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Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

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Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

I make a lot of “adult” mac and cheeses (with strong cheeses and funky add-in’s) to accompany steaks in our house. For once, however, I decided I wanted to make a “real” mac and cheese: very traditional, using regular cheese (such as cheddar), and using white sauce.

As I was looking for an easy homemade macaroni and cheese recipe, a lot of sources seemed to be pointing to Martha Stewart macaroni and cheese, so that seemed like a good place to start.

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Martha’s recipe calls for 1 pound of elbow macaroni, which produces a huge amount of pasta, so I halved the recipe, using 1/2 pound of elbow macaroni instead of 1 pound, and halving the rest of ingredients. Even after I halved the recipe, it still produced quite a lot of pasta – enough to make 6 or 8 very rich servings. I also reduced the amount of cheese to sprinkle over top as the original amount called for in the recipe seemed excessive. Also, the recipe calls for Kosher salt, which is less salty than table salt, so because I used regular table salt, I reduced the salt amount accordingly. A reminder to myself: always pay attention to what salt the recipe calls for: Kosher or table salt.


Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

I highly recommend halving the recipe, because 1) I can’t imagine using a total of 6 cups of cheese for any kind of dish (3 cups will do), and 2) because I found that this mac and cheese has the best and the creamiest quality when served right after it’s made. If leftovers are reheated the next day, the macaroni get mushy, and the sauce itself get thicker, so you have to add milk and manipulate to achieve the same wonderful consistency as on the day you made it.

The breadcrumbs do become soggy if you reheat this dish in microwave, so to make the most out of this recipe, I would not recommend making it in advance and then reheating: too many qualities are lost.

This recipe is definitely worth making and is a great base recipe for further experiments! The macaroni and cheese when served straight out of the oven come out creamy, buttery, with very crisp breadcrumbs on top. The whole top layer of mac and cheese has this nice golden brown texture.

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese, mac and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Total time: 1 hour

Adapted from Martha Stewart.


  • 1 cup white bread crumbs (I used regular bread in food processor)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
  • 2 and 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more – to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups (about 9 ounces) grated sharp yellow or white cheddar
  • 3/4 cup grated Gruyere, or pecorino Romano, or Parmesan
  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni

Serves 6 to 8 people

1) Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 1.5-quart casserole dish; set aside. I placed several bread slices in the food processor and processed them until they turned into nice bread crumbs – enough to fill 1 cup. Place 1 cup of bread crumbs in a medium bowl, add 1 tablespoon of melted butter, mix, set aside.

2) In a medium pan, heat milk until it boils. In a separate pan or a skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of butter, add 1/4 cup of flour, cook and stir for about 1 minute to form a roux.

3) Pour hot milk into the hot flour-butter mixture gradually, while whisking. Continue cooking the mixture, constantly stirring, on medium or high heat until the mixture bubbles and thickens – about 1 or 2 minutes.

4) Remove the pan from the heat. Add salt, nutmeg, black pepper, 1 and 1/2 cups cheddar, and 1/2 cup Gruyere, or pecorino Romano, or Parmesan. While off heat, whisk until all cheese is melted and the cheese sauce has even consistency. Set aside.

5) Bring a large saucepan with water to boil. Add macaroni, cook 3 minutes less than indicated in manufacturer’s directions, so that pasta is still undercooked inside (the pasta will continue cooking as it bakes in step 6). Transfer macaroni to a colander and rinse under cold running water really well. Running the pasta under cold water will stop the cooking and will wash off the excess starch. Drain pasta well. Add drained macaroni to the cheese sauce.

6) Pour the pasta with cheese sauce into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar and 1/4 cup Gruyere (or pecorino Romano, or Parmesan). Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top. Transfer dish to a wire rack for about 5 minutes, then serve.

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese

Easy homemade macaroni and cheese



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{ 35 comments… add one }
  • Jacqueline April 14, 2013, 4:48 am

    Mmmmmm, you’ve put me in the mood of macaroni. I don’t make it so much now my hubby is vegan, but I may make it today and make a cheesy sauce for him using nutritional yeast.

  • Monique April 14, 2013, 9:00 am

    It looks so good..I appreciate your hints too..
    The first macaroni I made was for my dad and my husband..I was 19 and my mom had just passed away..Catelli had a big 2 lb box of elbow macaroni at the time.. they had said how much to use but I didn’t believe them..so I used the whole box..I had to change the pot 3 times as it all grew..and when I saw what I was left with in the huge canning pot I knew there wasn’t enough cheese in the town to mkae it work..It ended up in a green garbage bag:(
    I am happy to say I can finally after 40 yrs..cook and bake..
    There wasn’t you and the internet back then:)

    Nor Martha:)

    It looks really good Julia..

    • Julia April 18, 2013, 11:10 pm

      You made me smile as I pictured you with 2 pounds of elbow macaroni, growing and expanding in boiling water :). That would require a lot of cheese! 🙂 And, I feel sad that you lost your mom so early. 🙁

  • The Squishy Monster April 14, 2013, 9:49 am

    Reducing the cheese is normally not something I typically do but for this, I totally understand why and it looks every bit as indulgent and appetizing as ever..Looooove!!!

  • whiness April 14, 2013, 12:48 pm

    Oh, it looks just so perfect! Mac’n’cheese is my comfort food… I just love the taste of cheese with macaroni. I could eat it every single day. But well, I must admit it never looks so delicious when I prepare it so… I need to practise. 😉 Your mc’n’cheese is just great.

