Creamy Pesto Mac and Cheese

Pesto Mac and Cheese takes your mac and cheese game to the next level! This fun twist on a traditional mac and cheese recipe is made with creamy havarti and a couple of spoonfuls of pesto for a great flavor boost! 

Get creative and add in your favorites; chicken, bacon, broccoli or any mix-ins you have in the fridge or pantry! Think of the ‘pasta-bilities!’

Pesto mac and cheese in a serving bowl with a serving spoon, garnished with basil.

A New Favorite

I’m so excited to be sharing this recipe with you today because it’s one of many recipes I’ve fallen in love with from my newest gem in my cookbook collection!

This bowl of love is from The Two Peas & Their Pod Cookbook written by my good friend Maria who blogs over at Two Peas and Their Pod.

I’ve waited so long to get my hands on a copy and it was well worth the wait! This book is filled with amazing fresh recipes that are not only easy to make, they’re family friendly! I love that most of the ingredients are things you likely have on hand (just like this mac and cheese, which is crazy easy and insanely delish)!

Two Peas & Their Pod Cookbook has easy to follow recipes with gorgeous photos that your entire family is going to love! I’ve got a big ol’ list of recipes dog eared in this book already!

Two peas & their pod cookbook with pesto mac and cheese ingredients around it.

What is Pesto?

Most people think of basil pesto but, pesto is a style of sauce, and can be made with nearly any herb or vegetable. Spinach and basil are the most common kinds of pesto, but it can also be made with sundried tomatoes, bell peppers, and even mushrooms!

How to Make Pesto Mac and Cheese

This easy pasta dish is so creamy and it’s a quick and delicious family meal.

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Combine butter and flour in a stockpot to make a roux (see recipe below). Whisk in milk and cook until thickened.
  3. Stir in shredded cheese until sauce is smooth and creamy.
  4. Gently fold in the pasta and enjoy!

Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. This mac and cheese dish is delicious served with a slice of homemade garlic bread or cheesy garlic breadstick to soak up every drop of that yummy sauce.

Two images showing the steps to create the pesto mac and cheese sauce.

My Favorite Add-Ins

This recipe is super flavorful made as written but Maria also has lots of great add-in suggestions; it’s will be like a new recipe every time!

Close up of pesto mac and cheese being scooped out of serving dish.

How To Store Mac and Cheese

Pesto mac and cheese is easily stored in the fridge in a zippered bag or airtight container.

  • Freeze it the same way, use a zippered bag or airtight container. Be sure to write the date on the outside of the bag or container.
  • Thaw in the fridge overnight. Pesto mac and cheese might not be as firm because the freezing process breaks down the pasta, but it can still be refreshed by draining any liquid that may have accumulated.
  • Reheat by putting the mac and cheese in a pot and heating gently. Refresh the flavors by adding a little salt and pepper or some new add-ins and it’s a whole new recipe!

Mac and Cheese Lover Recipes

Pesto Mac and Cheese

This stovetop mac and cheese is super creamy, cheesy, and full of flavor! It is easy to make but tastes gourmet! 

  • 12 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk (at room temperature)
  • 2 cups Havarti ( or mozzarella cheese, shredded)
  • 3 Tablespoons pesto (or store bought basil pesto)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the flour to create a paste.

  3. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and continue whisking until the sauce starts to thicken, about 2 minutes.

  4. Stir in the shredded cheese and continue stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Fold in the pesto.

  5. Add the pasta, stirring to combine, and cook just until the pasta is warmed through.

  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Recipe published with permission from Two Peas & Their Pod Cookbook.

Pesto Mac and Cheese in a white bowl.
Pesto Mac and Cheese in a white bowl.
Top photo - Pesto Mac and Cheese in a white bowl. Bottom photo - Pesto sauce being made in a saucepan.

Chili Mac Skillet (One Pan Meal)

Supper never fails to satisfy when you serve this Chili Mac Skillet. This cheesy, meaty meal combines ground beef, macaroni, and cheddar cheese in a thick tomato sauce enriched with beef broth.

Make this your go-to recipe when you need to stretch your food budget and still put a smile on everyone’s face! Serve this hearty meal with a light tomato cucumber salad and a slice of garlic bread to soak up every last drop!

