This easy, creamy mac and cheese recipe has a hint of spice for a fun twist!
- 3/4 pound pasta (we used elbow macaroni)
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 Tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided (reserve 1/2 cup for topping the pasta before baking)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- Fresh chopped parsley (optional), for topping
Heat the oven and cook the pasta
- Heat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
- Cook pasta in very salty water until it’s a few minutes less than al dente. (The pasta will continue to cook in the oven, so undercooking it during the boiling phase helps it hold up once baked!) Drain and set aside.
Make the sauce
- Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour to form a roux and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant.
- Whisk the milk into the roux a little at a time, making sure to work out all the clumps so you have a smooth sauce. Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until milk has thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Whisk mustard powder, cayenne, paprika, salt, and black pepper into sauce.
- Turn off the heat. Add most of the cheddar cheese (reserve 1/2 cup for topping the mac later) and stir until melted.
- Stir cooked pasta into sauce.
- Pour pasta into an oven-safe baking dish (we used a cast iron skillet). Top with remaining cheese.
- Bake at 350° F for 15-25 minutes, or until cheese has melted and edges are crispy.
- Top with fresh chopped parsley and another pinch of spices (optional) and serve immediately.
Additions and Substitutions. Add protein (chicken, chorizo, andouille sausage, diced ham, bacon) or veggies (broccoli, tomatoes, spinach) to this mac and cheese to make it a bit heartier. Use bread crumbs in place of or in addition to the cheddar cheese topping when you’re ready to bake.
What kind of cheese should I use? We like using sharp cheddar or white cheddar cheese here. For extra depth and flavor, use a combination of cheeses: we like gruyere, smoked gouda, goat cheese, parmesan, and pepper jack in this recipe.
For best results, always shred your cheese yourself! Store-bought cheeses are often coated with preservatives that keep them from melting smoothly.
Dial up the spice by increasing cayenne pepper and paprika here, or add diced jalapeño or poblano peppers to the sauce for even more kick (you can use our jalapeño popper mac and cheese recipe as a guide!)
Keywords: comfort food, winter, thanksgiving