Creamy Homestyle Mac and Cheese is a family favorite. In this recipe, I combine sharp cheddar cheese with elbow macaroni (and a few other key ingredients) to create the classic, creamy macaroni we all know and love. Make this for your next big family dinner.
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Homestyle macaroni and cheese is a cozy classic that everyone loves. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods and so easy to pair with any protein and vegetable. Even the kids love it! So who can really complain?
I recently decided it had been way too long since I’d made some creamy, homemade macaroni and cheese. That quickly changed when I began throwing together ingredients by memory, remembering the last time I’d made a homemade mac and cheese.
The end results were phenomenal.
Now, I will admit my husband felt it was “too creamy,” but he has texture issues with food sometimes. Most people would agree that creamy macaroni is a good thing!
My solution to this (if you, too, have a picky eater in the house) is to make this recipe and then throw it into a greased casserole dish. Add some additional shredded cheese on top and then bake it on about 425ºF until the cheese is melted and the edges are bubbling slightly with a light golden brown top.
Baking it slightly dries the sauce out, but leaves all flavors intact. If you really want to get fancy, you can even add some breadcrumbs and herbs on top of the cheese before baking. Now, this macaroni my husband can get behind.
The beauty in dishes like this is the versatility. I can’t emphasize how important this is when cooking.
Easily add some sriracha or hot sauce on top for a spicier kick. Add some veggies or protein in to boost the nutritional content. Change up the texture just slightly, like I did for my husband once. This really can turn into just about any type of dinner if you’re creative.
That’s why today I wanted to share the perfect homestyle mac and cheese recipe with you and your family. Here’s how I do it…
Homestyle Mac and Cheese
What other cheeses can I use in this homestyle mac and cheese?
Sharp cheddar works well, but I have used pepper jack cheese and/or colby cheese in the past as well. A combination of cheese is wonderful in this, too. If you combine cheeses, aim for using half of a cheese that has a sharper flavor (like parmesan or sharp cheddar) and one with a milder flavor (like mozzarella or monterey). Find your personal favorite flavor combo.
What if I don’t have half and half?
This happens to me pretty often. I am usually a great planner, but between planning dinner meals and blog recipes, something is always forgotten at the store. If you don’t have half and half on hand, you will need to add an additional ¼ cup of milk, along with an additional tablespoon of butter and you’ll get the same thickness and rich flavor.
Or, if you happen to have 2 ounces of cream cheese available, you can melt this into the sauce for the same results. Whisk until it is fully melted and incorporated in.
Tools You’ll Need | Homestyle Mac and Cheese
Measuring cups and spoons
Ingredients | Homestyle Mac and Cheese
Butter – I prefer using grass-fed butter in cooking. In this recipe, it is used to make a roux to thicken the cheese sauce.
Flour – All-purpose flour is used to make the roux.
Macaroni pasta – Elbow macaroni is used in traditional macaroni and cheese recipes, but if you have another favorite pasta shape, feel free to use it. Penne, bow ties, and small shells also work great.
Cheese – Sharp cheddar cheese is a classic cheese used in mac and cheese recipes. Use your favorite or what you have on hand.
Milk – Whole milk makes a great base for the sauce in this recipe.
Half and half – Half and half enriches the flavor and thickness of the sauce.
Nutritional yeast – I use nutritional yeast to add more nutty, cheesy flavor and to add some more nutrients like B vitamins, protein, and fiber.
Garlic powder – Garlic adds depth and flavor to the sauce without overpowering it.
Salt – Use a little salt to round off the flavors of the cheese sauce.
Black pepper – Cracked black pepper helps add extra flavor.
Mustard – Just a tiny amount of mustard adds a hint of a zing without being too obvious. It’s disguised well, but is needed to add flavor.
Nutmeg – Nutmeg is another weird but common ingredient used in homemade cheese sauces. It, too, is disguised well in the sauce, but definitely adds a small hint of flavor and enhances all the other flavors in the sauce.
How to Make Homestyle Mac and Cheese
Start by adding water to a large pot on high heat to get it to a rolling boil.
In the meantime, grate the cheese if you haven’t already done so and set aside.
Then add the butter to a large saucepan on medium-low heat. Once melted and hot, whisk in the flour until a thick mixture forms.
Slowly pour in the milk, whisking well to break up any clumps. Add in half and half at this time and turn heat to a low simmer.
Meanwhile, when your pasta water begins to boil, add the macaroni to it and turn the heat down to medium, keeping it to a boil and stirring often.
As the pasta cooks, add nutritional yeast and all other seasonings to the sauce mixture. Let the sauce simmer until it starts to thicken up a bit. The sauce is almost ready when a thin coating of it sticks to the back of a spoon.
Drain elbow macaroni and set aside momentarily as you finish the sauce.
Add shredded cheese into the sauce, whisking constantly until it is fully melted and incorporated.
Pour macaroni into the sauce mixture and fold it all together until everything is combined. Serve warm.
Tips for Success | Homestyle Mac and Cheese
Slowly add the milk to the roux, about ¼ – ⅓ cup at a time. Whisk well in between these additions. This will ensure the ingredients mix better without clumping.
Always cook pasta until al dente (as the Italians say), which means “firm to the bite.” Cooked, but not mushy or too soft. Pasta tastes so much better when it’s cooked properly.
More Family Favorite Recipes
Homestyle Mac and Cheese
- measuring cups and spoons
- large pot
- large saucepan
- pasta strainer
- cheese grater
- 16 oz elbow macaroni pasta
- 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese grated
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 cup half and half
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp mustard
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- Start by adding water to a large pot on high heat to get it to a rolling boil.
- In the meantime, grate the cheese if you haven’t already done so and set aside.
- Then add the butter to a large saucepan on medium-low heat. Once melted and hot, whisk in the flour until a thick mixture forms.
- Slowly pour in the milk, whisking well to break up any clumps. Add in half and half at this time and turn heat to a low simmer.
- Meanwhile, when your pasta water begins to boil, add the macaroni to it and turn the heat down to medium, keeping it to a boil and stirring often.
- As the pasta cooks, add nutritional yeast and all other seasonings to the cream sauce mixture. Let the sauce simmer until it starts to thicken up a bit. The sauce is almost ready when a thin coating of it sticks to the back of a spoon.
- Drain elbow macaroni and set aside momentarily as you finish the sauce.
- Add shredded cheese into the sauce, whisking constantly until it is fully melted and incorporated.
- Pour macaroni into the sauce mixture and fold it all together until everything is combined. Serve warm.