the package instructions. Once they're al dente, drain them and set aside.
Once it's done, let it cool for about 10 minutes before diving in. And there you have it - delicious old fashioned macaroni and cheese baked to perfection. Enjoy!
Tips, Tricks, and Variations
- Pasta Perfect: Cook your pasta until it's just shy of al dente. Remember, it will continue cooking in the oven, and we want to avoid mushy noodles.
- Saucy Secrets: Be patient while making your cheese sauce. Melt the butter, whisk in the flour, and add the milk slowly to ensure a smooth, creamy sauce.
- Spice it Up: Add a little extra heat with additional cayenne pepper, or try a dash of smoked paprika for a hint of smokiness. You could also add onion powder or garlic powder for a fun flavor twist.
- Top it Off: We love old fashioned baked macaroni and cheese with bread crumbs. For an extra crunchy topping, sprinkle some panko bread crumbs over the cheese before baking.
- Cool Down: Let your mac and cheese rest for about 10 minutes after baking. This helps the cheese sauce set up a bit and makes serving easier.
- Make Ahead: You can assemble this dish a day in advance and refrigerate. Just add an extra 5-10 minutes to the baking time if you're starting with a cold casserole. (And never put a cold glass or ceramic dish directly in a warm oven - let them preheat together.)
- Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. You can also store them in the freezer for up to three months. Reheating can be done in the microwave or in the oven.
- Picanha Steak: The rich, succulent flavors of a Picanha steak would be wonderfully balanced by the creamy, comforting taste of our mac and cheese.
- Air Fryer Chicken Fried Steak: Imagine biting into a crispy chicken fried steak and then following it up with a forkful of cheesy, gooey macaroni. The contrast in textures makes this combination a winner!
- Slow Cooker Tri Tip: The tender, flavorful tri tip slow-cooked to perfection pairs excellently with our old fashioned baked macaroni and cheese.
- Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak: A hearty Salisbury steak drenched in rich gravy alongside our mac and cheese makes for a comfort food feast that's hard to resist.
- Garlic Butter Asparagus: The fresh, slightly crunchy asparagus tossed in garlic butter adds a wonderful lightness that offsets the richness of the macaroni and cheese.
- Roasted Shaved Brussels Sprouts: Their slight bitterness and the caramelization from roasting make these sprouts an ideal counterpoint to the creamy, cheesy macaroni.
- Broccoli Apple Salad: This salad brings a refreshing crunch and sweetness, providing a nice contrast to the warm, baked pasta dish.
- Braised Red Cabbage: The tangy flavor and soft texture complements the mac and cheese beautifully, adding a pop of color to your meal.
What is "old fashioned" mac and cheese?
When we talk about old fashioned baked mac and cheese, we're referring to a traditional method of preparation that dates back to the classic American kitchens.
This style usually involves a homemade cheese sauce created from a base of butter, flour, and milk, into which freshly grated sharp cheese is melted. Then, cooked elbow macaroni is mixed into this creamy concoction. The final touch is a generous sprinkling of either cheese or breadcrumbs on top before it's baked to a golden perfection.
What sets "old fashioned" mac and cheese apart is its simplicity and the use of fresh, whole ingredients. It's a far cry from the boxed versions that many of us know from our childhoods.
How do I add more taste to my mac and cheese?
- Cheese: Swap out or add different cheeses. A mixture of sharp cheddar and Gruyere or Fontina can create a flavor punch. You might also try a little bit of blue cheese for a unique kick.
- Spices: Don't shy away from spices. A little nutmeg or mustard powder can enhance the depth of flavors. Smoked paprika or chipotle can add a nice smoky touch.
- Add-Ins: Mix in some cooked bacon, caramelized onions, or sautéed mushrooms. These ingredients can provide an additional layer of flavor and some texture contrast.
- Toppings: Consider changing up your topping. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese or a mix of breadcrumbs and herbs can be a fun way to mix things up.
Old Fashioned Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- 16 ounces elbow noodles
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 3 ½ cups whole milk
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 12 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese divided
- 4 ounces cubed American cheese
- 4 ounces grated Swiss cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain.
- While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk well. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until it starts to brown.
- Add about a half cup of the milk and whisk until incorporated. Add the remaining milk slowly, whisking to combine. Add the salt, mustard powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
- Cook, whisking often, until the mixture starts to thicken. Reduce the heat to low and add 8 ounces of the cheddar, American cheese, and Swiss cheese. Stir until the cheese melts.
- Toss the cooked pasta with the cheese sauce. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with the remaining cheddar cheese.
- Spray a piece of foil with cooking spray, and place the sprayed side down on top of the casserole dish.
- Bake for 30 minutes, and then remove the foil. Cook for another 15 minutes.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.