How to make macaroni cheese

How to make macaroni cheese

How to make macaroni cheese

by GBC Kitchen 3 August 2023

Learn how to make macaroni cheese with our comprehensive guide, and try our creamiest mac and cheese recipe. We reveal the secrets to the best macaroni cheese sauce, and tell you how to avoid common pitfalls. 

How to make macaroni cheese


Learn how to make macaroni cheese with our comprehensive guide, and try our creamiest mac and cheese recipe. We reveal the secrets to the best macaroni cheese sauce, and tell you how to avoid common pitfalls. 

Macaroni cheese, or mac n cheese as it’s now commonly known, is pure comfort food. While many associate the dish with American cuisine, the first recorded versions of the modern rendition can be found in English cookery books. They call for a béchamel sauce made with Cheddar cheese, which is then mixed with macaroni. 

While the dish is named for the tube shaped pasta, it’s possible to use any small, short pasta shapes to make macaroni cheese. Once cooked, the pasta is combined with a creamy cheese sauce and, often, topped with a crumb before heating through to serve.

How to make the creamiest macaroni cheese

This may sound obvious, but to make the creamiest macaroni cheese, you will need plenty of rich, cheesy sauce. Once mixed with the sauce, the pasta begins to soak up the liquid, which can make the macaroni cheese dry and claggy. Of course, adding a dash of cream also doesn’t hurt! Follow our recipe below for the creamiest macaroni cheese.

How to make macaroni cheese sauce

Making macaroni cheese sauce is simple, and begins with a béchamel sauce made from butter, flour and milk. Once the milk and flour have been combined to make a roux, the milk is gradually added until the sauce is smooth and thick. Grated cheese is then melted into the béchamel to make the creamy sauce we all know and love! 

Of course, there are lots of other flavourings that can be used to enhance and personalise your macaroni cheese sauce. We like to use a combination of cheeses for flavour and consistency, and we also add some Dijon mustard and a dash of cream.

What is the best cheese for macaroni cheese sauce?

When choosing cheeses for your macaroni and cheese, it’s important to ensure that they are good melting cheeses. Some of the more rubbery cheeses, such as halloumi and paneer, are unsuitable for a macaroni cheese as they won’t easily melt into the sauce. Other cheeses, such as Cheddar, can cause issues if they are added in large quantities and/or overheated, which might cause them to split. 

We like to use a mixture of cheeses in our macaroni and cheese sauce, Red Leicester for colour, a little mozzarella for that all important ‘pull’ and Gruyere for its intense, nutty flavour.

How to make macaroni cheese

This is our classic macaroni cheese recipe, which you can adapt to your tastes. Try some of our variations such as sausage and sauerkraut or leeks and confit garlic, or come up with your own unique version!





Put a pan of salted water on to boil as you make the sauce


Heat the milk in a separate saucepan, but don’t let it boil


Melt the butter in a separate saucepan and, when foaming, add the flour, whisking. Cook this mixture out for a couple of minutes, whisking constantly


Add the milk a couple of ladlefuls at a time, whisking each addition gently into the sauce before adding the next


Once all the milk has been added, allow the sauce to cook for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly. This is important in order to cook out any remaining flour. Taste the sauce to ensure no floury taste remains; if it does, cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes longer


Remove the sauce from the heat and add the grated red leicester, Gruyere and 50g mozzarella


Stir to melt the cheeses, then add the white pepper and stir in the cream and mustard. Taste and add salt if necessary


Preheat a grill to medium


Add the pasta to the water and cook for 6 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer it to the sauce, mixing well


Transfer the mac n cheese to an oven dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs, then the remaining cheeses. They won’t cover the dish completely, but will melt together as they cook. Place under the grill until browned and bubbling - around 10 minutes

Can you freeze macaroni cheese?

Yes, cooked macaroni cheese can be frozen, but make sure it is properly cooled to room temperature before freezing, and thoroughly reheated before serving. 

Macaroni cheese can dry out during the freezing and reheating process, which is where our extra saucy version comes in handy. If you do find it’s a little dry, try stirring a few tablespoons of milk and a pat of butter.

Can you reheat macaroni cheese?

Yes, macaroni cheese can be reheated in the oven or the microwave; always make sure it’s thoroughly piping hot in the centre before serving.

What to serve with macaroni cheese

Mac n cheese is a rich dish, which is why it’s such perfect comfort food! For this reason, however, it’s best balanced with something fresh and zingy. We love to serve a classic macaroni cheese with a lemon or yoghurt-dressed salad made with lots of crisp greens. 

Macaroni cheese also makes a great side dish for a barbecued food, particularly American style, and works well with dishes such as barbecued ribs, coleslaw or pulled pork.

What flavours work well in a macaroni cheese?

When designing your own macaroni cheese recipe, begin with a basic recipe such as our classic recipe above, then add your favourite flavours. A good starting point is to use any ingredient you enjoy in other pasta dishes, for example spicy meats such as 'nduja, vegetables such as peas and artichokes, and seafood such as tuna. 

It also helps to think seasonally; try flavouring a springtime mac n cheese with wild garlic, for example, or try this autumnal recipe for pumpkin, blue cheese and sage mac n cheese

Get in touch

Please sign in or register to send a comment to Great British Chefs.