Chli Mac in a skillet topped with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese

What is Chili Mac?

Chili Mac is a fresh take on an American Goulash recipe, with a flavorful Tex-Mex flair, thanks to the addition of chili powder and herbs. Make it on the stovetop in a pot for an easy meal that’s a breeze to prep!

Ingredients for Chili Mac

Not only is the shopping, prepping and cooking for this homemade one pot meal super easy, but cleanup is a breeze too. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  •  Base: ground beef, beef broth, elbow macaroni
  • Toppings: cheddar cheese
  • Veggies: crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, garlic cloves
  • Sugar & Spice: parsley, basil, oregano, chili powder, beef bouillon cube, sugar

Substitutions

If you prefer, substitute ground turkey or chicken for the beef and use chicken broth and bouillon. Penne pasta, rotini or shells will also serve in place of the macaroni. Add canned black beans, bell peppers or corn to stretch this recipe even more.

For maximum flavor and bite, use extra sharp cheddar. Pepper jack or Colby also work well in this recipe. Consider giving chili mac more of a Mexican vibe by getting creative with cumin powder, jalapenos, or chopped cilantro.

Ingredients to make Chili Mac in a large skillet

To Make this One Pan Skillet Meal

Follow these simple steps and you’ll have dinner on the table in a flash:

  1. Brown the ground beef with onion and garlic and drain off any fat.
  2. Add all the ingredients to the same pan (per recipe below) expect the cheese.
  3. Cover and cook until the macaroni is tender, stirring occasionally.

Once cooked, adjust seasoning, top with shredded cheddar, a sprinkle of green onion or cilantro and serve.

An overhead image of chili mac ready to serve

Don’t Forget the Sides!

The beauty of one pot meals like this is that you don’t have to fuss too much with sides. Serve chili mac with tortilla chips or tangy panzanella salad for a welcome crunch.

Baked corn on the cob or tomato avocado salad are also tasty and light sides that will complement the stick-to-your-ribs heartiness of chili mac.

How to Reheat It

This is a terrific meal to make in advance to allow the flavors to deepen and develop. Chili mac will keep in the fridge for up to four days, or in the freezer for up to four months.

To reheat, thaw and then pop into the microwave until steaming hot. Or you can take it straight from the freezer to the oven and bake until bubbling hot throughout.

Macaroni Madness

Chili Mac Skillet

Creamy tex-mex infused pasta skillet!

  • 1/2 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 3/4 pound dry macaroni noodles
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried parsley, basil and oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
  1. Finely dice the onion (or grate with a cheese grater). Add onion, beef and garlic to a pan over medium heat. Cook until no pink remains. Drain any fat.

  2. Add remaining ingredients except cheese. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and cover.

  3. Stirring occasionally, let cook 13-17 minutes or until macaroni is cooked through (add a little bit of water if needed).

  4. Season with salt & pepper to taste and serve warm topped with cheese.

 

Chili Mac Skillet served in a white bowl and garnished with shredded cheddar and fresh parsley.
Chili Mac Skillet served in a white bowl and garnished with shredded cheddar and fresh parsley.
Top photo - Chili Mac Skillet served in a white bowl and garnished with shredded cheddar and fresh parsley. Bottom photo - Chili Mac cooked and ready in the skillet.

Tuna Pasta Salad – a fun creamy side

Creamy Tuna Pasta Salad  is one of our favorite versions of classic tuna salad! When you add in a handful of veggies and some pasta, this becomes an entire meal in no time at all! 

This pasta salad recipe is a warm weather go-to for quick meals or even potlucks!

Pasta with tuna, cheese, peas and celery all tossed with a creamy dressing, in a clear bowl

What’s In Tuna Pasta Salad?

Just like most tuna recipes (think tuna casserole or tuna melts) this pasta salad is simple and delicious. With two main ingredients, tuna and pasta this dish is no-fuss and great as a quick dinner or an easy lunch.

This pasta salad uses sweet pickle relish in the dressing but of course you swap it with chopped dill pickles (but you may want to add a pinch of sugar to the dressing if you do).

