Baked Macaroni and Cheese – I Heart Naptime

Baked macaroni and cheese topped with an extra layer of golden, bubbly cheese. This delicious side dish is creamy, comforting and loaded with flavor. 

If you want to take your homemade mac and cheese up a notch, try baking it in the oven. It’s still super creamy and tastes astonishing baked with a small extra cheese on top. Trust me, it makes all the difference!

baked macaroni in glass dish

This delicious side dish is what dreams are made of. It’s creamy, super cheesy and has astonishing flavor and texture. It quickly takes your mac and cheese from ordinary to extraordinary.

The creamy macaroni gets poured into a baking dish, then topped with another layer of fresh shredded cheese. As it bakes, the cheese gets perfectly golden and bubbly. And don’t worry, baking the macaroni doesn’t dry it out! It still tastes just as creamy and delicious as the regular version.

This dish tastes great served with a classic comfort meal like meatloaf, or as a Thanksgiving side dish alongside a roasted turkey. It’s great to serve when entertaining and is something both the kids and adults will love!

blocks of cheese on counter

Best cheese to use

I usually grab a block of sharp cheddar cheese, as well as a block of gruyere cheese. The two taste delicious together and give the macaroni the great flavor and texture. You may also use mild cheddar if preferred, as well as substite the gruyere with jack, colby, fontina or mozzarella.

The key to the top mac and cheese is to grate the cheese yourself. The pre-shredded bags at the store contain extra ingredients that make the cheese more difficult to melt. So grating your own will ensure your mac and cheese is perfectly smooth and creamy.

whisking cheese sauce

How to make baked mac and cheese

  1. Cook noodles. Add the elbow noodles to a pot of boiling water and cook according to package directions. I like to add a Tablespoon of salt to the water to help enhance the flavor. Then drain the noodles.
  2. Make a roux. Melt the butter in a large pot, then whisk in the flour. Cook over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Make sure to stir constantly so that the mixture doesn’t burn.
  3. Make the sauce. Pour in the milk and mustard and continue whisking. Let the mixture arrive to a simmer, then remove the pot from the burner. Add in both of the shredded cheeses and stir until smooth and melted. Then mix in the cooked noodles until coated completely with the sauce.
  4. Bake in oven. Pour the mixture into a greased 9×9″ baking dish and sprinkle another layer of shredded cheese on top. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top layer of cheese is golden and bubbly.

mac and cheese in white pot

Make-ahead instructions

You can make this dish a day in advance, although I wouldn’t recommend any longer than that so the sauce doesn’t dry out. To make ahead, follow these simple steps:

  1. Prepare on the stove as directed, then pour into a baking dish.
  2. Let cool, then tightly wrap with plastic wrap or foil. Then store in the fridge.
  3. When alert to bake, allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Then sprinkle the extra layer of cheese on top of the noodles and bake according to directions.

TIP: I like to cook my noodles al dente, so that they don’t obtain super mushy when baking the next day.

macaroni in casserole dish

Tips + modifications

  • Because the noodles cook twice (on the stove and in the oven), you don’t want them to obtain too mushy. Cook them al dente on the stove first, then they’ll continue to cook in the oven until tender.
  • Before baking, feel free to sprinkle 1/2 cup breadcrumbs or Ritz cracker crumbs on top for an added crunch. You may also add some chopped bacon for even more flavor.
  • To brown the top a small more, you can broil for about a minute or so at the end. Just be sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
  • Feel free to add a dash of hot sauce for some heat.

spoonful of baked macaroni and cheese

More delicious variations to try:

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Course: Side Dish

Cuisine: American

Keyword: baked macaroni and cheese

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Servings: 12

Calories: 270

Baked macaroni and cheese topped with an extra layer of golden, bubbly cheese. This delicious side dish is creamy, comforting and loaded with flavor. 

  • 2 cups elbow noodles (use 2 1/2 cups if using large elbow noodles)
  • 1/4 cup salted butter
  • 3-4 Tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1-2 teaspoons yellow or dijon mustard
  • 2-3 cups medium or sharp cheddar cheese (shred from block)
  • 1 cup gruyere or jack cheese (shred from block)
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

Optional: 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×9″ baking dish and set aside. 

  • Cook your noodles in a large pot of water according to package. Add 1 Tablespoon of salt to the water. Drain once cooked.

  • In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat and then whisk in flour. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring consistently. 

  • Whisk in milk and mustard. Let arrive to a simmer and then remove from heat. Whisk in 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese and 1 cup gruyere or jack cheese and stir until smooth and melted. Add in salt and pepper, to taste. 

  • Add in cooked noodles and stir to combine.

  • Pour into prepared baking dish and add additional cheese on top. Add breadcrumbs if desired. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Broil for 1 minute if desired. 


  • You can also substitute the sharp cheddar cheese for a mild one.
  • I love using gruyere as it adds a fabulous flavor and smooth and creamy texture, however you can substitute it for jack, colby, fontina or mozzarella. You could even just use all cheddar if preferred. 

Calories: 270kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 317mg | Potassium: 136mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 445IU | Calcium: 258mg | Iron: 1mg


jamielyn nye
Jamielyn Nye

Jamielyn Nye is the creative director and founder of I Heart Naptime. She is also the author of the I Heart Naptime Cookbook. When she’s not creating in the kitchen, Jamielyn loves to chase her four small monkeys and snuggle up on the couch with her man.

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