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Baked Macaroni and Cheese {Just Like Grandma’s}

Move over blue-box! There’s a new Mac-and-Cheese in town (actually a great family heirloom recipe for it) that’ll knock your socks off!! This childhood favorite macaroni and cheese is a hit with everyone – kids and adults – and it’s super easy to throw together. OMG – beyond DELICIOUS!

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Level up your comfort food cravings with my grandma’s baked macaroni and cheese recipe.

Basic old-timey recipes can genuinely be great. This baked macaroni and cheese might sound sort of plain. But, as the cheese becomes melty and the butter, half-and-half, and simple seasonings mingle, oozing and drenching the pasta creating an amazing cheezy sauce, this mac and cheese transform from plain-old plain to over the top!

Closeup of baked macaroni and cheese on a plate on a blue mat, white casserole dish with blue flower in background 1200x800px
Click the image for the quick steps to make it!

ABOUT THIS RECIPE (per serving)

Gluten FreeNut FreeKetoQuick & EasySoy FreePescetarian
Servings:  4
AVG. Maker RATING: 
4.60 from 5 votes
Write a Recipe Review
Prep Time :12 minutes
Cook Time :20 minutes
Total Time :32 minutes
Course : Dinner, Lunch, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine : American
Diet : Gluten Free
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.
Calories 411
Fat 28.2
Carbohydrates 20.9
Protein 18.5

This Mac & Cheese is the Kind of Dish That Memories Are Made Of

Baked macaroni and cheese was a regular at grandma and grandpa’s cottage. My cousins and siblings knew it well, accompanying heaped-high platters of fresh-caught bluegills or fried chicken dinners at the lake. After long summer days of swimming, boating, and fishing, this was the go-to of side dishes to fill hungry kids (adults too)!

I’d never even heard of the stuff in the blue box made with orangish powered dried cheese until college when it was made in dorms everywhere and consumed by the bucket load by students who choose to skip the cafeteria. For me, that box stuff never earned the acclaim of grandma’s version despite the craze.

The truth is, there was a heated discussion defending grandma’s way of making it.

I argued that baked macaroni and cheese is so easy that if you only have a toaster oven and a hot plate from start to finish, it’s ready for scarfing down in about 30 minutes. Yeah, it takes double the time of the boxed stuff, but “if you ain’t had macaroni and cheese like grandma’s, you ain’t never had real mac and cheese!”

Admittedly, as the defender of grandma’s way of making it, the emphasis used in my poor English and less than perfect grammar in the debate was on purpose and most likely due at the time to being hassled by the debate-ee in the conversation. Nowadays, I supposed they’d call that being a drama queen.

As it went, my defense didn’t change anything. My dorm buddies continued with their blue box, and I stayed true to what I had always known as the best macaroni and cheese on the planet.

Then recently, this basic recipe took on a whole new makeover when it met the grill. Spoiler, this new version ultimately takes it to a new level which I never thought possible.

And with either of the versions, if you don’t need to be gluten-free, they are the sort of dishes you could certainly just swap out the gluten-free pasta for regular macaroni.

#MacAndCheese Please! #Baked #Macaroni and #Cheese from #fromscratch! Make this #GlutenFree #Recipe #CookingGfreeDeliciously @GfreeDelicious

Here’s Why Grandma’s Baked Mac & Cheese is the Greatest!

  • If you’re not a kitchen guru, it’s okay. This macaroni and cheese is a dish that’s super simple to make.
  • It’s easy to scale up or down to feed one or two people or an entire crowd.
  • You can make it as a main course or a side dish.
  • You can easily add other ingredients to this recipe. Think chicken, ham and peas, steamed broccoli, crab, or lobster – all would be excellent choices for adding protein, veggies, or a little of each to make it into an even heartier meal!
  • This recipe is outrageously cheesy, ultra-creamy, and guaranteed to be a hit for kids and adults. So it’s the ultimate crowd-pleaser if you need a dish for a barbecue supper or potluck.

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How to Make this Baked Mac & Cheese

  1. You’ll start with gluten-free macaroni, cooking it according to the package directions until it’s tender and firm but no longer crunchy – al-dente’ (Ahl-DEN-Tay).
  2. While the macaroni cooks, grate the Colby cheese, then set it aside until it’s time to assemble. Now is also an excellent time to preheat your oven to 350°F. And you can butter the insides of the baking dish liberally using about ½ tablespoon of the butter.
  3. When the noodles have cooked, drain them well, then add the remaining two tablespoons of butter, black pepper, and salt, stirring lightly to combine.
  4. To assemble, add half of the macaroni mixture to your baking dish, pour in the half-n-half (enough to almost reach the top of this layer), then add half of creamy Colby cheese. Next, add another layer of the macaroni, then pile it high with the remaining Colby cheese. For the final touch, sprinkle a pinch of gluten-free seasoned salt over the top.
  5. Now you’re ready to pop it into your preheated oven at 350°F to bake for 20-25 minutes.

Picture the recipe step-by-step...

Our Best Tips for Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Gluten-Free Pasta

To make macaroni and cheese, using great ingredients is always essential to the success of the final dish. However, finding the right gluten-free pasta to use can be tricky. We’ve tried just about every brand of gluten-free macaroni we could find, and the top of our list for affordability and good taste is Barilla Gluten Free Elbows Pasta. No slimy, mushy, or odd-tasting pasta from them!

You can find it in the regular pasta aisle at most local grocery stores (and we’re assuming it’s available throughout the United States), and it costs about the same as wheat-based pasta. If you didn’t find it at your store, we would appreciate your support by purchasing it here 😉. Or you can always ask for it at your favorite store’s service counter by filling out a guest request.

The Best Cheese for Baked Mac and Cheese

While the best type of cheese for this dish is subjective, Colby cheese is my favorite choice for baked macaroni and cheese. It’s flavorful, melts wonderfully, it melts uniformly into the half-and-half, and it gives the macaroni and cheese its traditional orange color. However, while Colby is our family’s favorite, we have made this dish with Cheddar cheese. If using cheddar, you will want to make sure that you choose a mild, medium, or sharp cheddar cheese and not an extra sharp or aged cheddar. Aged cheeses can separate when melted, and they will not bake into the macaroni and half-and-half, creating the signature cheesy, melty sauce for this dish.

No matter what cheese you choose, I’m a big fan of grating or shredding cheese yourself. If you’ve seen some of the other recipes on this site, you will notice that I talk about it in those recipes too.

The stuff in the bags is more convenient, of course, but it’s coated with an anti-caking powder to prevent it from clumping and sticking together. Unfortunately, that coating also prevents it from melting because it blocks moisture, which is not what you need when making baked macaroni and cheese, and you want the cheese and the half-and-half to come together, creating a creamy sauce. Not to mention, the cost is more expensive. So do yourself a favor, shred the cheese yourself for a better melt, and save money. It only takes a few minutes.

The Half-and-Half (aka The Sauce)

During assembly, you’ll notice that after adding the half-and-half, the dish will look like it will be soupy and thin – don’t worry. This macaroni and cheese will spend just the right amount of time in the oven to bake into a thick, creamy sauce, cooking and melting perfectly with the cheese as it bubbles and bakes.

What to Bake It In

We’ve used a 1.5 ounce casserole dish for years to bake it for just the two of us, but any medium-size versatile baking dish will do. When the kids are home, and still if we’re making enough for a crowd, a 4-quart baking dish works very well.

If you’re looking to purchase a new casserole dish I would recommend a casserole dish that comes with a glass lid because it’s perfect for keeping everything warm while everyone is getting to the table.

Can you reheat Baked Mac and Cheese?

Baked macaroni and cheese tends to thicken up when it’s cooled. So I recommend reheating as follows:

To reheat a significant amount:

  • Break up the cool mixture evenly in the baking dish or skillet. Add a little more half-and-half (or milk), then place in an oven set at 325°F for about 20 minutes until warmed through.

