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The BEST Baked Mac and Cheese

November 11, 2019 | Author: Ashley McCrary

When I think of Mac and Cheese, I only ever think my mother Tina’s recipe, who we also call “Teen Teen”. This is one reason I look forward to the holidays so much, because it is a side dish that is always on the menu.

Mac and Cheese

This recipe is legit one of the best side dishes you can take to a family gathering or add to your holiday menu. It screams comfort and will have everyone running back for seconds. Not only is it super creamy, but it has a crunch topping that really takes this side dish to the next level.

Mac and Cheese

It is filled with shell pasta (or pasta of choice), Velveeta Cheese, butter, shredded cheddar, crackers and salt and pepper. For me, I love using shell pasta, however, my mom loves using elbow and egg noodles. Any noodle will work…go by preference here!

Mac and Cheese

Take my advice and always double this recipe. I usually make 2 large pans, especially for Christmas or Thanksgiving so there is enough to go around. From past experience, this side dish is always the first to go. It is sad for anyone in the back of the line that won’t experience the magic of this creamy Mac and Cheese. And let’s be honest, Mac and Cheese is the heart and soul of the holiday meal.

Mac and Cheese

Tips to Make Creamy Mac and Cheese

  • Use Velveeta to get a super creamy consistency. If you are not a Velveeta fa, feel free to use a shredded cheese of choice. Shredded cheddar is a great choice also.
  • Always add salt to your pasta water
  • Cook the pasta one minute shy of al dente (still a bit firm) according to the package instructions. This will allow the noodles to not overcook in the oven.
  • DO NOT DRAIN NOODLES! This is one of my moms main tip for getting a super creamy consistency. There should be a little water left in the pasta. If there is a ton of water left, you can drain off a little, but be sure to leave at least 1 cup of pasta water. This will help with the creamy texture.
  • Make sure not to over bake your mac and cheese. This will dry it out and evaporate all that creamy texture. Follow the cooking time provided.
Mac and Cheese

If you are in need of the perfect side dish for your next social gathering or holiday menu, look now further. This is a traditional recipe that is always on our menu and I plan to keep the tradition alive with my sweet girls. I hope it brings as much love to your bellies as it has ours.

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Mac and Cheese

Love this recipe? Be sure to check out more of my favorites below:

Creamy Spinach and Chicken Enchiladas

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Teen Teen’s Mac and Cheese

Teen Teen’s BEST Homemade Mac and Cheese. EXTREMELY CHEESY, ultra creamy, and topped with a crunchy Ritz Cracker topping that explodes with flavor. This mac and cheese recipe is most definitely a keeper.

  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 810 servings 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 16 oz box pasta (elbow or shell)
  • 5 cups water (to boil the noodles)
  • 1 1/2 lb Velveeta Cheese or shredded cheese of choice (3 1/24 cups, cubed) *See Notes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 stick butter
  • 1 1/2 sleeves Ritz Crackers (crumbled)
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, add 5 cups of water a little salt and bring to a boil. Pour in pasta. Let it cook slowly until most of the water cooks away. Be sure to cook pasta one minute shy of al dente (still a bit firm) according to the package instructions. This will allow the noodles to not overcook in the oven.
  2. Remove from heat but DO NOT DRAIN WATER. There should be a little water left in the pasta. If there is a ton of water left, you can drain off a little, but be sure to leave at least 1 cup of pasta water. This will help with the creamy texture.
  3. To the noodles and pasta water, add butter and the cubed Velveeta Cheese (or cheese of choice) and mix until combined with a spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste
  4. Coat a 9×13 casserole dish with cooking spray and transfer the creamy mac and cheese to the dish. Evenly spread out.
  5. For an even cheesier flavor, add 1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese to the top of the noodles.
  6. Crumble the 1 1/2 sleeves of Ritz crackers in a food processor. Transfer the crumbled crackers evenly over the top of the mac and cheese.
  7. Bake in a 350 degree oven covered with aluminum foil for about 15 mins. Take off foil and let topping brown for approximately 5 mins.

