Do the math, eight + nine =
Yes, seventeen. What is this number you ask? Seventeen is the number of people that will be in our house from Christmas day to January 2nd. That would be 8 days, 17 people, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and one kitchen table that seats 8.
It being the holiday’s and the fact that we live in vacation town we have visitors pretty often. Although, most of the time they seem to be random friends (mostly looking to snowboard and free place to stay) my brothers invite in.
These extra eight however, are most definitely not random. Remember Mrs. Mooney? She makes that amazing Penne, among other things. Well the Mooney’s are headed out of dreary old Cleveland and headed to the snow covered mountains for a real Clark Griswold Christmas vacation! Let’s just hope we all come out of this in one piece.
Seriously though now that I think about it we are the Griswold’s. We have a seriously crazy group of people – brothers will be piling in with brothers, kids that are far too old to be sleeping on their parents floor will be, guests will be crammed onto mattresses in every little nook and cranny, we even have a space under the stairs that we call “the Harry Potter closet”. We have an enormously oversized tree (in our kitchen), lights have been strung on as many trees as possible outside, Christmas music is playing just about 18/7, and drinks will most likely be flowing (although we do not do eggnog, I do not even know if I have ever tried it. Something about drinking eggs just does not sit well with me) on a fairly consistent basis.
So, like many of you this holiday season I have been on the lookout for foods that feed a hungry pack and will please everyone. Lucky for you I have this amazingly creamy and flavorful backed mac and cheese recipe for you! It is perfect because it is not just boring old cheddar cheese. This mac and cheese actually has some flavor due to a whole lot of Havarti cheese and just a kick of heat. Another bonus It can be fully prepared ahead of time. All you have to do is throw it in the oven an hour before dinner.
If you have a really big group you might just want to double the recipe. Trust me people will be begging for more. The picky eaters, the I’ll eat anything eaters and the eaters with real taste buds all went crazy over this mac and cheese!
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Servings: 8 Servings
Calories Per Serving: 904 kcal
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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- Kosher salt
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 1 stick unsalted butter plus melted butter for brushing
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce optional
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1/4-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper I used 1 teaspoon
- 1 quart whole milk 4 cups
- 3 1/2 cups havarti cheese grated
- 5 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 1 sleeve butter crackers crushed (about 35 crackers), such as Ritz
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese optional
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- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just slightly softened, about 6 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta and rinse under cold water.
- Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and cayenne and cook, whisking, until the mixture is smooth and slightly golden, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking occasionally, until the sauce begins to boil and thicken, about 5 minutes. Stir in the all but 1 cup of the harvarti cheese and cheddar cheese; cook, stirring, until the cheese just melts, about 1 more minute. Stir in the pasta, adding the reserved pasta water as needed to make a creamy sauce. Season with salt.
- Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with melted butter. Spread the pasta mixture in the dish. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a bowl in the microwave; stir in the crushed crackers and parmesan. Sprinkle the reserved havarti and cheddar cheese evenly over the pasta, then scatter the cracker mixture on top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until heated through, about 25 minutes. Remove the foil; continue baking until browned and bubbly, about 20 more minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
slightly adapted from food network.
I do not think there could be a family more like the Griswold’s.
This has become a holiday favorite! I leave off the crackers because of my daughter. Great for football entertainment! I serve it with ribs!
Happy Friday!!🌟 Love to hear that this recipe was tasty for you, thanks so much for trying it out! xT
I was planning to make this recipe for Thanksgiving, so I made it for work for a “trial” run..it turned out perfect! lots of compliments. However, I made it for Thanksgiving using the same exact cheese (fresh and grated) and the cheese got rubbery and didn’t melt into the milk, therefore not sticking to the noodles 🙁 What did I do wrong? Milk too hot? Not hot enough?
So glad to hear that you originally enjoyed this recipe. It’s hard to say what exactly went wrong for you, but is it possible you may have missed a step or ingredient with all of the craziness on Thanksgiving? Let me know! xx
Crazy delicious! Doubled the recipe for a Halloween party and set aside a little for myself to try. It’s incredible. Also easy and the recipe is spot on.
Wonderful!! I am thrilled to hear that this recipe was enjoyed and truly appreciate you making it! Have a great weekend! 🍁🍂
Would this work in the crockpot? I have it baking in the oven right now and can’t wait, but as the weather gets warmer here, looking to avoid using the oven.
Wonderful!! Love to hear that this recipe was a hit, thanks a lot for making it! Sure, I would cook for 6-8 hours on low. ☘️xx
Hi Just wanted to check best way to handle making it the day before Christmas, when do I bake it? Bake and refrigerate and warm the next day or assemble an drefridgerate and bake Christmas day? thanks so much! Martha
You will want to make up until the point of baking, cover and pop in the fridge, bake on Christmas Day according to instructions. I hope you love the recipe and happy holidays! xT
Going to try this for Thanksgiving! Looks amazing and such great reviews! Quick question- Can you just cut the cayanne and hot sauce if you don’t want it to have any heat? My three kids won’t touch it if it’s the slightest bit spicy. Thanks!
You bet, that will work well for you. I hope you love this recipe, please let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan
Hi! Do you happen to have a favorite Gluten Free pasta brand? Also, any suggestions for GF cracker substitutes? Thanks so much!
I like Dellalo pasta brand and you can use potato chips in place of the crackers. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan
What’s a substitute for whole milk?
You could use a lower fat milk here, but I would recommend the whole milk if you have it! I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan
Can you prep ahead and freeze?
Yes, I would freeze just before baking and then you can bake from frozen. I hope you love the recipe! xTieghan
This looks amazing!! Do you have any recommendations for preparing the day prior to serving?
You can go ahead and make up until serving and then bake the following day. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! Happy Holidays! xTieghan
Been following you for several months now and just love your recipes . Also look forward to seeing your favorite nine things on Sunday and your weekly recipes .. Gives me lots of good ideas.. So made this Mac & cheese this passed weekend for a birthday party and it was off the charts ,,, very easy to made & absolutely delicious ,,, Your awesome & thank you Andrea
Thank you so much Andrea! I am really glad this recipe turned out so well for you!! xTieghan
We made this last night, but what i consider a large saucepan was nowhere near large enough to mix the pasta and sauce. I’d have to use a large pot. The sauce ends up being more cheese clumps after baking and cooling. I probably need to use a large pot and perhaps more pasta water. Tastes good, but the sauce was not a sauce and didn’t stick to the pasta. I’m going to try it again.
Hi Erin! Yes, I use a fairly large pot for this one.. Do you have any questions I can help with? xTieghan
Would it still work well if I halved the recipe? What size pan would you suggest in that case?
Yes totally fine to do, I would use an 8 or 9 inch baking dish. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan