This Creamy Baked Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese has a rich cheese sauce, tossed with the pasta and then topped with a crunchy bread crumb mixture; the mac and cheese is then baked until the topping is crunchy and delicious.
Watch a Video on How to Make this Mac and Cheese
Macaroni and Cheese Tips and Tricks
I love stove-top macaroni and cheese. It’s creamy and delicious. I’ve always struggled with baked macaroni and cheese because it can dry out very quickly. I didn’t want that for this macaroni and cheese so here are some things that we did in order to achieve creamy while baked.
- More sauce. The saucier the macaroni and cheese is, the less likely it’ll dry out in the oven. In my opinion, it’s a bit too saucy for a stove-top macaroni and cheese, but for a baked version the ratios are perfect.
- Rinse off the pasta. I NEVER rinse my pasta but in this case, I want to get rid of any extra starch that will contribute to a thicker sauce. I learned this tip from The Kitchenista!
- Liberal amount of cheese! This recipe uses a pound of cheese. More info below on the type of cheeses and breakdown, but you need a good amount of cheese in order to make it, well, cheesy!
- Crunchy top! Some people LOVE a crunchy bread-crumb topping. Others want more cheese. I say you do you! I personally think a bread crumb topping is the move.
Four Cheeses for Macaroni and Cheese
I use four different types but feel free to switch it up. Use two different cheese. Use a single type of cheese. Do what is right for your budget/taste buds.
- 7 ounces Swiss cheese
- 1 ounce Comté cheese
- 5 ounces raclette cheese
- 3 ounces cheddar
- Other cheeses that would be delicious: sharp cheddar cheese, taleggio, gouda, smoked gouda, fontina, mozzarella, pepper jack and colby jack.
I do think that the base cheese should be very melty, hence the reason why I used swiss as the base. So just keep that in mind. And add others for depth of flavor. The easiest way to tackle the task of shredding cheese, is to utilize your food processor! Make sure the insert that shreds is on top and push the cheese through the machine!
How to Make Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- To make the crunchy bread crumb topping, you want to combine the bread crumbs with melted butter and a pinch of salt. And then set it aside. We’re going to use it later.
- The first step to making the sauce, is making a roux. A roux is one part butter and one part flour. After the butter and flour are cooked into one another, milk is added.
- Cook the milk with the butter and flour mixture until it gets nice and thick. You’ll know it’s ready when it coats the back of a spoon. This is a good time to get a silicon spatula and scrape the sides of the pot to make sure it’s all combined and there are no flour-y lumps.
- Turn the flame off and add in the salt and spices. We’re going for flavor so I like to add smoked paprika, garlic powder, a bit of Dijon mustard (to cut through the richness) and then black pepper.
- After the sauce has cooled slightly, I added the cheese and mix it until it’s well combined.
- Meanwhile, I boil my pasta. I like to use cavatappi (because it’s pretty) but any sort of pasta shape that you’re into will work. Use elbow macaroni if you like.
- Drain and set. I rinse the pasta under cool water to get rid of any of the extra starch. And then I added to the cheesy sauce and mix it all together.
- Transfer it to the casserole dish and sprinkle the bread crumbs and extra, reserved cheese on top.
- Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes until the top is all nice and golden brown!
How to Make this Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese Ahead
- To make this macaroni and cheese ahead, make the recipe all the way through. Cook the macaroni or pasta. Add it to the casserole dish and bring it to room temperature (don’t put the bread crumbs on it).
- Cover with plastic wrap OR with a lid, if your casserole dish has one and transfer to the fridge.
- When you’re ready to bake it, remove the cover.
- Add the bread crumb topping. And then bake it!
If you make this Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese, let me know on Instagram!
Looking for more fall and autumn recipes? Here are some favorites:
- Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread
- Chicha Morada
- Cacio e Pepe Mashed Potatoes
- Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Frosting
- Sesame Pumpkin Cake
- Cozy Beef Stew
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
Bread Crumb Topping:
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pasta + Sauce:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 cups milk (divided)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 16 ounces grated cheese (a combo of swiss (7 ounces)/comte (1 ounces)/raclette (5 ounces)/cheddar (3 ounces), divided
- 1 pound of pasta of choice (I used cavatappi)
To Make the Buttery Bread Crumbs:
- To a small saucepan, set over medium heat, melt the butter. When melted, add the breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt. Mix until the bread crumbs are thoroughly coated. Set aside.
To Make the Macaroni and Cheese:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter your 6-quart casserole dish and set aside. Reserve 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese for the layering we're going to do with it! But I like to set it aside now so I don't forget.
- To a medium pot, set over medium heat, add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the flour and mix it together and cook the flour butter mixture for about 1 minute. Pour in the milk in two batches, stirring continuously in between additions.
- Cook until it thickens up, about 2 to 3 minutes. It’ll start to bubble up and thicken. Give it a good whisk and be sure to get in those corners of the pan to get any floury bits up and mixed in. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Turn off the heat and whisk in the kosher salt, crushed red pepper, Dijon mustard and a few rounds of pepper. Add the grated cheeses and mix them in until they’re melted. Give it a taste and adjust the salt to taste. Cover the pot with a lid and set aside.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package’s instructions, about 6 to 7 minutes, until al dente.
- Drain the pasta and then immediately run it under cold water to get rid of some of the starch. Give it a shake in the colander to shake off some of the excess water and then add it to the pot with the cheesy sauce. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- Add half of it to the prepared baking dish and then sprinkle one layer of cheese. Then add the remaining macaroni on top and smooth it into an even layer and then top it with the reserved bread crumbs and remaining cheese.
- Transfer it to the oven to bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, until the macaroni and cheese is bubbling and golden brown on top.