As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
This homemade mac and cheese recipe is a great way to give the kids what they want and still feel good about the quality of what they (or you!) are eating.
Homemade mac and cheese is on a whole other level compared to the boxed stuff you can buy at the store. It’s absolutely comfort food, and the best part is that it’s just as fast and easy to make as the boxed stuff. So the only thing you’re missing with a recipe like this is the chemicals, preservatives, and food coloring that comes with the boxed variety.
I think most clean eaters realize that when something can sit on a shelf for years in a box, is processed into powder, and is for sale at 10 boxes for $1, it’s probably not the most healthy choice you could be making.
One look at the ingredient list alone is enough to send you back to kindergarten because you think you have forgotten how to read the English language. But the truth is, all those chemicals are not only unreadable and unpronounceable but indigestible as well.
Instead, make clean mac and cheese from scratch at home. It’s extra creamy, and the flavor is so much better, thanks to the use of real cheese. You can play around with the cheese you use to get the perfect flavor for you, and I’ll give you suggestions below for types of cheese to try.
FYI: While this is a perfect comfort food main dish for any night of the week, it’s also a great Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner side dish. You can even take it to potlucks, but you’ll want to keep it warm and serve it as close to when you finished cooking it as possible.
Is Cheese Clean Eating?
As with most foods, it depends. Remember, it’s not the “process” of making something that makes it a processed food. It’s how much the food is altered and how much garbage is mixed in with it.
So yes, real cheese is clean. However, most clean eating enjoy it in moderation due to the fat content. (Low-fat or non-fat cheese is not clean. It’s very processed).
What Are The Best Cheeses To Use For Homemade Mac And Cheese?
While this recipe calls for sharp cheddar and parmesan, there are other cheeses you can use if you want to adjust the flavors a bit. Note that it’s best to buy a block of cheese instead of pre-shredded cheese, which has anti-caking ingredients added.
- Mild or medium cheddar
- Monterey Jack
- Colby jack
- American – The real stuff, not Kraft processed cheese. Unprocessed cheese will always be better, both for health and for flavor.
- Cream cheese
What’s The Best Pasta For Macaroni And Cheese?
While you can use any pasta shape you prefer, there are a few noodles that are extra well-suited for homemade mac and cheese.
Is Milk Or Butter Better For Mac And Cheese?
When you are making your own mac and cheese from scratch, the best one is both. Using both will give you that nice, creamy consistency you crave in a good mac and cheese.
How Do I Make My Mac And Cheese Better?
If you are talking about boxed mac and cheese, the best thing to add is additional cheese and maybe either milk or butter. But if you are talking about made-from-scratch mac and cheese, there are a few things that could be making your mac and cheese bland.
- You used cheese that isn’t strong-flavored enough.
- You forgot the salt. (The boxed stuff has a lot of sodium that you may be used to.)
- You only used one type of cheese. Homemade macaroni and cheese tastes best with a combination of cheeses.
- You can add garlic powder and/or onion powder to round out the flavors.
How To Serve Homemade Mac And Cheese
If you are serving a group, serve this in a baking dish for easy serving. If you are only serving one or two people, serve directly in bowls.
How To Make Cheesier Mac And Cheese
This cheese sauce is perfectly thick and creamy. So to increase the cheesy factor, you’ll want to use less pasta. The ratio in the images here is half the pasta called for in the recipe. If you want a less saucey consistency, simply use all the pasta called for. The number of servings is based on you using all of the pasta.
Can I Make Baked Macaroni With This Recipe?
If you prefer to bake mac and cheese in the oven, you can do that here at the end. Simply combine everything in a casserole or baking dish, add a little extra cheese over the top, and add some whole wheat bread crumbs. Bake at 400 F. until you have a nice golden crust on top. Depending on your oven and your cheese sauce-to-pasta ratio, this can take anywhere from 15-40 minutes, so keep an eye on it.
What To Eat With Mac and Cheese?
Things you can serve with mac and cheese are:
- Green salad
- Baked potato
- Bowl of soup
- Chicken – Shred or chop it small.
- Sloppy Joes
- Chicken tenders
Toppings For Homemade Mac And Cheese
Topping ideas for macaroni and cheese that you can just sprinkle over the top or mix in are:
- Panko topping or bread crumbs – Panke makes a 100% whole wheat bread crumb that tastes great.
- Cracker crumbs – Many people use Ritz crackers, but you can use any whole-grain cracker to get the same results.
- Chopped bacon.
- Cooked corn.
- Jalapeno pepper
Ingredients For Homemade Mac and Cheese
Pasta – Any kind you want to use.
Milk – You can use plant-based milk if you wish.
Grated sharp cheddar cheese – You can use plant-based cheese if you wish.
Parmesan cheese – The real stuff, not Kraft.
Salted butter – Unsalted will work in a pinch.
Prepared yellow mustard – No sugar added.
Arrowroot powder – Cornstarch will work in a pinch.
How To Make Homemade Mac And Cheese
Cook the pasta to package directions in salted water until they are al-dente. When done, drain and set aside.
While the pasta cooks, in a medium pot, combine all the cheese sauce ingredients and warm over low to medium heat. Do not warm over high heat, or the cheese will burn onto the bottom of your pot before it’s fully melted. It should only take about 2-3 minutes top for the mixture to fully melt. whisk it continuously.
Pour the sauce over the prepared pasta and stir to combine.
Add salt to taste if needed, and serve.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Can You Freeze Mac and Cheese?
Freezing is not recommended for this recipe.
Reheating Mac and Cheese
Reheat this in a pot on the stovetop. You may need to add a splash of milk to loosen it up again. You can also reheat this in the microwave in short intervals.
More Healthy Pasta Recipes
Remember to subscribe to my free newsletter to receive all my latest recipes in your inbox. Click here to sign up!
Homemade Mac And Cheese Recipe Card
Homemade Mac And Cheese
- 1 lb. dry whole grain pasta (I used gluten-free shells – Cook to package directions)
- 1½ cups milk (I used whole milk)
- 2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese (the real stuff, not Kraft)
- 1 tbsp. prepared yellow mustard (no sugar added)
- 2 tbsp. salted butter
- 1 tbsp. arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
- Cook the pasta to package directions in salted water.
- In a medium pot, combine all the cheese sauce ingredients and warm over low to medium heat. Do not warm over high heat, or the cheese will burn onto the bottom of your pot before it's fully melted. It should only take about 2-3 minutes top for it to fully melt. whisk it continuously.
- Pour the sauce over the prepared pasta and stir to combine.
- Add salt to taste if needed, and serve.
Recipe from the Gracious Pantry® archives, originally posted on 10/10/11.