The Ultimate Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This is the ULTIMATE Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe - A homemade sauce with tons of cheese plus bacon!
This is the ULTIMATE Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe – A homemade sauce with tons of cheese plus bacon!

This is the ULTIMATE Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe - A homemade sauce with tons of cheese plus bacon!

I have been making some variation of the same baked macaroni and cheese recipe since waaaaaay back in 2010, and I just realized that I’ve never shared the base recipe with you! In the past, you may have seen it as the mushroom-herb macaroni and cheese, the butternut squash and bacon mac and cheese, Cajun shrimp macaroni and cheese, or most recently, Hatch chile macaroni and cheese.

They are all derived from the same formula for a béchamel sauce, the same amount of cheese and are baked with a crunchy topping.

This is the ULTIMATE Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe - A homemade sauce with tons of cheese plus bacon!

Last year, in the weeks after I had Joseph, my mom and in-laws cooked for us constantly so that we didn’t have to worry about meals (SO nice!). One day my mom asked if I was hungry for anything in particular, and I told her I wanted this macaroni and cheese with the Ritz and bacon topping from Lori’s recipe. BEST.EVER.

The combination is now officially my absolute favorite baked macaroni and cheese recipe.

This is the ULTIMATE Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe - A homemade sauce with tons of cheese plus bacon!

While stovetop mac and cheese is great, I just absolutely adore the texture and cheesiness that you get from baking it in the oven for a mere 20 minutes. The cheesy sauce starts to bubble and the topping gets a little toasted and extra crunchy – it’s just macaroni and cheese perfection. I used to top my baked macaroni and cheese with panko bread crumbs, but crushed Ritz crackers are just infinitely better. Throw in bacon and you’ll be fighting people for the topping!

Stash this recipe away somewhere safe and use it as-is, or as a jumping off point for all kinds of mac and cheese variations!

This is the ULTIMATE Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe - A homemade sauce with tons of cheese plus bacon!

Four years ago: No-Bake Biscoff Cookies
Five years ago: Boston Cream Pie

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The Ultimate Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This is the ULTIMATE Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe – A homemade sauce with tons of cheese plus bacon!

Ingredients:

For the Macaroni and Cheese:

  • 16 ounces elbow pasta (or shaped pasta of your choice)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Topping:

  • 40 Ritz crackers (about 1.5 sleeves), crushed
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch casserole dish. Heat a large pot of water over high heat for the pasta; cover.

2. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook the pasta according to the box directions for al dente pasta (if your box doesn’t specify al dente, cook it for 1 to 2 minutes shorter than the time called for – it shouldn’t be cooked the whole way through). When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it in a colander.

3. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. In a large saucepan, melt the 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, until the flour starts to brown a bit and smells nutty, whisking constantly. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the milk. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.

4. Once the sauce comes to a simmer, stir in the cheddar cheese, adding a handful at a time and stirring with a wooden spoon until completely melted before adding the next handful. Season with salt and pepper and turn off the heat.

5. Add the cooked, drained pasta to the sauce. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is completely combined and evenly distributed. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.

6. In a small bowl, mix together the crushed Ritz crackers, crumbled bacon and parsley.

7. Sprinkle the macaroni and cheese with the topping mixture.

8. Bake until browned and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

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