Nothing says comfort food quite like homemade mac and cheese. Its Ooey, gooey, and always hits the spot! Our families favorite easy cheesy mac and cheese recipe gives you that classic delicious mac and cheese with only 3 ingredients. That’s right: only three simple ingredients. It’s so good, you’ll never go back to the boxed stuff!
My kids are obsessed with their Grandma Richins easy cheesy homemade mac and cheese. They ask her to make it for them every time they eat at her house. I attempted to replicate it at home and never could get it quite right. Turns out I was trying to make it more complicated than it needed to be.
One day I had my mom come over and show me exactly how to make it. She combined the ingredients and baked the homemade mac and cheese all within in the same pan. Less clean up? I am here for that!
I was pleasantly surprised to see that she only used 3 ingredients!
- Pasta. My preferred pasta for this dish is cellentani or penne pasta. That said, you can use elbow macaroni or whatever small pastas you love most.
- Shredded cheese. This ingredient was the one thing my mom was particular about. She says you get the best gooey cheesy texture and best flavor from pre packaged, shredded cheddar cheese and monterey jack cheese blend. I have found this at every grocery store. Sometimes the bag is made up with only cheddar and monterey jack cheese and sometimes it is a "fiesta blend" or "mexican style." Any of those varieties work well.
- Milk. Skim, 1%, 2%, whole milk all work for this recipe. I always have skim milk in my fridge so that is what is usually use.
How do you make easy homemade mac and cheese?
- Cook the pasta: In a large saucepan cook the pasta noodles according to the package instructions for al dente. Be sure to add about ½ teaspoon salt to the boiling water. It may seem like an insignificant step, but it makes a huge difference in the overall taste of this easy homemade mac and cheese (or any pasta dish for that matter)!
- Combine noodles and cheese: Drain pasta and pour noodles into a large bowl or 9x13 baking dish and add half of the shredded cheese. Using a fork or spatula lightly stir and fold the cheese into the pasta until evenly distributed. Add the remaining shredded cheese and repeat the process of folding the cheese into the pasta.
- Add the milk:A Pour milk into the noodles and cheese and stir into mixture. My mom said you know when you have the right amount of milk when you move the noodles and at the bottom you can only see a little milk right around the noodles. Start with ⅔ cup and if after mixing you don't see any milk around the noodles at the bottom, add another ¼ cup milk.
- Bake: Take a piece of tin foil and spray with cooking spray and place that side down so that the cheesy goodness does not stick to the foil. At this point you can leave in the fridge until you are ready to bake or straight away. Set the oven temp to 350 degrees and your rack in the middle of the oven, once it is preheated bake for 25 minutes then take the tin foil off and bake for another 5 minutes.
- Serve: Serve this homemade mac and cheese recipe as a main dish for an easy lunch or dinner! You can also serve this homemade mac and cheese as an easy side dish for a BBQ or potluck!
- Pasta: You can also use gluten-free pasta, whole wheat pasta, chickpea pasta, etc.
- Milk: Any kind of liquid dairy works well in this recipe. You can use coconut milk or cream, almond milk, or soy milk. Keep in mind that each of these do have their own very distinctive flavors which will slightly translate into the mac and cheese. Powdered milk is another great option. Powdered milk is made by simply combining the milk powder with regular water and can then be used to make the sauce.
- Cheese: This recipe is almost equal parts noodles and cheese so the quality of the cheese that you use in this homemade mac and cheese recipe really matters. If you are not a fan of pre shredded feel free to use a different cheese. Use what flavors you love like a good quality mild cheddar, medium cheddar, sharp cheddar cheese. Just be sure to select a type of cheese that is good for melting, like white cheddar, mozzarella, or fontina. If using fresh cheese and shredding it just reduce the amount a little.
Additional Add-in & Toppings:
If you want to take this classic Mac and cheese and make it a bit more gourmet consider adding some of the following:
- Bread crumbs– combine about 1 cup of breadcrumbs and 3 tablespoons of melted butter in a bowl. Sprinkle over top of the macaroni and cheese just before baking.
- Bacon Bits – Cook several slices of bacon and cut the cooked bacon into small pieces. Stir into the mac and cheese before pouring it into your baking dish.
- Hot dogs- What little kid doesn't love hot dogs and mac and cheese. They go hand in hand.
Can mac and cheese be made ahead of time?
Yes! This is a great recipe that can be made ahead of time and baked when you're ready. Just assemble and leave it covered at room temperature (for up to one hour) or in the refrigerator!
Can you freeze mac and cheese?
- From frozen: Bake from frozen at 350 degrees F for 70-80 minutes or until warm throughout.
- From thawed: Cover the mac and cheese with a sheet of aluminum foil and bake it at 350ºF for 30 minutes.
If you make this easy cheesy homemade mac and cheese it would mean the world to me if you would take a minute and leave a star rating and or a comment. Reading through them really brightens my day!