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How to Make Mac and Cheese – Authentic Mac and Cheese (Recipe Guide)

How to Make Mac and Cheese – Authentic Mac and Cheese (Recipe Guide)

Our full recipe guide on how to make Mac and Cheese is one of the most popular recipes in the world.

Making a delicious, authentic Mac and Cheese involves crafting a creamy, cheesy sauce that clings perfectly to pasta. Here’s a guide to creating a classic baked version.


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How to Make Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese Recipe Ingredients

How to Make Mac and Cheese – Authentic Mac and Cheese (Recipe Guide)

1 lb elbow macaroni (or other short pasta)
Cheese Sauce:
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (whole or 2% recommended)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika (optional)
1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
4 cups shredded cheese (a mix of cheddar, Gruyère, or Monterey Jack works well)
Topping (optional):
1 cup breadcrumbs (panko or regular)
2 tbsp butter, melted

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Step By Step How to Make Mac and Cheese

Prepare the Pasta

Cook the macaroni according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Make the Cheese Sauce

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to form a roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes while whisking continuously, being careful not to burn it. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking to create a smooth, lump-free sauce.

Add salt, pepper, paprika, and mustard. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens, about 5-7 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and gradually add 3 cups of the shredded cheese, stirring until melted.

How to Make Mac and Cheese – Authentic Mac and Cheese (Recipe Guide)

Combine with Pasta

Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce, stirring gently to combine. Pour the pasta mixture into a greased 9×13-inch baking dish.

Prepare the Topping (optional)

Mix the breadcrumbs with the melted butter and sprinkle evenly over the pasta. Sprinkle the remaining cup of shredded cheese over the top.


Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Bake the Mac and Cheese for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly.
Let it rest for a few minutes before serving. Feel free to adjust the recipe by using different cheeses, adding cooked bacon, or incorporating vegetables like broccoli or spinach.

How to Make Mac and Cheese – Authentic Mac and Cheese (Recipe Guide)

Tips To Make Mac and Cheese

Choose the Right Pasta

Use short pasta shapes like elbow macaroni, shells, or cavatappi, which have ridges to hold onto the sauce better.

Cook Pasta Al Dente

Boil the pasta to al dente (firm to the bite) so it won’t become mushy when baked or mixed with the cheese sauce.

Use a Mix of Cheeses

Combine cheeses for the sauce. Sharp cheddar adds flavor, while mozzarella, Gruyère, or Monterey Jack offer creaminess. Avoid pre-shredded cheeses, which may contain anti-caking agents that can affect the texture.

Make a Roux

Create a roux by cooking flour and butter together before adding milk. This prevents lumps and forms a smooth base for the cheese sauce.

Gradually Add Milk

Pour milk slowly into the roux while stirring constantly to ensure a lump-free béchamel sauce.

Add Cheese Slowly

Turn off the heat when adding cheese to prevent curdling or graininess. Add it gradually while stirring.

Season Well

Include salt, pepper, paprika, mustard powder, garlic powder, or even a dash of hot sauce for extra flavor.

Customize with Add-Ins

Consider adding cooked bacon, jalapeños, roasted garlic, or vegetables like broccoli for variety. If baking, use breadcrumbs, crushed crackers, or grated cheese for a crunchy topping.

Bake Carefully

If baking, don’t overbake or it may dry out. Bake just until bubbly and golden brown.

Serve Fresh

Serve Mac and Cheese fresh from the oven while the cheese sauce is still creamy and smooth.

How Many Calories Have Mac and Cheese

Pasta: Roughly 200-250 calories for about 1 cup of cooked elbow macaroni.
Cheese Sauce:
Butter: Around 50-100 calories (from 1 tbsp of butter).
Flour: About 25 calories.
Milk: Roughly 60-80 calories per cup, depending on the fat content.
Cheese varies by type but generally adds around 200-300 calories per cup of shredded cheese.
Breadcrumb Topping (optional): Approximately 50-100 calories, depending on the amount.

A serving of Mac and Cheese can have around 400-600 calories or more.

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