Ok, so I know it’s April now, but someone should really tell that to Mother Nature.  It has been cold, windy, and rainy here.  So, I figured why not heat up the oven (and the house a bit) and enjoy some of our favorite comfort food.  At our house, that means macaroni and cheese.  I will admit that, out of laziness, it typically comes in the form of a blue and yellow box that is prepared in less than 10 minutes, but my favorite is actually to make it myself.

Our Favorite Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is really a super simple dish to make and it tastes so much better when it doesn’t come from a box.  There are a lot of macaroni and cheese recipes out there … and we’ve tried a bunch of them.  This one is a pretty basic one, but it is, hands down, the winner as far as we are concerned.

To make it, you’ll just need a few simple ingredients:  margarine, flour, salt, milk, cheese, macaroni, and bread crumbs.

Ingredients for Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that we almost always have all of the ingredients in the house, so I never have to make a panicked trip to the grocery store when I figure out at 4:00 that we have nothing for dinner.  Yet another reason this is one of our go-to meals.

I start by preheating the oven and boiling a pan of water for the macaroni.  Then, I measure out all of the ingredients for the cheese sauce.  There aren’t that many, but I find the sauce turns out better if I have everything ready to add as soon as it’s needed rather than hunting for a clean measuring cup when it’s time to add milk.

Pre-measured Ingredients

Then, I melt the butter in a large sauce pan.  Once the butter is melted, I stir in the flour and salt and continue heating it until it’s bubbly.  I usually let it bubble for a minute or two before adding the next ingredients – I feel like this helps the sauce to have a smoother texture when it’s all done.

Bubbly Flour & Butter Mixture

Next, I add the milk, just a little (probably about 1/2 cup) at a time, making sure to mix it in with the flour really thoroughly each time.  I also usually wind up increasing the heat a little to medium-high at this point.  I have an electric stove that doesn’t seem to run super hot, though, so I’m thinking the temperature might not need to be increased in all cases.  Basically, I just raise it a little so it doesn’t take forever and a day for the milk to warm up and reach a boil.

Stirring in Milk

Once all of the milk has been added and thoroughly mixed in, I heat it to a boil and then reduce heat a little so it can simmer and thicken.  It seems like this usually takes a few minutes (less than 5), but I just go based on the thickness of the sauce rather than time.

Thickened Sauce, Before Adding Cheese

Then, I add in the shredded cheddar cheese and stir until it’s both melted and thoroughly mixed in.

Stirring in Cheese

By this point, the macaroni is usually done cooking, so I drain off the water and then add it to the cheese sauce, stirring to make sure the macaroni gets well coated.

Adding Macaroni to Cheese Sauce

Next, I transfer the macaroni and cheese to a casserole dish that I’ve sprayed with a non-stick spray and top it with the remaining cheese (and usually a little more since we really like cheese) and bread crumbs.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese Assembled in Casserole Dish

Then it goes in the oven to cook for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and it’s heated through.  I’ve also made this recipe ahead of time and refrigerated it until dinner.  In that case, I just don’t add the breadcrumbs on the top before it goes in the refrigerator and I cook it for a little longer (maybe about 40 minutes), adding the bread crumbs when there are about 15-20 minutes remaining.

Macaroni and Cheese, Green Beans, and Oranges

Mmm … macaroni and cheese.  We seriously love this dish, especially paired with green beans and fruit.  Haley thinks this is just about the perfect toddler food – and Chad and I gobble it up too.  Can you tell we aren’t fancy eaters around here?

Our Favorite Homemade Mac & Cheese

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: comfort food
Servings: 6 servings


  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 3 tbsp butter or margarine
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • bread crumbs


  • Preheat the oven to 350*.
  • Cook macaroni according to package directions.
  • While macaroni is cooking, melt butter or margarine in a large sauce pan over medium heat.
  • Stir in flour and salt and continue cooking/stirring until the mixture is bubbly.
  • Slowly add milk (about 1/2 cup at a time), stirring and heating to nearly a boil after each addition.
  • Simmer and stir the sauce until it thickens a bit (usually less than 5 minutes).
  • Add 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese, stirring until the cheese is melted.
  • Add cooked macaroni to cheese sauce, stirring until the macaroni is evenly coated.
  • Transfer to a 1 1/2 qt. baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray.
  • Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bread crumbs.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and macaroni is heated through.


We love this recipe both for quick dinners at home and also to take as a side for potlucks.  Here are some tips for feeding a group:
  • We like the Barilla Protein Plus pasta for when the macaroni won’t be eaten right away – it stays slightly firmer for a longer period of time.
  • If you need to make a bigger batch, just double the recipe and bake in a 9×13 pan.
  • If you need to use a slow cooker to keep it warm for a while, make the following changes to the basic recipe above:
    • Cook the pasta for only 5 minutes (rather than whatever time is specified on the box.)
    • Add all of the cheese to the cheese sauce (rather than reserving some to put on top).  Omit the bread crumbs.
    • Rather than baking in the oven, transfer the macaroni & cheese to a slow cooker that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and set to “Warm”.  A double-recipe fits in a 5 qt slow cooker.
    • Check and stir the macaroni every 30-45 minutes to make sure it is heating evenly and the edges are not turning brown.

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