CREAMY HOMEMADE BAKED MAC AND CHEESE

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Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 15 mins | Total Time: 35 mins | Servings: 8

Comforting and the perfect meal for every occasion and all ages. This amazing creamy homemade baked Mac and cheese is a gem!

Ingredients

1/2 c. unsalted butter

1 pound dried elbow pasta

1/2 c. all-purpose flour

2 1/2 c. half and half

1 1/2 c. whole milk

2 c. shredded Gruyere cheese, divided (measured after shredding)

4 c. shredded medium sharp cheddar cheese, divided (measured after shredding)

1/4 teaspoon Paprika

1/2 tablespoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

How to make Creamy Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese

Step 1: Prepare the oven. Preheat it to 325 degrees F. Ready a 3-quart (9 x 13-inch) baking dish. Grease and set aside.

Step 2: Cook the dried pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water a minute shy of what the package directs. Drain when done and to keep the pasta from sticking, drizzle a little bit of olive oil.

Step 3: In the meantime, shred the Gruyere and medium sharp cheddar cheese. Mix well and separate into three piles (about 3 c for the sauce, 1 1/2 c for the inner layer, and another 1 1/2 c for the topping).

Step 4: In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and whisk well until you have a mixture that resembles very wet sand. Cook for about a minute, stirring occasionally. Then, gradually pour in around 2 c of the milk/half&half while constantly stirring until smooth. While still stirring, slowly pour in the rest of the milk/half&half until well mixed and smooth. Heat further while stirring very often over medium heat until you get a very thick consistency.

Step 5: Take the pan off the heat and stir in the spices and 1 1/2 c of cheese, stirring constantly to melt the cheese. Then, whisk in another 1 1/2 c of cheese until well melted and smooth.

Step 6: Place the drained pasta and cheese sauce in a large mixing bowl. Toss until well combined.

Step 7: Into the prepared baking sheet, pour half of the pasta mixture and top with 1 1/2 c of the shredded cheeses. Over the cheeses, add the rest of the pasta mixture. Lastly, sprinkle the final 1 1/2 c of cheese.

Step 8: Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly golden brown.

Notes:

To make ahead:

Prepare as instructed, transfer to a baking dish, and let the unbaked Mac and cheese cool fully. Then, tightly tent with foil and keep in the fridge for up to 1 to 2 days.

Remove from the fridge and let the dish rest on the counter for about 30 minutes before baking for about 25 to 35 minutes at 325 degrees F until hot and bubbly.

FIVE CHEESE VARIANCE (you can swap the amount of cheese with the following):

2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

1 c. shredded Colby cheese

1 c. shredded Muenster cheese

1 1/2 c. shredded Gruyere cheese

1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

CRUNCHIER TOPPING AND FIRMER CONSISTENCY:

Ready the recipe as instructed and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes at 350 or 375 degrees F. At the end of baking, set your oven to broil for about 2 to 3 minutes until the dish is crunchy and golden brown.

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PIN THIS RECIPE to any of your relevant boards if you want to make it later...