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Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

Our testers are calling this creamy baked mac and cheese the best they’ve ever tested. This comes as no surprise, given that the macaroni is smothered in a creamy sauce that’s made with four–count ’em!–types of cheese and smoky BBQ seasoning. Here’s how to make it.

A scoop of creamy baked mac and cheese with crunchy topping being lifted from a casserole dish.

Adapted from Matt Horn | Horn Barbecue | Harvard Common Press, 2022

This homemade mac and cheese is gooey, melty, and incredibly addictive. Heavy cream, generous seasonings, and four types of cheese create comfort-food perfection. If you have time, add a layer of buttered breadcrumbs and bake to a gorgeous golden brown.–Matt Horn

Baked Mac and Cheese FAQs:

What should I use for a crispy topping?

Start with about 1 1/2 cups of panko or crushed crackers. Add 4 to 5 tablespoons of melted butter, a handful of parmesan, and a generous spoonful of that barbecue seasoning. Mix well and sprinkle it liberally over your macaroni and cheese, then bake as directed.

Can this dish be made in advance?

You can assemble this casserole without the panko or cracker topping, if using, and refrigerate it for up to two days before you’re ready to bake. Add the topping just before popping it into the oven. Macaroni and cheese is best when served fresh, so we don’t recommend pre-baking.

Can this recipe be halved?

Absolutely. If you don’t need ten servings of macaroni and cheese, simply cut the amount of each ingredient in half and use a smaller casserole dish for baking.

Can I use pre-shredded cheese?

We don’t recommend it. Pre-shredded cheese has preservatives added that prevent it from clumping in the bag, which also prevents it from melting properly when baked.

Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

A scoop of creamy baked mac and cheese with crunchy topping being lifted from a casserole dish.

This baked macaroni and cheese is smothered in a rich and ultra creamy four-cheese sauce that’s seasoned with BBQ rub. It feeds a crowd, making it a perfect Southern holiday side dish.

Matt Horn

Prep 45 mins

Cook 45 mins

Total 1 hr 30 mins

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).

  • Lightly grease a 4-quart (3.8-liter) casserole dish or Dutch oven with butter.

  • Fill a large pot about three-quarters full of water, generously season the water with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions until just al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander and transfer to the prepared casserole dish.

  • In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cream and milk. Heat just until boiling.

  • While the milk mixture heats, whisk the cornstarch and water into a slurry in a small bowl.

  • Turn the heat under the milk mixture to medium and whisk in the slurry until the sauce is thick and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.

  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the cheeses. Stir until the sauce is very smooth.

  • Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt, the garlic powder, onion powder, rub, and pepper. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir to coat.

    If you want to add a layer of buttery bread crumbs here, mix up panko, bread crumbs, or crushed crackers with some butter (and a little extra BBQ rub, if you like), and sprinkle over the mac and cheese. (See the FAQ above.)

  • Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before devouring.

Serving: 1servingCalories: 570kcal (29%)Carbohydrates: 42g (14%)Protein: 17g (34%)Fat: 37g (57%)Saturated Fat: 23g (144%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 117mg (39%)Sodium: 300mg (13%)Potassium: 269mg (8%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 5g (6%)Vitamin A: 1379IU (28%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 342mg (34%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Originally published September 12, 2022

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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