Macaroni and Cheese is a Comfort Food Classic. My homemade recipe is easy, delicious, and a real crowd pleasing meal the whole family will enjoy!
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
I may have been the only kid in the world who didn’t like Kraft macaroni and cheese growing up.
It was a taste that never grew on me, even though I wanted so badly to enjoy this dish that all my friends were crazy about!
Now, if I had had this macaroni and cheese as a kid, I probably would have been a fan of this comfort food classic much sooner in life.
Finally A Fan!
I love pasta, but I’m still really picky when it comes to macaroni and cheese. And when I developed this super easy homemade macaroni and cheese recipe during these weeks of quarantine, for the first time ever, I found myself going back for seconds of a meal I never thought I’d be crazy about!
Maybe it’s the Parmesan breadcrumbs, maybe it’s the creamy béchamel sauce. Whatever it is, this dish has made me a macaroni and cheese fan.
My Unique Twist on Baked Macaroni and Cheese
I’ve added one really unique spice to this recipe that you can definitely omit if sounds a little too adventuresome: cayenne pepper.
I promise that adding a dash of cayenne to this macaroni and cheese won’t make it spicy! Rather, the cayenne is a really nice compliment to all the smooth, creaminess of the cheddar, mozzarella, and béchamel sauce. The cayenne brings out the flavor of the cheese, and all it takes is a dash of this beautiful spice. It’s absolutely delicious.
If you’ll trust me on this one, my favorite cayenne for this dish, and in general, is from Simply Organic [aff. link]. I absolutely love this cayenne, which looks just as gorgeous as it tastes.
Make my macaroni and cheese this week, and enjoy a homemade version of this comfort food classic!
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
For the cheese:
- 1 cup cheddar, freshly grated
- 1 cup mozzarella, freshly grated
For the Parmesan breadcrumb topping
- 3 slices of bread, standard sandwich-sized
- ½ cup Parmesan, divided
- 1 Tbsp butter
- ¼ tsp salt
For the Easy Béchamel sauce
- 2 cups milk of choice, I prefer unsweetened almond milk
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 pound pasta, any shape
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/8 pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- Dash of cayenne, optional, but highly recommended
- Tomato slices
Cook the pasta
- If you want to make this a quick meal, start boiling that pasta water right away! You can cook the pasta while you prepare the other components of the dish. (And if you haven’t already grated the cheese, now is the time to do it!)
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions, but take 1-2 minutes off the cooking time. Since we will bake the pasta, we want it to be a little firm going into the oven.
Make the breadcrumbs
- To your food processor, add the bread slices. Process until you have very fine breadcrumbs.
- In a medium sized skillet, melt the butter for the breadcrumbs over medium heat. Once melted, add the breadcrumbs and salt, and mix together until the breadcrumbs are coated in the butter.
- Keep the heat on medium, and toast the breadcrumbs until they are golden brown and no longer soft, about 10 minutes. Be sure to gently toss the breadcrumbs with your spatula every so often to keep them from burning. If the breadcrumbs are browning too quickly, turn the heat down to medium low.
- Let the breadcrumbs cool for a few minutes, then mix in ¼ cup of the grated Parmesan. Set the bread crumbs aside.
Prepare the Easy Béchamel sauce
- In a small saucepan, add the milk, flour, and salt. Whisk together until smooth, and there are no flour clumps.
- Now turn the heat on to medium, and add the butter to the pan.
- Begin whisking consistently. The butter will melt into the flour/milk mixture in a minute or two. Keep whisking over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until the sauce thickens and comes to a slow boil. Easy Béchamel sauce is done!
Bring it all together
- Your pasta should have finished cooking at just about the same time as your béchamel sauce.
- Put your drained pasta back in the pot you cooked it in, and add the béchamel sauce, cheddar, and mozzarella. Stir until the cheese and the béchamel sauce evenly coat the pasta.
- Now add the remaining salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne, if using (I promise it won’t be spicy if you use just a dash, and it will really compliment the other seasonings and the cheese!) Stir the seasonings into the rest of the dish.
- Taste, and add more salt if desired.
Bake the macaroni and cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Oil a 9x13 inch glass baking dish, and pour in the macaroni and cheese mixture.
- Top the macaroni and cheese with the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan. Just do a thin layer of ground Parmesan over the top.
- Now evenly sprinkle the Parmesan breadcrumbs over the layer of Parmesan.
- Top the breadcrumbs with tomato slices (if using), and bake the macaroni and cheese, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!
- Remove from the oven, and let cool for five minutes before serving.
- This macaroni and cheese is great all by itself, or with a salad and your favorite plant-based protein.