The best mac and cheese recipe you’ll ever make, this easy baked mac and cheese is rich, creamy, cheesy, and so delicious. We used Cavatappi noodles, white cheddar cheese, and whole milk for extra indulgent flavor kids and adults will love. Finished with a panko topping, this recipe is indescribably delicious!
Why We Love This Easy Baked Mac and Cheese
We can never say no to a good mac and cheese recipe! However, for this version, we took original baked mac and cheese and made it even better. Not only is it super creamy and full of rich cheesy flavor, but it’s also:
- Made in 1 dish.
- Requires no boiling.
- Great to make ahead of time.
- Finished with a crispy panko topping for extra texture and flavor.
Wholesome Ingredients You’ll Need
For the Mac and Cheese
- Pasta – We like Cavatappi noodles best, but any pasta shapes you prefer are fine.
- Milk – For the richest flavor, we use whole milk. However, for a lower-fat mac and chees, you could swap it out for a low-fat milk or milk alternative. Just keep in mind that the flavor and texture will change slightly based on what you use.
- Broth – Using broth is key to creating gourmet taste! Either chicken or veggie broth will work just fine.
- Seasonings – We used fresh garlic cloves, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and ground mustard for a wholesome taste that’s so much better than any boxed versions you’ll find.
- Butter – Not only is it delicious, but butter is also crucial to creating a creamy cheese sauce.
- Cheese – We use white cheddar cheese, but regular cheddar can be used, too! For the best taste and texture, we recommend buying blocks of cheese and shredding them yourself. It takes a little bit longer, but it’s totally worth it!
For the Topping
- Panko Bread Crumbs – Because they absorb less oil than regular breadcrumbs, Panko breadcrumbs are ideal for creating an extra crispy topping.
- Cheese – You can never have too much cheese, right?! In our opinion, Parmesan takes this breadcrumb topping from good to great.
- Butter – Using butter adds richness to the topping and helps the breadcrumbs brown in the oven.
If you want to bulk your easy baked mac and cheese up even more and make it a complete meal, there are endless options for tasty add-ins! Some of our favorites include:
- Cooked Chicken
- Ground Beef
- Crumbled Bacon
- Veggies like broccoli, peas, or even cauliflower
How to Make Baked Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese recipes don’t get any easier than this. After all, you don’t even need to boil the noodles!
- Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit.
- Add all of the ingredients to a baking dish.
- Cover, and bake for 45-50 minutes.
- Combine the topping ingredients.
- Add them to the mac and cheese, and broil for 5-10 minutes.
Why Does My Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe Come Out Dry?
The most common reason why baked mac and cheese is dry is that the noodles are overcooked. Remember, you don’t want to cook them before adding them to the baking dish!
However, if your recipe does come out dry, just add a splash of milk, and it should be good as new!
Meal Prep Options
We like to make a big batch of this easy baked mac and cheese recipe for weeks when we know we’re going to be super busy. There are several options perfect for
- First, you can add all of the ingredients together, and store them in the fridge for 1-2 days. Then, just bake as usual, and enjoy!
- Second, bake your mac and cheese, and store it in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Third, prepare your mac and cheese as the recipe states. Then, freeze it for up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to eat, reheat thawed leftovers in the microwave or oven until it is warmed all the way through.
We’re guilty of eating this baked mac and cheese all on its own. However, if you want to serve it as a side dish, there’s not much it doesn’t pair well with! Take a look at some of our favorite main course options below.
- Whether you have kids you’re cooking for, or you are a kid at heart, these Baked Chicken Nuggets are the nostalgic treat you need to make for dinner!
- Prepared with a refreshing marinade that provides a kick of flavor, these Chipotle Chicken Skewers make for an easy handheld meal.
Air FryerChicken Wings are a crowd-pleasing recipe that is so easy to make.
- Just one bite and these Turkey Caprese Sandwiches will transport you to a quaint cafe.
Even More Mac and Cheese-Inspired Recipes
- Easy to make and full of veggies, this One Pot Broccoli Mac and Cheese will be your new go-to dinner recipe.
- Everything you love about queso paired with warm, comforting noodles, Queso Mac and Cheese is like a dream come true.
- Hearty and delicious, One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese is an easy meal perfect for every occasion.
- This Truffle Mac and Cheese Recipe takes this classic comfort food to the next level with gourmet ingredients that create unbelievable flavor.
Easy Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 16 ounces cavatappi pasta (or similar shape (uncooked))
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup chicken OR veggie broth
- 6 cloves grated garlic
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (more or less to taste)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper (more or less to taste)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
Panko Parmesan Topping
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 Tablespoons melted butter
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a baking dish add pasta, milk, broth, garlic, and spices. Cover and bake for 45-50 minutes.
- Add cheese and butter. Stir until cheese is melted.
- In a separate bowl add all the ingredients for the topping. Top the macaroni and cheese. Broil for 5-10 minutes or until top is golden brown!