The Best Creamy Homemade Mac And Cheese You’ll Ever Eat

The Best Creamy Homemade Mac And Cheese You’ll Ever Eat

The best homemade mac and cheese is easier than you think!

Super cheesy, ultra rich and topped with a crispy breadcrumb topping, this mac and cheese recipe is everything you (and the whole family) has been dreaming of. Homemade mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food—a warm-you-up baked pasta dish that shines as an entrée or as an accompaniment to a number of veggies and proteins.

The pasta shape is up to you, as long as it’s DeLallo Pasta and is cooked to the perfectly tender but yielding al dente texture. Choose a short cut, like Shellbows or Elbows, with a concave or hollow middle for scooping up the velvety cheese sauce. Speaking of sauce, we use three complementary cheeses to create the rich cheese sauce for this homemade mac and cheese recipe. Sharp Cheddar cheese brings in a punchy, rich flavor. Velveeta is super smooth and creamy with a mild, sweet flavor. Pecorino Romano is a hard Italian cheese known for its nutty, rich addition.

The best part about homemade mac and cheese is how versatile it is. Mac and cheese is a filling weeknight meal, a favorite dinner choice for the kiddos, an essential Lenten recipe and a classic baked pasta dish for special occasions and get-togethers.

Creamy cheesy shellbow pasta in a round baking dish with toasted breadcrumbs on top.

What Is Mac And Cheese?

Mac and cheese, or macaroni and cheese, is a popular dish consisting of pasta and a creamy cheese sauce. This cheese sauce is commonly a yellow-to-orange-hued sauce made primarily of Cheddar cheese. Macaroni and cheese can be made on the stovetop, like the store-bought mac and cheese in the box, but homemade mac and cheese is typically baked in a casserole dish. The history of this dish dates back to the 14th century, in Italy, yet this dish still reigns as one of those most popular comfort foods worldwide.

Small plate of mac and cheese

Why You’ll Love This Homemade Mac And Cheese Recipe

You are going to love this homemade mac and cheese recipe because it is easy to make and takes just a few ingredients to prepare. Not only is it a great idea for an easy weeknight meal, but this macaroni and cheese recipe is vegetarian, making it perfect for a Meatless Monday meal. This homemade macaroni and cheese recipe cooks up in just over 30 minutes. It’s a classic comfort food that everyone in the family will love. You’re going to love its versatility—how you can add veggies, chicken, pancetta or any number of protein options.

The Ingredients You Will Need To Make Mac And Cheese

Pasta: We love Shellbows, but you can use other tubular or corkscrew pasta shapes like the classic Elbow macaroni, twirly Cavatappi, Penne or Shells. Just make sure you cook it to an al dente texture.

Butter: Unsalted butter will also work just fine. Just taste test the final dish to see if you need to add more salt.

Flour: Flour helps to thicken your cheese sauce to the perfect consistency. All-purpose flour is the flour of choice.

Seasonings: We use mustard powder, onion powder and ground cayenne pepper as seasonings.

Milk: Be sure to use a full-fat (or whole) milk to achieve the ultimate in creamy, cheesy goodness. It will also help your roux come together well.

Cheeses: You can choose from many cheeses, but we love this combination of sharp Cheddar, Velveeta and Pecorino Romano. They complement each other well and create as smooth, rich, ultra-creamy cheese sauce.

Breadcrumbs: Use any breadcrumbs that you like. We love Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs for an added bit of flavor on top!

Ingredients for homemade mac and cheese

How To Make Homemade Mac And Cheese

1. Prep the baked pasta.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a baking dish.

2. Cook the pasta.

Aim for al dente texture. Cook the pasta to while you make the sauce, don't let the pasta dry out and start to stick together. Drain the pasta.

Shellbows pouring into boiling water

3. Create the sauce.

Melt the butter. Whisk in the flour to thicken. Whisk in the seasonings. Whisk in the milk and the cheeses. Mix only until creamy and combined.

Butter added to pot
Flour whisked into melted butter
Sauce starting to form
Spices added to sauce mixture
Milk being poured in pot
Cheeses added to sauce
Fully incorporated cheese sauce

4. Combine with pasta.

Add the hot pasta to the pot with the cheese sauce. Stir to coat noodles.

Shellbow pasta added to cheese sauce
Pasta mixed in with sauce

5. Bake

Place in a baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until cheese bubbles and breadcrumbs begin to turn golden brown.

Mac and cheese added to baking dish
Mac and cheese topped with bread crumbs

The Best Pasta Cuts For Mac And Cheese

When choosing a pasta cut for homemade mac and cheese, choose a pasta with a corkscrew, tubular or concave shape. Think about cuts that will easily capture the creamy cheese sauce. We love Shellbows, Elbows, Penne, Cavatappi and small Shells.