  • Tuna: Choose good quality tuna that is packed in water so it doesn’t make the rest of the salad oily. Be sure to drain it well.
  • Pasta: A medium shape pasta works well for this recipe like rotini or shells, the ridges grab the dressing well adding lots of flavor!

Pasta, peas, cheddar cheese, celery and tuna in a clear bowl, with the dressing assembled on the side in another glass bowl

How to Make Tuna Pasta Salad

Making a pasta salad isn’t hard! With a little prep work and three easy steps, you can have this salad ready in 30 mins!

  1. Boil a large pot of water and cook the pasta. Drain, set aside to cool.
  2. Drain tuna and add in vegetables.
  3. Gently fold in the mayonnaise and add diced cheddar cheese (cheese is optional).

Whether making in advance or making fresh to eat, keep it chilled until you are ready to serve. Add in a little salt and pepper to taste and watch the flavors pop when served cold!

Pasta salad with tuna tossed with a creamy dressing, ready to serve.

Here’s How to Store It

Keep your tuna pasta salad in a sealed container so it doesn’t absorb the flavors of the other things in the refrigerator. And if taking to a potluck, put ice packs in a cooler around it to keep it chilled!

When serving it outdoors where everyone is helping themselves, put the salad in a bowl and try to position it on a small tray or plate of ice to keep it cold. Stir frequently to keep it all the same temperature!

More Delicious Pasta Salads

Creamy Tuna Pasta Salad

This creamy salad combines pasta & tuna to create the perfect light lunch or side to supper! With the addition of pickles, cheese, and peas it is sure to be a hit!

  • 3 cups rotini pasta (measured dry)
  • 6 ounces canned tuna (drained)
  • 1/2 cup celery (diced)
  • 3 green onions (sliced)
  • 3/4 cup baby peas (defrosted and drained)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese (diced (optional))

Dressing

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  1. Combine all dressing ingredients and set aside.

  2. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Rinse under cold water to stop cooking.

  3. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
  4. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Nutrition Information does not include optional ingredients.

I love this creamy tuna pasta salad recipe! Whether taking it to a potluck or enjoying at a barbecue it's fresh and light flavors are always a hit. With pickles, cheese, pea and of course tuna & pasta, it's the best summer side dish I've made! #spendwithpennies #tunapastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #summer #sidedish #30minmeal
I love this creamy tuna pasta salad recipe! Whether taking it to a potluck or enjoying at a barbecue it's fresh and light flavors are always a hit. With pickles, cheese, pea and of course tuna & pasta, it's the best summer side dish I've made! #spendwithpennies #tunapastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #summer #sidedish #30minmeal
I love this creamy tuna pasta salad recipe! Whether taking it to a potluck or enjoying at a barbecue it's fresh and light flavors are always a hit. With pickles, cheese, pea and of course tuna & pasta, it's the best summer side dish I've made! #spendwithpennies #tunapastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #summer #sidedish #30minmeal

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese (Boiled in Milk)

homemade macaroni and cheese in bowl

Stovetop Mac and Cheese is the creamiest, dreamiest version of an all-American favorite! No one can resist a savory combination of a creamy cheddar cheese base blended with macaroni noodles, and it couldn’t be easier made on the stovetop.

Serve this creamy homemade mac and cheese with a fresh tossed salad, some garlic bread, and roasted broccoli for the perfect rounded meal!

Creamy stovetop macaroni and cheese in a cooking dish with a wooden spoon.

How to Make Stove Top Mac and Cheese

This stovetop mac and cheese is the creamiest version! The secret to this recipe is that the pasta is boiled in milk (which means only one pot for easy clean up). It’s as easy as 1,2,3!

  1. Combine milk, garlic powder, butter and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Add in the macaroni noodles and reduce the heat to low (adding liquid as needed). Cook until the noodles are tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Once the pasta is fully cooked, add the rest of the ingredients and stir until melted.

The final result is a smooth and hearty easy family entrée that everyone will love and want seconds of!

Troubleshooting

This recipe is really easy to make but here are a few to tips to make sure it comes out creamy.

