This recipe for individual baked macaroni and cheese is my “go-to” all time favorite for easy family friendly mac and cheese.
Normally, I’ve baked this mac and cheese in a casserole, but I decided to experiment and bake the mac and cheese in ramekins. There’s something extra fun about individually sized dishes. Plus, there’s built in portion control.
One of the first things I learned in middle school cooking class was how to make béchamel sauce. It’s a milk sauce thickened with a butter and flour roux. In class it was referred to as “white sauce.” For years I kept that hand written recipe card for whenever I need a white sauce.
This sauce is the mother of mornay sauce, with added shredded cheese. This is the basis for the sauce of this macaroni and cheese. How culinary! I had no idea.
Making the béchamel for this macaroni and cheese involves some time and attention, a lot of whisking, and a lot of babysitting, and a bit of extra dishwashing, but it is totally worth it. Prepare yourself to whisk this sauce constantly for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Once you have your sauce down, the rest is easy. In fact, you can (and should) make the pasta and sauce in advance and bake the dish the next day… the better to meld the flavors.
The photos above are of the dish made with white cheddar cheese, and the photo below was made with yellow cheddar cheese. Either way, the mac and cheese is delicious.
I was able to fit this recipe into twelve 3 1/2 inch ramekins, but this recipe can also be made in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. I just like the idea of baking this macaroni and cheese in individual ramekins.
Cuteness definitely adds to the flavor of a dish, right? Either way, the size of the baking dish doesn’t affect the baking time.
This macaroni and cheese is rich and creamy. I love the bits of burned cheese on top. Killer good.
More Awesome Macaroni and Cheese Recipes:
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Delicious Dairy Recipes
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- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 12 T unsalted butter
- 6 T all purpose flour
- 1/2 large sweet or brown onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 bay leave
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 4 1/2 C whole milk
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1 pound of shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- Panko crumbs, to taste
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste
- Spray oil or melted butter
How to cook
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (unless you are making the dish in advance).
- Fill a large pot with about 4 or 5 quarts of water, bring it to a boil, salt the water to taste, and add the macaroni. Cook it al dente according to package directions.
- Drain the macaroni into a large colander. Do not rinse.
- In the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, onions, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, and peppercorns.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for about 3 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Slowly add the milk while continuing to whisk. Once the milk is combined with the roux, raise the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil while whisking constantly. Simmer for about 4 minutes, until thickened.
- Lower to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Into a very large bowl, strain the sauce through a strainer to remove the peppercorns, thyme, and larger pieces of onion.
- Add the salt, ground pepper, nutmeg, and grated cheese. Stir until the cheese barely melts.
- Add the macaroni to the sauce and stir.
- Spray a casserole or smaller serving dishes with spray oil and fill with the macaroni and cheese mixture. If you are making ahead, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- When you are ready to bake, sprinkle the top of the dishes with panko and parmesan, and spray the top lightly with spray oil or lightly drizzle with melted butter.
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes, until bubbly and golden.
Karen’s Kitchen Stories
mac and cheese, cheese