  • [email protected] April 14, 2013, 1:50 pm

    I haven’t made mac ‘n cheese in ages. But when I do, my recipe is very similar to yours. I like the funky varieties too, but there’s something so satisfying about the traditional recipe. Good stuff – thanks.

  • Rosie @ Blueberry Kitchen April 14, 2013, 2:09 pm

    Your macaroni and cheese looks so delicious, thank you for the recipe!

  • Kayle (The Cooking Actress) April 14, 2013, 8:14 pm

    I love a good mac n cheese recipe and this does look like classic, comforting, goodness

  • Beth April 14, 2013, 9:07 pm

    Homemade mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food! This looks delicious.

  • sally @ sallys baking addiction April 15, 2013, 5:52 am

    I love anything and everything about mac & cheese. Especially if it’s easy!

  • Denise [email protected] Brazil To You April 15, 2013, 8:42 am

    My fav American dish…I so need a bowl of Mac and Cheese today. The first picture does not want to leave me, Julia! I’ll have to cook some for me tonight.

  • [email protected]'s Recipes April 15, 2013, 9:54 am

    An ultimate comfort food! Yum!

  • Ari @ Ari's Menu April 15, 2013, 12:30 pm

    There is something about regular old mac & cheese that is just….right. I love simple, back to basics recipes that are just plain comforting, and this mac & cheese looks absolutely perfect!

  • Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes April 15, 2013, 2:59 pm

    Macaroni and cheese has to be my favorite dish of all time!! I’m a kid at heart, I guess 🙂 This looks fabulous!

  • Eva | Adventures in Cooking April 15, 2013, 5:18 pm

    Oh Lord, I have been craving mac and cheese like crazy lately and looking at this delicious mix is not helping it go away haha. I think I’ve resolved to make mac and cheese this week. Particularly one with a crumb topping, since yours looks so very tasty 🙂

  • Noel Lizotte April 15, 2013, 5:37 pm

    Looks like I’ll be adding mac & cheese to the menu next week! This looks wonderful!
    And you know how much I like “easy”!

  • Monet April 15, 2013, 7:31 pm

    What a beautiful, classic recipe. Like you, I make my fair share of “adult mac and cheesees” but this looks even better. Thank you for sharing!

  • Matt @ The Athlete's Plate April 15, 2013, 7:35 pm

    OMG. This looks delicious 🙂

  • Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies April 15, 2013, 7:53 pm

    Mac & cheese is probably my biggest food weakness. I love sweets too, but oh man, mac & cheese! This post is making me so hungry!

  • Donalyn April 15, 2013, 9:40 pm

    Oh golly – I don’t think it is possible to have too many mac & cheese recipes and I have never tried MS’s. Thanks for the endorsement – going on the “to try” list for sure!

  • [email protected] April 15, 2013, 10:10 pm

    It looks divine Julia! Your pictures turned out so well. I’ve never been able to take good mac and cheese pictures 🙁

  • Kiran @ KiranTarun.com April 16, 2013, 10:09 pm

    I’ve never tasted a mac and cheese before. Shocker, I know! But that looks so delish 🙂

  • Tabatha March 9, 2014, 7:12 pm

    My Mac and cheese didn’t turn out right. How do you keep the cheese from breaking in the oven? It had a bad texture

    • Julia March 10, 2014, 3:04 pm

      Here is a good article for you to read that explains what will cause your cheese to break: http://www.thekitchn.com/help-why-is-my-mac-and-cheese-oily-instead-of-creamy-179202
      In a nutshell, you got to make sure to finely grate the cheese so it melts quickly, stir the cheese into the hot milk mixture OFF THE HEAT! Also do not overcook your cheese sauce and noodles in the oven – that might cause the cheese to separate.

  • Judy May 10, 2014, 6:25 am

    What is that being stirred in – in picture #4?

    • Sarah December 25, 2015, 10:23 am

      It’s just the roux.

  • Home Chef December 1, 2014, 12:35 pm

    I made this exact mac and cheese. The recipe is originated from Martha Stewart with exact ingredients. It was a hit at Thanksgiving.

  • Bianca August 16, 2015, 11:29 am

    I’ve made this recipe a couple times now and I love it. The best part is that it’s not all dried out the next day. I added 1/2 tsp ground mustard and left out the cayenne but I’d like to try it with. I used 2 kinds of aged white cheddar, gruyere, and fontina. It was amazing. I use Panko breadcrumbs which were still crunchy the next day.

  • Roxana November 23, 2015, 6:32 pm

    Would i be able to use almond flour instead of regular flour? do i use the same amount?

  • Amanda Hamilton January 18, 2016, 9:39 am

    I’m not a fan of Mac n cheese with breadcrumbs. But if those are left off, this recipe looks fabulous.

  • Holly November 19, 2016, 11:31 am


    Thinking of making this for Thanksgiving dinner! Can this be made ahead of time/the night before and reheated for dinner the next day? I know leftovers usually taste the best but wanted to check with you! Trying to get as much done before the big dinner as possible!

    • Julia December 20, 2016, 4:46 pm

      Yes, you can make the mac and cheese the day before, place it in an oven proof casserole dish and skip the very last baking step. Then, the next day, right before dinner, just put the mac and cheese in the oven proof casserole dish in the oven for the final baking step!

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