Baked Mac and Cheese - A Gooey Thanksgiving Favorite

baked mac and cheese serving

The American classic that hits every dining room table all year round—but is especially popular during the holidays. Children cheer for it—mothers smile as they take simple ingredients and transform them into a dish everyone loves. Classic and customizable, macaroni and cheese is a side dish everyone should learn to make. You can even make it a day or two ahead and bake it when you need it—just one more way to make the holidays go more smoothly.

Macaroni and cheese secrets

So what’s the secret to a really good mac and cheese? That depends on how you like yours. For some people, it’s using the best cheddar. For others, it’s the creamy tang of American and the gooey smooth taste of Velveeta.

If you want a truly gooey creamy sauce, make a little extra, or use a few less noodles and remember to cook your pasta about two to three minutes less than recommended on the box. This still has to bake, remember—and if you overcook your pasta before it goes in the oven you’ll be serving mush to your family. It’s great to make your mac and cheese in a pan that can go straight from stovetop to oven and then to the table. A cast iron skillet is a perfect option and it gives that crispy crust around the edges too.

The type of noodle you use (classic elbow, bowties, or penne) is also up to you. Toppings like bread crumbs, corn flakes or even bacon are also optional. Some people even like to throw in a little meat—like smoked brisket—for an extra punch of flavor.

This recipe uses a little dry mustard powder—and don’t worry—you won’t taste it. It’s just a little punch of tang, so try not to skip it. Regular mustard from the fridge won’t be the same so don’t get tempted to make a last minute swap. You’ll find mustard powder in your spice section of the grocery store.

You’ll also need two kinds of cheese—classic American (you can buy it in the deli section of your store usually) and a hunk of classic Velveeta. Many people crave that creamy texture of boxed mac and cheese and the combination of these two will give you that smoothness you crave. You can certainly swap in classic sharp cheddar if you choose, but the texture of real unprocessed cheeses won’t yield the same final result—even though the flavor is amazing. What choice of cheese you use is really up to you.

One common question people ask is if you can make this in a slow cooker. And the answer is, not with guaranteed success. Slow cookers can easily over cook your pasta and change the texture of your final result. Not to mention you’ll never achieve the golden brown crusty top in a slow cooker.

Is that enough to make you crazy yet?  Crazy for mac and cheese, that is. This classic dish is one you’ll want to add to your recipe box for year-round entertaining. Sure to disappear in a flash, it’s one of those sides you can be feel proud serving.

Gooey Macaroni and Cheese

baked mac and cheese skillet

  • 1 ½ cups elbow macaroni
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 ounces American cheese
  • 8 ounces processed cheese (Velveeta)

What You’ll Need


Preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit.

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook 2 minutes less than directed on the box. Drain and set aside.

In a skillet, melt the butter and add the flour. Cook and stir until the flour browns slightly—about 1 minute. Add the mustard and milk and stir to combine. Add the salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook until the milk mixture start to thicken and will coat the back of a spoon, about 6 minutes or so.

Add the cheeses and stir until just melted. Add the noodles and stir to combine. If your skillet is not oven safe, transfer the mixture to a greased 2.5 quart baking dish and bake 30-40 minutes until golden and bubbling.

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