If reheating one or two servings:

  • Place the servings in a microwave-safe bowl with a small amount of milk or half-and-half and heat on 50-percent power at 45-second intervals until warmed through.

Can you freeze Baked Mac and Cheese?

Typically dairy does not freeze very well, and it can separate and curdle upon thawing. Therefore, I would recommend eating up any leftovers within a day or two.

Love Macaroni & Cheese?

If you’re like us, there aren’t many mac and cheese dishes that we don’t include in our regular meal rotation (scans the blue box, but then we’ve eaten plenty of that kind over the years too). I think it’s all about the convenience and the comforting taste of the dish, whether we make it on the stovetop, oven, or grill.

If you like this macaroni and cheese recipe, here are a couple of other mac and cheese variations we’ve created over the years:

Smokey Grill-Baked Lobster Mac & Cheese

Creamy Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese Four Delicious Ways

Once you try this Baked Macaroni and Cheese, be sure to check out a few of our other always classic gluten-free recipes!

XXO

Kymberley

P.S. When you try this recipe, please come back here to let us know your thoughts.

Leave your comment, share it, and rate it – it’s super helpful for other readers and us. It’s easy. Just click the blue-green comment bubble on the bottom right of your screen to jump to the comment area below.

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Baked Macaroni and Cheese {Just Like Grandma’s}

Kymberley @GfreeDeliciously
This baked macaroni and cheese is anything but plain-old plain. As the cheese becomes melty and the butter, half-and-half, and simple seasonings mingle, oozing and drenching the pasta creating an amazing cheezy sauce, this mac and cheese transform from plain-old plain to over the top good!
4.60 from 5 votes
Gluten FreeNut FreeKetoQuick & EasySoy FreePescetarian
This recipe may contain affiliate links. For more information, visit our Affiliate Disclosure.
Prep Time 12 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 32 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 411 kcal

EQUIPMENT

  • Large Saucepan
  • Baking Dish
  • Cheese Grater
  • Utensils (Measuring Cups & Spoons, Rubber Spatula or Large Spoon)

INGREDIENTS
 
 

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INSTRUCTIONS
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F, butter the interior of a 1.5-quart baking dish or oven-proof skillet liberally with ½ tablespoon butter. Set the baking dish aside until needed.
  • Boil the macaroni noodles according to the package directions.
  • As the macaroni cooks, grate the Colby cheese. Set aside.
  • Drain the macaroni when cooked tender and firm but no longer crunchy - al-dente’ (Ahl-DEN-Tay). Add the butter to the noodles, black pepper, and salt, stirring lightly to combine.
  • Add half of the macaroni to the prepared baking dish or pan. Pour in the Half-n-Half, then cover the macaroni layer with half of the grated Colby cheese. Repeat with another layer of the remaining macaroni, then cover the top with the rest of the grated Colby cheese. Sprinkle seasoned salt over the top.
  • Place the filled dish into the preheated oven to bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until the mac and cheese is lightly browned and bubbly around the edges and the cheese is melty.

Nutrition

Calories: 411kcalCarbohydrates: 20.9gProtein: 18.5gFat: 28.2gSaturated Fat: 17.5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 8.1gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 81mgSodium: 684.6mgPotassium: 291mgFiber: 0.5gSugar: 3.5gVitamin A: 239.6IUVitamin C: 0.4mgVitamin D: 0.8µgCalcium: 517.2mgIron: 0.6mg
Keyword 30-Minute Meals, Baked, cheese, Colby, Mac & Cheese, Macaroni, Macaroni and Cheese, pasta
Tried this recipe?Review it ! Or leave a comment. It’s super helpful for others and us!

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Copyright © 2017-2024 Kymberley Pekrul | GfreeDeliciously | gfreedeliciously.com | All content and photographs are copyright protected. The sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. However, copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited. Please read my Photo Use Policy for detailed guidelines and further clarification.

