I started my quest for the perfect baked macaroni and cheese while pregnant with my now 1 year old. Sadly, I never fulfilled that mission while it was still permissible to eat my body weight in mac & cheese if I so desired. The good news is that I’ve finally fine-tuned my personal favorite recipe for baked macaroni and cheese! It took lots of (delicious) testing but we got there. This is definitely not a healthy version but I feel that mac & cheese is one of those things you really don’t mess with.
This recipe is adapted from Campbell’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese recipe.
(Please excuse the other kitchen-ness in the background. I have about 1 square foot to work in at any given time.)
This is a pretty simple recipe but the key is the condensed cheddar cheese soup. I was able to score a bunch of cans on sale and with coupons but it usually retails about $1.49 a can here. I would certainly have tried a store brand soup if one was available to me.
Set your pasta up to boil. I used a full pound of cavatappi because honestly, I was tired of elbows and wanted something fun. I boiled mine for about 7 minutes but it could have used a minute or 2 longer. I think it was a teeny bit firm.
While that’s boiling, grate your cheese. I used 8 oz of sharp cheddar and 8 oz of extra sharp cheddar. Use what you have/like/can get on sale. I find that the sharper, the better, but that’s just me.
Let your pasta boil, then drain into a colander. DO NOT RINSE! I just left mine in the colander in the sink.
Take the same pot you boiled the pasta in and dump in the cans of condensed cheddar cheese soup. Add in one soup can’s worth of milk. Mix and heat until bubbly.
Once hot, dump in 1/2 – 2/3 of your grated cheddar cheese. Stir until cheese is melted.
At this point, your cheese sauce will taste processed. Don’t freak! We’ve got more to add.
Here’s where your personal preference comes in. I add about at least a teaspoon, if not two, of seasoned salt. I also add about 1/4 teaspoon of dry mustard. I do this all to taste, adding, stirring and tasting. If you like black pepper and plain salt, go ahead. Do what you want!
Once your cheese sauce is to your liking, dump in your pasta. Mix it all up. You could definitely let this sit for a few minutes for the cheese to thicken some and serve as macaroni and cheese, but I like mine baked. So into the dish it goes, topped with the rest of the grated cheddar.
Make sure to grease your pan! It would probably be okay if you didn’t but I’d rather not find out the hard way.
I used a 13×9’ish glass pan. I think I’ll go to a casserole dish next time.
I bake for about 20 minutes on 400 degrees, or until cheese is melted and pasta is bubbly. I then let it sit for about 10 minutes (torture!) to set.
Serve and enjoy!
Here’s the recipe:
Macaroni and Cheese Perfected
1 soup can milk
1-pound package pasta of choice
1-2 teaspoons seasoned salt, to taste
How to Make It
- Heat the oven to 400°F.
- Boil pasta as directed on box, cooking to al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Put cheddar cheese and milk in pot. Stir together and heat until just simmering, stirring frequently.
- Add 1/2-2/3 of cheddar cheese, reserving some for top. Stir until cheese is melted.
- Start with 1 teaspoon of seasoned salt and 1/4 teaspoon of dry mustard. Stir in and taste. If desired, add more.
- Add in drained pasta. Stir together.
- Put into large greased oven-safe dish. Sprinkle rest of cheese evenly on top.
- Bake in pre-heated oven for about 200 minutes or until bubbly.
- Remove and let sit for about 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
I know this was my first recipe for you all. This was just something I wanted to share. I’ll be tweaking it in future months to try it a few different ways and see how it goes. I guess I’ll have to sacrifice and try out more baked macaroni and cheese for the sake of research! 😉