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A fabulous CREAMY mac prepared atop the stove, then baked for a cheesy dish of comfort whenever you need that Homemade Creamy Mac and Cheese fix! The recipe includes directions for individual Homemade Creamy Mac and Cheese Muffins, too!
Homemade Creamy Mac And Cheese
Undoubtedly, you already have a go-to method for basic mac and cheese. Even if you do, I double-dog dare you to try this one! It begins with a mess of shredded cheese, cream, Mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese) for EXTRA creaminess, fresh rosemary, breadcrumbs, or crushed cornflakes. NO MILK! NO EGGS! Oh, and see the recipe notes for individual muffin-sized versions of this mac and cheese!
If you are somebody who loves a baked mac and cheese, but still craves the creaminess of a stovetop macaroni and cheese, THIS is your recipe!
This method demonstrates a fabulous CREAMY mac that is largely prepared atop the stove, but baked for the last leg making for a cheesy ooey gooey dish of comfort whenever you need that homemade creamy mac and cheese fix!
Homemade mac and cheese recipes are all over the internet. It can be difficult to identify an easy mac and cheese recipe just by the ingredients alone. And the term ‘ sharp cheddar cheese sauce ‘ can mean many different things depending on the recipe.
I grew up LOVING a creamy macaroni and cheese. One where the pasta was not mushy. And I LOVED that it had a crunchy topping to it that gave the right amount of salty texture and mild crunch.
What To Serve with Mac and Cheese?
Again, waiving the purist flag here! I love stewed tomatoes with my mac. But some other fun side dishes that go with mac and cheese include fresh tomato salad, and my 3-Ingredient Buttermilk Biscuits or an easy recipe for buttermilk bread with PLENTY of butter.
Ingredients for Homemade Creamy Mac and Cheese
- pasta noodles, any shape
- heavy cream
- shredded cheddar cheese
- Mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese)
- Dijon mustard
- Worcestershire sauce
- fresh rosemary
- Kosher salt
- black pepper
- cayenne pepper
- homemade breadcrumbs or lightly crushed corn flakes
- olive oil
optional for one dozen individual mac and cheese muffins
- Bisquick baking mix or other similar baking mix
How This Recipe Came About…
I attended a church barbecue where some of the ladies had crafted muffin-sized versions of macaroni and cheese. It was genius in terms of portion control, not that our priest or the congregation were paying attention to “limits!”
Lightly golden and crisp on the outside, but altogether creamy on the inside. How’d they do that?!! It was clearly baked. I already had a fall back method for mac and cheese. It was good, but these ‘lil mac and cheese muffins were OUTSTANDING.
What could a casserole-sized vat of this stuff look like? Taste like?? And make it creamy? YOU BET. So began some experimentation with cheese and boiled noodles…
I started thinking about my Mom’s baked mac and cheese. I always liked it, but I never loved it…sorry Mom! I do however, LOVE the creaminess of a Velveeta mac and cheese recipe, however Velveeta isn’t something I usually have around.
And you just never know when you wake up what you’re gonna be hankerin’ for on that day. Maybe chicken tenders, maybe macaroni with cheese. If I want to avoid a trip to the grocer to seek out an extraneous ingredient like Velveeta, it’s time to come up with a recipe that mimics that consistency.
FOUND IT!!! A ‘ made with love ‘ homemade cheesy mac and cheese that relies on good old shredded cheddar cheese for the flavor, and a wee bit of both heavy cream and Italian Mascarpone cheese for the ooey gooey creaminess. Cream cheese works in place of the Mascarpone if necessary.
What’s The Best Cheese For Mac?
If we are talking traditional American recipes and an old-fashioned mac and cheese recipe, then it’s cheddar all the way. Sure, you can get creative, but I find that once that creamy cheese sauce has been assembled and everything is nicely melted and blended together, the ONLY cheese you’ll likely recognize is the cheddar.
Now, if you’re like me and you still have that urge to be creative, lean into smoked gouda or a smoked applewood cheddar. They only come in blocks or mini wheels, so you’ll be shredding for the cause, but hey, it’s a damn good cause!
What Else Can You Put In Macaroni And Cheese?
I am a purist, so it’s pasta and cheese sauce with cheddar cheese, and either breadcrumbs or buttered corn flakes for me. But don’t let me hold you back. Think of your eaters. Who are you feeding?
My friend can ONLY get her son to eat vegetables if there are hot dogs and a super creamy mac and cheese involved. For this, she slices hot dogs into segments after cooking them and incorporates them into the mac along with broccoli florets.
Homemade creamy macaroni and cheese also tastes amazing with leftover pulled pork barbecue atop it. Just ask a Southerner and they’ll tell you that the mac and cue belong together on the plate as one.
But…if you’re me, you reach for some broiled lobster meat. Yes, lobster cheese and mac is a staple in this kitchen and it’s easy to get yourself hooked on it!
How To Make Homemade Creamy Mac And Cheese?
I start by harvesting a good handful of fresh rosemary from my garden. It really is a leveler when it comes to balancing the sharpness of cheddar. In fact, it’s entirely pleasing.