Top Tips

For the best homemade mac and cheese:

  • Don't buy pre-shredded or pre-grated cheese. These cheeses are coated and won’t melt properly. If you have the time, buy block cheeses.

  • Add hot pasta to the cheese sauce. If you cook the pasta too early before the sauce is done, you will need to rinse the pasta with cold water to prevent it from sticking to itself and becoming clumpy. By rinsing pasta, you lessen its ability to adhere to the sauce. It is acceptable to rinse pasta with cold water, if you must, but never use oil to do this.

  • Use tubular, corkscrew or concave pasta shapes. Short cuts of pasta with the perfect scooping ability are preferred: Shellbows, Shells, Penne, Elbows, Cavatappi, etc.

  • Cook pasta to al dente texture. If you overcook the pasta, it will become mushy in the final baked dish. Al dente noodles will hold up to the baking process and the creamy cheese sauce.

  • Perfect your roux. This homemade mac and cheese recipe begins with a roux. (A roux is a mixture of equal parts flour and fat that are cooked together over a steady heat.) To create a successful roux and the creamiest cheese sauce, you must be sure to use cold milk and a continuous whisking.

This homemade mac and cheese can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Reheat in a microwave or on the stovetop. This macaroni and cheese dish can be frozen and reheated, but we do not recommend it. Thawing and reheating has a negative effect on the texture of both the pasta and the cheese sauce.

Substitutions And Additions

If you’re looking to jazz up this homemade mac and cheese recipe, try adding any of the following:

  • Pancetta, or bacon: chopped, cooked and crumbled.

  • Grilled or roasted vegetables and greens like broccoli, asparagus, spinach, etc.

  • Truffled mushrooms.

  • Herbs like garlic, sage or thyme.

  • Pulled or shredded chicken.

  • Lobster.

  • Tuna.

  • Italian sausage.

  • More cheeses.

  • Jalapeño or chili peppers.

What To Serve With Mac And Cheese

Homemade mac and cheese is a great dish to serve with grilled or roasted vegetables, like broccoli or asparagus. This cheesy pasta dish goes well with a garden-fresh salad. As a side dish or entrée accompaniment, mac and cheese is great with barbecued meats like chicken or pork, the classic fried chicken, fried cod during Lent, pot roast—to name a few.

Homemade Mac And Cheese: FAQ

How Do I Store Mac And Cheese?

Store homemade mac and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Can Homemade Mac And Cheese Be Frozen?

Yes, homemade mac and cheese can be frozen. We do not recommend this, however, as the thawing and reheating has a negative effect on the texture of the noodles and the cheese sauce. It’s a dish best eaten soon after it is made.

Can I Make This Mac And Cheese Gluten-Free?

You can make this homemade mac and cheese recipe with Gluten-Free Pasta and breadcrumbs that are gluten-free, but be sure to check that other ingredients do not contain gluten. Read the labels!

How Do I Avoid Grainy Cheese Sauce?

To avoid a grainy cheese sauce:

Use block cheeses rather than pre-shredded cheeses. Pre-shredded cheeses are coated and won’t melt properly.

Use high quality aged cheeses with a bigger flavor and smoother texture. Milder, inexpensive cheeses often have a gritty texture.

Use room temperature cheeses.

Perfect your roux. Just the right temperature transitions and constant whisking will help to stop the fats from separating. Be sure to use cold milk in this process.

Don’t overstir the cheese sauce. Once the cheese has melted, you are done. Quickly add the pasta and get it in the oven!

What Is A Roux?

In cooking, a roux is a mixture of equal parts flour and fat that are cooked together over a steady heat.

Can I Make This Dish Ahead Of Time?

This homemade mac and cheese recipe can be made and assembled up to 2 days ahead before the final baking.

How Long Does Homemade Mac And Cheese Last In The Refrigerator?

We recommend that you enjoy this mac and cheese recipe for no longer than 3-5 days. This assumes the pasta dish is stored in an airtight container.

Small plate of mac and cheese

Creamy Homemade Mac And Cheese


  • 1 pound DeLallo Shellbows or Elbow Pasta
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • Pinch of ground cayenne
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 1 pound sharp yellow Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 5¼ cups)
  • 8 ounces Velveeta cheese, torn into pieces
  • 4 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, coarsely grated (1 cup)
  • 1 cup DeLallo Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a glass baking dish.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Once the pasta becomes al dente, drain.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour until thickened. Whisk in the mustard powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Add the milk. Whisking constantly, raise the heat to high to bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 2 to 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir in the Cheddar, Velveeta and Pecorino Romano cheeses. Add pepper to taste. Whisk until the cheese is melted and smooth.
  6. Add in the cooked pasta. Stir until pasta is coated well.
  7. Transfer to a baking dish. Top evenly with breadcrumbs. Bake uncovered until the cheese begins to bubble at the edges and the breadcrumbs become golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.
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