Mac and Cheese Casserole is creamy, cheesy and very easy to make. This version of homemade baked Mac and Cheese Casserole is my most favorite and it’s a huge hit with kids and adults alike.
Casserole recipes are a favorite around here. They are easy to make and usually make enough leftovers so we don’t have to worry about cooking dinner the next day again.
Also, they can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the freezer. When the time is ready, you can easily reheat them. Among our most popular once are Cheesy Crack Chicken Casserole, White Pizza Casserole, and Chicken Hash-brown Casserole.
Best Mac and Cheese Casserole
This Mac and Cheese Casserole is all you need for a comforting and tasty meal. It is creamy and smooth, with strong cheesy flavors that will melt in your mouth. The bacon topping is the perfect finish for this dish since it adds some crunchiness to it and some additional flavor. The casserole is also made with three types of cheese: cream cheese, mozzarella, and sharp cheddar cheese.
The homemade sauce is rich and creamy thanks to the mix of sour cream, heavy cream, and cheese. I used the classic roux-based cheese sauce, where butter and flour are cooked together, and then the heavy cream and sour cream are added. As a result of this technique, you will have the creamiest and cheesiest casserole possible.
Due to mixing the ingredients together, and then adding pasta into it, the cheese proportionally and evenly integrates into this dish. Additionally, baking the casserole for 30 minutes after assembling it together, ensures you have a perfectly balanced and cheesy casserole. To make it even more amazing, I have added a buttery topping made of Ritz crackers!
Do I have to bake my Mac and Cheese Casserole?
For this recipe, I went ahead and baked the casserole. However, if you are short of time, you can actually eat it right from the pan or just stick it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top. This will work just as well and is a great shortcut when you are running low on time.
How do you make creamy Mac and Cheese Casserole?
For the exact direction, please see the recipe card below. Also, watch the short video tutorial attached for quick guidelines. But the general steps are as follows:
- Firstly, preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a casserole dish.
- Next, cook pasta until just tender. Preferably al dente.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the flour. Stir to combine.
- Then, add the milk, heavy cream with cornstarch and evaporated milk. Add seasoning.
- Simmer and add the sour cream, cream cheese, cheddar, and mozzarella cheese.
- Mix the sauce, then add the cooked pasta into it.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour into prepared dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
What is the best cheese to use for Mac and Cheese Casserole?
This totally depends on your taste and preference. Any good quality melting cheese will perfectly work for this dish. A combination of cheddar, mozzarella, and Parmesan is what I usually use. Similarly, a sharp white cheddar cheese, Monterrey, or Asiago will produce a smooth, rich and creamy sauce.
What should I serve with Macaroni and Cheese Casserole?
This dish is very versatile, and can be served as it is, or with various pairings. Some suggestions would be:
- Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwich
- Instant Pot Pot Roast
- Roasted Beef Tenderloin
- Slow Cooker Corned Beef
- Instant Pot Corned Beef
HOW TO FREEZE THIS CASSEROLE:
- To freeze, transfer the mixture to a buttered 9-by-13-inch freezer-to-oven baking dish.
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil and wrap in plastic wrap.
- Freeze for up to 6 months.
- Bake, frozen and covered with foil, at 350°F, for 1 hour.
- Before baking the casserole, make sure the pasta is not overcooked. Preferably, the pasta has to be al dente, since it will cook some additional time in the oven.
- Similarly, you do not have to cover the casserole with foil when baking. This way, the topping will get golden brown and crunchier.
- Additionally, use quality cheese. If you want a truly creamy texture, it is best not to use pre-shredded cheese. Take the extra few minutes and shred your own cheese.
- You don’t need to rinse the cooked pasta for this recipe especially if you will be using pre-shredded cheese. This way the starch from the pasta will thicken the sauce.
- Feel free to swap cheeses for a combination of whatever you have on hand. Such cheeses as Asiago, Gouda, smoked Cheddar, Monterrey, will work just as well.
Prep time: 30 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes Total time: 1 hr
- 1 pound elbows macaroni (cooked per box directions, aim for al dente)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream (or light cream)
- 1 can of 14 oz. evaporated milk
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground thyme (optional)
- 1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 4 oz. cream cheese (cubed and at room temperature)
- 3 cups cheddar cheese (freshly grated or buy pre-shredded)
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese (freshly grated or buy pre-shredded)
Buttery Cracker Topping:
- 1 1/2 cups cracker crumbs (I used Ritz crackers)
- 6 tablespoons (unsalted butter melted)
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese (shredded)
- 1 cup cheddar cheese (shredded)
- 10 bacon slices (cooked)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter or with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Cook pasta per box directions, aim for al dente. Drain, mix with olive oil and set aside.
- Place a large sauce pan over medium heat and once its hot add the butter. Stir and melt the butter, carefully not to burn it.
- Add the flour and whisk until fully combined with the melted butter.
- While still whisking, little by little add the milk, stirring to combine. Take your time and don't rush through this step.
- In a small bowl, whisk cream and cornstarch until fully combined and cornstarch is fully dissolved. Add the mixture to the pan. Stir to combine.
Add the evaporated milk and stir to combine. Add onion powder, garlic powder, ground thyme, paprika, mustard, red pepper flakes and salt.
- Still over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil and let it simmer for about 2 minutes.
- Stir in sour cream and cream cheese until fully combined. If the sauce is too thick you can add more milk or some chicken broth. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
- Reduce heat to low and add 3 cups of cheddar cheese and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, freshly grated or pre-shredded. Stir to combine, until the cheese is fully melted.
- Remove pan from heat and add the cooked elbows macaroni. Stir to combine.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish.
Buttery Cracker Topping:
- In a medium bowl combine cracker crumbs with melted butter and stir using a fork until fully combined.
- Level the top with a spatula and sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1 cup of cheddar cheese evenly over the surface of the casserole.
- Sprinkle the Buttery Cracker Topping evenly over the surface and top with chopped cooked bacon if using.
- Bake the casserole uncovered in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
- Remove from oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.
- Serve topped with extra bacon and if desired chopped parsley.