5 Tips for the Best Homemade Mac and Cheese Glow-Up

Feeling stuck in a mac and cheese rut? Read on for some fabulous tips so you can elevate your homemade mac and cheese to the next level!

Jump to Recipe

The Search for the Best Homemade Mac and Cheese

As you’re searching the internet and recipe sites for the best macaroni and cheese recipe on the planet, you will find an unending variety of takes on this most comforting of comfort foods. Lobster mac and cheese? Easy peasy. Macaroni and cheese with bacon and caramelized onions? Piece o’ cheesecake. Cajun mac and cheese with andouille sausage and shrimp? No problem. Whatever your favorite type of macaroni and cheese, avoid the stuff that comes in a box. Homemade Mac ‘n’ Cheese will always be better. If you need an easy macaroni and cheese recipe, look for an easy homemade mac recipe that will blow the lid off anything store-bought.

The beauty of homemade mac n cheese is that there is a universe of flavor options in this single food category. Some macaroni and cheese recipes use cheddar cheese, others use Velveeta, while still others use cream cheese or Gruyere. Some use shredded cheese, and some use cheese sauce. Others use mix-ins and panko bread crumbs for a kick. When it comes to mac n cheese, the only rule is that you love it! Looking for recipes with high star values can give you some guidance as well.

Some homemade mac and cheese recipes are tasty baked mac. Others are one-pot or slow cooker easy mac. Some backed macaroni is more complex and requires a whisk.

Ultimately, finding the best mac and cheese recipe for your family means making, baking, and tasting a lot of mac and cheese. Which, in Wisconsin, The State of Cheese is right up there with winning the lottery.  So we went straight to the experts at Wisconsin Cheese to dish out “grate” tips!

Tips to Up Your Homemade Mac and Cheese Game

Let’s face it – a good homemade macaroni and cheese recipe is really all about the cheese. Sure, you need macaroni for structure and texture. But, it’s the cheese that makes this the world’s favorite comfort food. Cheese brings the flavor, after all, not to mention the melty goodness. And you can’t have mac and cheese without melty goodness!  As you’re exploring the infinite varieties of recipes, here are a few tips from the experts at Wisconsin Cheese to help you up your mac and cheese game.

1. Consider Your Options and Constraints

When choosing which recipe is right for you, consider the total time you have to make your homemade mac and cheese and your family’s tastes. Do you have time to shred? Or do you need to boil over medium heat and go? Is saturated fat an issue? Will your kids resist or welcome a panko breadcrumb topping? Love a certain type of cheese already, like brie, goat cheese or fontina, or Monterey? Start there! Once you find a recipe you like, look for other recipes with similar elements or experiment with more add-ins or substituting low-fat cheeses.

mac and cheese glow up

2. Go for Two

A pro-tip is that the best homemade mac and cheese recipes usually feature two or more cheeses. This is because it is rare to find a cheese variety to deliver both a creamy texture and dreamy flavor. Emmentaler and mild cheddar (not sharp cheddar) are two kinds of cheese that accomplish this feat. Combining a great melting cheese like fontina, Monterey Jack, or mozzarella with a big-flavored cheese like extra sharp cheddar, smoked gouda, or gorgonzola gives you the best of both worlds. If you love cheese, don’t feel you need to stop at two. Many of the best mac and cheese recipes feature four or five cheeses and are topped with a sprinkle of parmesan to create a tangy crust.

3. Pick Your Pasta Wisely

While elbow macaroni is the standard-bearer, there are lots of great noodles and pasta varieties that will give your mac and cheese more kick. Stay away from the straight and skinny models like spaghetti or capellini noodles. You want the curvy, nooks-and-cranny pasta that will trap more cheesy goodness. Shells, bowties, penne, and rotini are excellent pasta choices.  This is true for both homemade stovetop mac and baked mac and cheese. Cook until al dente. Be sure to pre-boil your water for perfect macaroni and cheese pasta. Whole grain pasta can also work!

mac and cheese varieties- homemade mac and cheese glow-up

4. Melt With Care

Be sure to go slow and use low or medium-low heat on the stovetop as you’re melting the cheese. If you use high or medium-high heat, you may end up with a lumpy mess. Instead, you want any homemade cheese sauce to be smooth and not thicken more than necessary.

gourmet four-cheese macaroni and cheese

Gourmet Four Cheese Mac and Cheese

Step up your homemade mac and cheese game with this decadent recipe!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8 people
Calories 675 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb dried elbow pasta You could also use fusilli, rotini, or cavatappi.
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2-1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese divided and measured after grating
  • 1 cup gruyere cheese divided and measured after grating
  • 1 cup asiago cheese
  • 1 cup fontina cheese
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika

Instructions
 

Gourmet Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with butter. Set aside.

Gourmet Four-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with butter. Set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add dried pasta and cook 1 minute less than the package directs. Drain and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil to keep from sticking.
  • Grate cheeses and toss together to mix, then divide into three piles. Approximately 3 cups for the sauce, 1-1/2 cups for the inner layer, and 1-1/2 cups for the topping.
  • Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine. Cook for approximately 1 minute, whisking often. Slowly pour in about 2 cups or so of the milk/half and half, while whisking constantly, until smooth. Slowly pour in the remaining milk/half and half, while whisking constantly, until combined and smooth.
  • Continue to heat over MED heat, whisking very often, until thickened.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in spices and 1-1/2 cups of the cheeses, stirring to melt and combine. Stir in another 1-1/2 cups of cheese, and stir until completely melted and smooth.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine drained pasta with cheese sauce, stirring to combine fully. Pour half of the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with 1-1/2 cups of grated cheeses, then top that with the remaining pasta mixture.
  • Sprinkle the top with the last 1-1/2 cups of cheese and bake for 15 minutes, until cheesy is bubbly and lightly golden brown.

Notes

Feel free to add mix-ins as you like! Bacon, tomatoes, ham, chicken, whatever your heart desires!

Nutrition

Calories: 675kcalCarbohydrates: 51gProtein: 30gFat: 39gSaturated Fat: 24gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 117mgSodium: 1017mgPotassium: 243mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 1155IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 658mgIron: 2mg
Keyword comfort food, Southern Food
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

5. Add Accents and Add-Ins to Your Homemade Mac and Cheese

Once you’ve got the right cheese, everything else you add is just more flavor and texture. Bacon and broccoli? Why not. Pumpkin and breadcrumbs? If that’s the way you roll, great. Lobster?  Bring it on.

Start experimenting; your kids will start asking for homemade macaroni and cheese for dinner and forget about the boxed stuff. You may even want to start doubling your recipes to bring some comfort food to a second home or to freeze for extra servings on a busy night for easy dinner ideas for kids.

What is your favorite type of homemade mac and cheese recipe? Be sure to share it with your loved ones on FamilyApp!

Which types of coffee are the best

Is Coffee Good for You? The Health Benefits of Coffee

People all over the world drink this popular beverage, but did you know that coffee also has several health benefits? ...
Baby Food: Getting Started on a Culinary Adventure

Baby Food: Getting Started on a Culinary Adventure

When's the right time to start with baby food? And how do you do it? Here's all you need to ...
gelatin cake bubbles elmo cake

How to Make Gelatin Cake Bubbles

Looking for a way to get the party started? Try these amazing gelatin cake bubbles to add fun and visual ...
woman chopping pregnancy foods

Eating for Two: Pregnancy Foods and Nutrition

Looking for the best pregnancy foods? Wondering what foods to avoid when pregnant? We've got you covered. Check out our ...