Notes

  • DO NOT DRAIN NOODLES! This is one of my moms main tip for getting a super creamy consistency. There should be a little water left in the pasta. If there is a ton of water left, you can drain off a little, but be sure to leave at least 1 cup of pasta water. This will help with the creamy texture.
  • Velveeta cheese is the brand I use and it gives it an extremely cheesy texture and flavor. 
  • Author: Ashley McCrary
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Cuisine: American

13 thoughts on "The BEST Baked Mac and Cheese"

  1. Liz says:

    Well Mac and Cheese is forever changed now!!

    1. Ashley McCrary says:

      That just made my day. Thank you for this review!

  2. Brittany says:

    Can’t wait to make this for Friendsgiving, I’ve been looking forward to trying this recipe for weeks! Is there a particular Cheddar Cheese you like to use for the shredding topping? Thanks!

  3. Stephanie says:

    Any tips for making this in advance and bringing it to Thanksgiving dinner? Could I preassemble and bake there or freeze it and bake later?

    1. Ashley McCrary says:

      You could make everything the day before except for the topping. Store in the fridge, wrapped, then make the topping and add before re-heating.

      1. Karen Burkart says:

        Looking forward to trying this recipe on my son’s university men’s volleyball team this week when they come for dinner! I plan to make it the day before and double the recipe. How long should I then cook it for so I don’t overcook it? I’m sure it will be a huge hit along with cooked ham and Caesar salad! ❤️ Thanks Ashley!

        1. Ashley McCrary says:

          Just let it cook until the sides begin to bubble. I’ve double the recipe before and really didn’t make a major adjustment to the cooking time. Hope they love it!!

  4. Morgan says:

    So excited to make some of your recipes for Thanksgiving! Thank you for a variety of different ideas!

  5. Ashli says:

    This recipe is almost identical to my family’s “secret family Mac & cheese recipe” with the exception of one added ingredient. (They add a little bit of evap milk)

    Just made your version and I’m excited to try it tomorrow for Thanksgiving!

  6. Ashley says:

    My favorite new way to make Mac and Cheese! Made this for Thanksgiving and plan to every year now.

    1. Ashley McCrary says:

      This is so great to hear! Thank you.

  7. Ashley says:

    I made this for Thanksgiving and now it is the only thing my Father In Law requests I bring to family dinners!

    1. Ashley McCrary says:

      Thank you Ashley! So happy to hear


 

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About Me

Welcome to Healthy Little Peach. I’m Mac, the lady behind the recipes. I believe in living a healthy lifestyle that consists of a mix of healthy whole foods, and full-fat comfort meals. Life is too short not to enjoy good food while maintaining a healthy body and mind. Here you will find gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, keto, and even full-fat comfort recipes. Let’s have fun in the kitchen together!

About Me

Welcome to Healthy Little Peach. I’m Mac, the lady behind the recipes. I believe in living a healthy lifestyle that consists of a mix of healthy whole foods, and full-fat comfort meals. Life is too short not to enjoy good food while maintaining a healthy body and mind. Here you will find gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, keto, and even full-fat comfort recipes. Let’s have fun in the kitchen together!

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👇🏼My 2 favorite healthy swaps for oil when baking, applesauce and Greek yogurt. Both options will save you a ton of calories and fat and give you the same results as oil. 

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Pierogy and Sausage Cabbage Skillet
1 package Mrs. T’s Classic Cheddar Pierogies
1 package beef kielbasa or beef sausage of choice
1 medium head of cabbage, shredded
1 onion - sliced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoon olive oil or butter, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
 
Step 1: Add 1 tablespoon butter to a skillet and add in the garlic and allow to cook for 20
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✨Japanese-Inspired Clear Onion Soup✨

1 tablespoon sesame oil
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2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
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8 cups chicken broth
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salt/pepper
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