I next begin a salted water boil for my pasta noodles. Again, purist here, so I go elbow noodles all the way, but you could use what you’ve got. cavatapi, penne, farfalle, campanelle, and gemelli, are all great choices. Take note of the cooking directions on the back of the package.
To correctly make a mac and cheese, especially a creamy homemade BAKED mac and cheese, you must undercook the pasta by 1 to 2 minutes. I undercook by 1 minute every time, and every time I have a PERFECTLY al dente noodle after the bake. Why?
Because the moisture from the cheese sauce helps to soften the pasta the remainder of the way during that 35 minute bake. The pasta reciprocates by lending starch to the cheese sauce making for a VERY RICH, very extravagant mac.
As for the heavy cream and the Mascarpone cheese; these two characters are what MAKE THIS DISH! I know I will get questions on substituting 2% milk for the cream and fat free cream cheese in lieu of the Mascarpone.
I am here to say this ISN’T the recipe for you if you need to start switching. This is because there are so few ingredients in this method to begin with, which makes the job of each one so important and so unique. This is a smooth and creamy…definitely rich…cheese sauce.
The only substitutions on my recipe card are the use of cream cheese in lieu of the Mascarpone, and the use of crushed corn flakes in lieu of the breadcrumbs for if you like a bit of a crunch. If you are willing, homemade bread crumbs made with stale English muffins or whole grain bread are absolutely killer.
Modifying The Norm To Make It Not Entirely Average…
I have referenced fun additions to a recipe for mac & cheese such as broccoli, chopped hot dogs (kids love this!), and lobster. But consider the following if you have choices and daring eaters…
- pan fried pork belly
- buffalo chicken
- skewered and grilled garlic butter shrimp
- ham and peas
- caramelized onions
- chopped smoked bacon
How Long Does It Take To Make This Homemade Creamy Mac And Cheese?
Plan on 50 minutes to 1 hour from start to finish for this recipe. Now, this also depends on the time necessary to boil the pasta shape you plan to use. I salt my water and bring it to a boil. But while I am waiting for that water to boil, I am already melting the butter for the roux which will be the basis of my creamy cheddar cheese sauce.
What To Drink with Mac and Cheese?
Mac and cheese can happily pair with lots of different wines. I love a Lambrusco. Lambrusco is a fun choice for baked cheesy noodles. The cheese seems to soften the wine’s tannins enough to keep the meal feeling less heavy. Also, Grenache-based wines are great choices with cheesy dishes.
And if beer is more your style, IPAs with sharp cheddar based macs are fabulous. A pale ale or a crisp pilsner would also be solid choices to contrast the flavor of the cheese.
Can I Freeze Leftover Portions Of Mac And Cheese?
By all means. Simply scrape the leftover portions into a freezer safe plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, then mark with the contents and date of freeze noted on the package. Freeze for up to three months.
To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight. Portions may be reheated in the microwave easily.
Homemade Creamy Mac And Cheese
- 8 x 10-inch baking dish or 12 cup muffin tin
- 8 ounces pasta noodles
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons butter may be salted or unsalted; 1 tablespoon melted
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese shredded from a block, divided
- 3 ounces Mascarpone may substitute cream cheese
- 2 heaping tablespoons Dijon
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon rosemary fresh, roughly chopped
- pinch Kosher salt to taste
- hefty pinch black pepper to taste
- pinch cayenne pepper to taste
- ½ cup breadcrumbs may substitute lightly crushed corn flakes
- **3/4 cup Bisquick or similar baking mix **ONLY if assembling Mac and Cheese Muffins
- Generously butter an 8 x 10-inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons of the butter. Set aside.
- Salt 2 quarts of water in a large heavy bottomed pasta pot and bring to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions EXCEPT, reduce cooking time by 1 to 2 minutes. As a gauge, I reduce by 1 minute. Drain and run under cold water to cease the cooking process. Pasta will be somewhat tender but still firm.
- While the pasta cooks, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a sauce pan. Whisk in flour to create a roux. Cook the roux over medium high heat for 1 minute to cook out the flour taste.
- Slowly whisk in the heavy cream until smooth. This may take several minutes and sauce will be thickening as you whisk. Add the Mascarpone (or cream cheese), half the shredded cheddar, Dijon, chopped rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, and Kosher salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss the remaining cheddar with the bread crumbs (or lightly crushed corn flakes), Kosher salt, the remaining 1 tablespoon of melted butter, and cayenne pepper to taste.
- Stir the pasta noodles together with the cheddar-Mascarpone mixture until all the noodles are very well coated. Turn the pasta out into the prepared baking dish. Top with the cheddar-breadcrumb mixture.
- Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes or until top of casserole is brown and cream is bubbly.
- To Make 12 Individual Mac and Cheese Muffins, add 3/4 cup of Bisquick or other similar baking mix to the pasta while stirring with the cheddar-Mascarpone mixture. Continue with the recipe as instructed. Spoon equal portions into muffin tins that have been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until lightly brown on the muffin tops.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.