When the macaroni is done cooking in the milk, you do not want it dry.  You may need to add more milk/water to the pot while it is cooking. The macaroni noodles should be as moist as the photo on the top right below BEFORE you add in the cheese.  Once you add the cheese, remove it from the stove and stir until the cheese has melted.

Keep in mind, pre-shredded cheese often has additives to keep it from clumping. These additives can cause it to be grainy instead of creamy.

Process shots of stovetop macaroni and cheese being made from the pasta being cooked to the cheese being added.

What Goes with Mac and Cheese?

Everything goes with stovetop mac and cheese! A salad with a bright balsamic vinaigrette, or a crusty loaf with Homemade Garlic Butter can round out this meal.

Fresh fruit salad or a tangy gelatin dessert go well for with this rich macaroni. When you serve this creamy stovetop mac and cheese, almost anything goes.

Add ins: You can get creative with this recipe. Add in bacon, jalapenos, canned tuna, peas, even topping mac and cheese with fresh pico de gallo!

Cheese being stirred into stovetop macaroni and cheese with a wooden spoon.

Got Leftovers?

Mac and Cheese leftovers can last 4-5 days in the fridge. Reheat on low on the stove top (or in them microwave) and add a splash of milk to keep it creamy.

Can You Freeze Mac and Cheese? The best creamy mac and cheese recipes are served just as they’re made, including this one. This recipe doesn’t freeze well.

More Mac and Cheese Love

Extra Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

If you love rich and creamy Macaroni and Cheese then this homemade stovetop recipe is for you!!

  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni noodles
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  1. In a saucepan combine a pinch of salt, milk, garlic powder, onion powder, butter and water. Bring to a boil.

  2. Add in macaroni noodles, reduce heat to low.
  3. Continue to simmer stirring frequently until noodles are cooked (about 20 minutes).

  4. Watch to make sure the liquid doesn’t completely evaporate. You can add extra milk 1/4 cup at a time if the liquid is low.
  5. Once the pasta is cooked, ensure the noodles are not dry. They should be as moist as the photo above before adding cheese. Stir in cream cheese until melted.

  6. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese. Cover for 3 minutes.

Recipe slightly adapted from Plain Chicken.

REPIN this Easy Stovetop Recipe

This one pot stovetop mac and cheese is seriously good. Homemade mac and cheese is always better, and making this cheesy comfort food couldn't be easier thanks to the stove top! #spendwithpennies #macandcheese #stovetopmacandcheese #macaroniandcheese #macaroni #cheese #stovetop
This one pot stovetop mac and cheese is seriously good. Homemade mac and cheese is always better, and making this cheesy comfort food couldn't be easier thanks to the stove top! #spendwithpennies #macandcheese #stovetopmacandcheese #macaroniandcheese #macaroni #cheese #stovetop

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Stovetop Mac and Cheese is the creamiest, dreamiest version of an all-American favorite! No one can resist a savory combination of a creamy cheddar cheese base blended with macaroni noodles, and it couldn’t be easier made on the stovetop.

Serve this creamy homemade mac and cheese with a fresh tossed salad, some garlic bread, and roasted broccoli for the perfect rounded meal!

Creamy stovetop macaroni and cheese in a cooking dish with a wooden spoon.

How to Make Stove Top Mac and Cheese

This stovetop mac and cheese is the creamiest version! The secret to this recipe is that the pasta is boiled in milk (which means only one pot for easy clean up). It’s as easy as 1,2,3!

  1. Combine milk, garlic powder, butter and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Add in the macaroni noodles and reduce the heat to low (adding liquid as needed). Cook until the noodles are tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Once the pasta is fully cooked, add the rest of the ingredients and stir until melted.

The final result is a smooth and hearty easy family entrée that everyone will love and want seconds of!

Troubleshooting

This recipe is really easy to make but here are a few to tips to make sure it comes out creamy.

When the macaroni is done cooking in the milk, you do not want it dry.  You may need to add more milk/water to the pot while it is cooking. The macaroni noodles should be as moist as the photo on the top right below BEFORE you add in the cheese.  Once you add the cheese, remove it from the stove and stir until the cheese has melted.

Keep in mind, pre-shredded cheese often has additives to keep it from clumping. These additives can cause it to be grainy instead of creamy.