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The Best Easy and Healthy Ham Salad Spread Recipe

A simple long-time ham appetizer and ham sandwich spread known by many names. Some call it Deviled Ham Spread, Ham Salad, Southern Ham Spread, Ground Ham Salad, or Funeral Spread, as my grandpa dubbed it, but then as Shakesphere said, “What’s in a name?”*

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Kymberley @gfreedeliciously

Kymberley @gfreedeliciously

Hi, I'm Kymberley, the creator of GfreeDeliciously and the Amazing, Glorious Journey Programs. I pray that my work will inspire you to honor your body through God and Good Food from the inside out, all while enjoying your Amazing, Glorious Journey!

Take a peek at the behind GfreeDeliciously

Being creative, cooking, fresh veggies, the violin, decorating for holidays, sewing, hand-quilting, cowgirl boots, country music, fresh herbs in pots, blowing dandelions to the wind, walking barefoot in the grass, hanging out with eclectic interesting people, reading, writing, warm lazy summer days, and yoga!

Gluten, cilantro, mixed vegetables (the frozen kind I grew up with), negativism, rudeness, narcissism, overstaying a welcome,
not helping out, liars, promiscuity, cockiness, know-it-alls, being overly-dramatic, goal-less-ness, poor hygiene, chauvinism, lacking a sense of humor, excessive competitiveness, Laziness, horrifying spellers, people-bashing, criticism and mockery of others and their beliefs, flakiness (because flaky people are really unappealing), more swagger than substance, people who constantly manage others (those folks who think they have all the answers…)

Lambrusco, my iPad, popcorn suppers, dark chocolate, cookbooks, Almond-Rocca, historical romances, sun-bathing, weekend coffee with a good book in bed, PBS cooking shows, romantic comedies, cozy sweaters, fuzzy socks, and fragrant bubble baths with soft music and wine…

Say please and thank you, LAUGH, Pray often, ENCOURAGE others, Be KIND, HONEST, HAPPY, Keep your PROMISES, Be GRATEFUL, Wash your hands, FORGIVE yourself and others, LISTEN, Have FAITH, Be CONFIDENT, Honor your parents, CHERISH your children and grandchildren, TREASURE your family, ABIDE in GOD’s love, Be POLITE, Guard your HEART, SEEK your purpose, FEED your mind, body and soul, Be HOPEFUL, Resist temptation, Lay your burdens down, TRUST your gut, CONNECT with nature, Know that GOD made you perfect just the way you are, SERVE others, LIVE to love, Be COURAGEOUS, Shine bright, OPEN your mind, RESPECT differences, HONOR your inner hunger, SING loud, Be PROUD of who you are, Practice PATIENCE, Never give up, WEATHER the storms of life, Say I love you, LOVE one another

  • I’ve traveled to 32 states in the USA where I’ve enjoyed the food, history, people and the local culture while visiting.
  • Among the states, I’ve lived in are Arizona, California, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
  • My favorite island is Maui.
  • I’ve also been to Canada and Mexico.
  • I rode horses as a kid, and barrel-raced.
  • I broke my neck when I was 18 and went to senior prom in a neck brace.
  • As a little girl, I grew up living next door to my grandma and grandpa on a small lake in rural southern Michigan.
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  • The craziest thing I ever made was mint-flavored green cupcakes when I was 13. My family didn’t like them much…
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Kymberley @gfreedeliciously
Coach | Cook | Creator | Publisher

Meet Kymberley [Upson] Pekrul

A professional writer and self-taught Gfree lifestyle expert on [most] gluten-free things, I’ve always loved cooking and creating delicious foods from scratch for myself and those I love.

My journey began when everything I thought I knew about cooking and eating suddenly changed one day when I discovered I was celiac. So, I re-learned how to eat, cook, and navigate through life gluten-free – trusting God and His plan for me.

I live in what’s known as the Holylands of Central Wisconsin. All the recipes you’ll find here are gluten-free and inspired by the people and places I love most. Whenever possible, I cook with seasonal ingredients using whole foods – Making dishes suitable for everyday life and all food lovers gathered at the same table.

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