The best baked mac and cheese tastes great fresh out of the oven on the day you make it and is just as good the second time as a convenient freezer mac and cheese meal.
This macaroni and cheese recipe is hands-down the favorite of our boys and a while back, I respectfully asked them to refer to it as my “World Famous Mac ‘n Cheese.” And so they do.
The Best Baked Mac and Cheese
We’ve featured a couple of different versions of macaroni and cheese recipes in the past.
Our Ginger Mac ‘n Cheese is a flavorful variant of the traditional dish and the decadent Smoked Gouda with Crab and Bacon Mac ‘N Cheese that Scott threw together is the Gisele Bundchen of this age-old meal: rich, beautiful, and over the top exotic.
I’m fairly humble when it comes to my own kitchen skills.
The first time a local chef referred to me as a foodie, I wasn’t even sure I qualified for that descriptor.
I’m not going to say this mac and cheese recipe is good. I’m going to say that it’s damn good.
My kids are my most honest critics and I rely on them to critique my culinary creations.
“Too salty,” “Too much cheese,” “This tastes funny,” and “I don’t really like it,” are all comments I’ve heard from them. Not with this though.
A few year back, I hit pay dirt with this baked macaroni and cheese. This easy recipe uses just a few ingredients makes it almost impossible not to nail.
My first clue that this is the best-baked mac and cheese recipe and truly exceptional was when my chef-sister enthusiastically proclaimed it to be “restaurant-worthy.”
This is My Best Mac and Cheese Recipe
Not really sure what she meant by that, I slowly figured it out when adult guests began to ask for the recipe.
Soon my boys began to request that I make mac ‘n cheese “The way you did it last time.”
For the most part, it is now the only way that I make it. It’s a hit. Every. Single. Time.
I served it at Easter this year and again a few weeks later at a small, impromptu brunch that we hosted at our cottage last Sunday.
Did I mention that there is bacon in this easy macaroni and cheese recipe?
Instead of frying your bacon, consider putting it the oven like we always do. To see how, take a look at this post we wrote on how to bake bacon.
Making a Homemade Cheese Sauce
Aside from the bacon, the homemade cheese sauce really adds to the flavor of this baked mac and cheese. It sounds fancy and complicated, but making a homemade cheese sauce is neither. In fact it is nothing more than a basic roux and we have this post How Do You Make a Roux . It is a a recipe and video on how to make a roux in our popular Southern Giblet Gravy recipe.
What’s the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese?
If you’re wondering what is the best cheese for mac and cheese, it’s really a matter of personal choice.
My go-to cheese for this baked mac and cheese recipe is cheddar.
It’s a simple and affordable cheese and it has all the flavor you need.
If you want to add a little more character (and expense) to this macaroni and cheese, Gruyère is a great place to start.
Its sharp nutty character adds another dimension to this mac and cheese and my kids love it.
Disclaimer: Gruyère cheese is one of my personal favorites!
Now, when the guys ask for this, they simply say, “Dad, will you make your world-famous mac ‘n cheese?”
O.K., maybe I asked for them to refer to it that way but they always comply.
They know how to work their old man and they know this is one of their favorite meals.
I’d love for you to give it a try and let me know what you and your kids think of it.
Freezer Mac and Cheese
I always make a double batch of this and then freeze half for our big family. Or for a smaller crowd, I’ll make a single batch, bake half of it right away, and then use the rest for an easy freezer meal.
How Long Can Freezer Mac and Cheese Stay in the Freezer?
You can store this mac and cheese in your freezer for up to two months. It’s really important that you wrap it properly so it keeps well.
- Be sure and press the plastic wrapper into the mac and cheese and get out all the air in between the wrap and the food.
- Then wrap the entire dish in foil
(Full directions for freezer mac and cheese are below in the recipe card.)
Don’t miss some of our favorite other mac and cheese recipes
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Best Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Prepare oven safe casserole pan with non-stick coating.
- Prepare pasta per package directions.
- Meanwhile prepare rue by heating skillet over medium heat.
- Place cheese and cream in skillet, add mustard and salt, stir until melted.
- Add flour to rue, stir to thicken slightly.
- Place cooked pasta in large mixing bowl, add rue and bacon and gently mix together until well combined and pasta is evenly coated.
- Place mixture in prepared baking pan and bake uncovered for 30-45 minutes.
- Add additional cream or milk throughout baking process if pasta appears dry.
To Make it Now
- Follow the instructions above.
To Make this a Freezer Meal
- Allow the roux/cheese sauce and bacon to cool to room temperature.
- Combine the cooled pasta and sauce (with bacon) in a big mixing bowl and gently mix together. Depending on the size of your batch, place it in a prepared 9x9 or 9x13 baking pan. Wrap the entire dish in plastic wrap and be sure to squeeze all the air out by pressing gently on the top surface of the dish. Cover with foil and label with the date.
How Thaw and Bake Freezer Mac and Cheese
- Remove the dsh from the freeer 12 to 24 hour before baking. Place it in the refrigerator to thaw. Remove the plastic wrap and foil and then bake as directecd in the instructions above.
- This mac and cheese recipe can be prepared ahead of time, stored overnight in refrigerator and baked the next day.
- For a lighter version, substitute milk for cream.
- You can use your noodle of preference, I prefer the size and texture of the large, tubular rigatoni-style.
Updated from original post of April 24, 2015