Process shots of stovetop macaroni and cheese being made from the pasta being cooked to the cheese being added.

What Goes with Mac and Cheese?

Everything goes with stovetop mac and cheese! A salad with a bright balsamic vinaigrette, or a crusty loaf with Homemade Garlic Butter can round out this meal.

Fresh fruit salad or a tangy gelatin dessert go well for with this rich macaroni. When you serve this creamy stovetop mac and cheese, almost anything goes.

Add ins: You can get creative with this recipe. Add in bacon, jalapenos, canned tuna, peas, even topping mac and cheese with fresh pico de gallo!

Cheese being stirred into stovetop macaroni and cheese with a wooden spoon.

Got Leftovers?

Mac and Cheese leftovers can last 4-5 days in the fridge. Reheat on low on the stove top (or in them microwave) and add a splash of milk to keep it creamy.

Can You Freeze Mac and Cheese? The best creamy mac and cheese recipes are served just as they’re made, including this one. This recipe doesn’t freeze well.

More Mac and Cheese Love

Extra Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

If you love rich and creamy Macaroni and Cheese then this homemade stovetop recipe is for you!!

  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni noodles
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  1. In a saucepan combine a pinch of salt, milk, garlic powder, onion powder, butter and water. Bring to a boil.

  2. Add in macaroni noodles, reduce heat to low.
  3. Continue to simmer stirring frequently until noodles are cooked (about 20 minutes).

  4. Watch to make sure the liquid doesn’t completely evaporate. You can add extra milk 1/4 cup at a time if the liquid is low.
  5. Once the pasta is cooked, ensure the noodles are not dry. They should be as moist as the photo above before adding cheese. Stir in cream cheese until melted.

  6. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese. Cover for 3 minutes.

Recipe slightly adapted from Plain Chicken.

REPIN this Easy Stovetop Recipe

This one pot stovetop mac and cheese is seriously good. Homemade mac and cheese is always better, and making this cheesy comfort food couldn't be easier thanks to the stove top! #spendwithpennies #macandcheese #stovetopmacandcheese #macaroniandcheese #macaroni #cheese #stovetop
This one pot stovetop mac and cheese is seriously good. Homemade mac and cheese is always better, and making this cheesy comfort food couldn't be easier thanks to the stove top! #spendwithpennies #macandcheese #stovetopmacandcheese #macaroniandcheese #macaroni #cheese #stovetop

The Creamiest Mac and Cheese Recipe

Baked Mac and Cheese is one of our favorite comfort foods of all time! Elbow macaroni noodles are tossed in a homemade cheese sauce, topped with a buttery crumb mixture, and baked until hot and bubbly. Perfection.

Serve this homemade mac and cheese alongside a classic Meatloaf Recipe or baked chicken breasts for the most comforting meal ever.

A plate of oven baked mac and cheese topped with bread crumbs.

Mac and Cheese Ingredients

Macaroni and cheese is my comfort food HEAVEN. From instant pot to slow cooker and of course this classic baked mac and cheese, I love them all.

  • Cheese: Sharp cheddar gives this baked mac and cheese tons of flavor. The addition of gruyere to the cheese sauce in this recipe is next level but of course whatever you have on and will work just do not use pre-shredded cheese.
  • Macaroni: I use a traditional elbow macaroni but any short pasta will work. Shells (or cavatappi) are great choices! Cook al dente as the pasta cooks more as it bakes.
  • Topping: The most perfect buttery crumb topping is one of my favorite parts of this recipe. Add in bacon, more parm, crushed crackers… pretty much anything with crunch will work!

How To Make Mac and Cheese

To make mac and cheese you’ll follow a few simple steps to achieve perfect, ooey gooey homemade mac and cheese! Some of the cooking is done on the stove top before it is baked (like most casseroles).

  1. Cook Pasta: Cook the macaroni noodles to al dente (a little bit undercooked as they’ll cook more in the oven).
  2. Make Sauce: Make the cheese sauce by starting with a roux (butter and flour) per recipe below. Stir in milk and bring to a boil until thick and creamy.

Cheese sauce next to breadcrumb topping and noodles for mac and cheese.

    1. Add Cheese: Remove from the heat and stir in cheese until melty.
    2. Combine macaroni and sauce in a 9×13 pan.

Cheese sauce being poured on macaroni and cheese and stirred.

  1. Sprinkle Topping: Combine bread crumbs (or cracker crumbs) with butter and sprinkle over mac and cheese.

Mac and cheese before and after baking in a casserole dish.

  1. Bake: Bake mac and cheese uncovered until golden and bubbly.

How Long to Bake Mac and Cheese? Mac and cheese should be baked just until hot and bubbly, about 20-25 minutes. Overbaking will cause a dry mac and cheese.

Tips for Creamy Mac and Cheese

  • Cook elbows a perfect al dente to avoid mushy noodles
  • Shred your own cheese! Pre-shredded cheeses have additives that can keep them from clumping which also makes it so they don’t melt smoothly.
  • Remove your sauce from the heat before adding cheese to keep it from separating or getting grainy.
  • Do not overbake (or your baked mac and cheese will be dry). Once the macaroni is bubbling and heated and the topping is browned, you know it is ready. Everything is cooked, the baking is to meld the flavors and brown the topping.

A spoon serving baked mac and cheese fresh from the oven.

Favorite Add-Ins

  • BLT: crisp bacon, sundried tomato and fresh spinach
  • Spicy: Diced jalapeno or banana peppers, buffalo sauce and a sprinkle of blue cheese
  • Pizza: Mini Pepperoni, Diced Green Pepper, Black Olives, Oregano and Parmesan Cheese
  • Meaty: Cooked and sliced Italian Sausage (or hot dogs)

To Make Ahead

Mac and cheese is best made and cooked right away. If left in the fridge, the pasta soaks up the sauce and it can become dry.

If you do need to make it ahead of time I would suggest keeping the pasta and sauce separate. Before baking, heat the sauce over low until creamy and then mix with the pasta and bake as directed. Sadly, mac and cheese doesn’t freeze well.

Got Leftovers? Store in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

How to Reheat Mac and Cheese: Reheat mac and cheese in the oven or microwave with a little bit of milk to maintain the quality of the sauce.

More Cheesy Pastas

Baked Mac and Cheese

Macaroni noodles are tossed in a creamy, cheesy sauce, topped with a buttery crumb mixture, and baked until hot and bubbly.

  • 16 oz dry macaroni (approx. 3 cups)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (or to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • 3 cups sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 cup gruyere cheese (swiss cheese or mozzarella)
  • 3/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese (divided)

Topping

  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter (melted)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

  2. Combine Panko bread crumbs, melted butter and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.  Set aside.

  3. Cook macaroni al dente according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water and set aside.

  4. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and onion powder and cook 2 minutes.
  5. Whisk in milk, cream and seasonings over medium heat. Continue to stir until mixture thickens. Let boil 1 minute while stirring.

  6. Remove from heat and add cheddar cheese, gruyere cheese and remaining 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Whisk until melted.

  7. Stir in macaroni and pour into a 9×13 pan.
  8. Top with crumb mixture and bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and topping is browned. Do not overcook.

Do not over cook. Cool 10-15 minutes before serving.

A plate of oven baked mac and cheese topped with bread crumbs.
A plate of oven baked mac and cheese topped with bread crumbs.
Top photo - A plate of oven baked mac and cheese topped with bread crumbs. Bottom photo - Cheese sauce next to breadcrumb topping and noodles for mac and cheese.

American Goulash (Just Like Grandma’s)

finished american goulash in white bowl

This Easy Goulash Recipe is full of flavor and the perfect way to feed a crowd as it makes a huge batch! A simple skillet dinner with tomatoes, beef and macaroni noodles in a zesty tomato sauce creates the perfect comfort food on a budget!

Serve it alongside some cornbread, and add more or less liquid to make it the perfect consistency!

Cheesy Goulash in a white bowl

American Goulash – Easy and Delicious

Call it American Goulash, call it American Chop Suey…  it doesn’t matter what you call it, you’ll just want to call it tonight’s dinner! This is a delicious and easy meal that the whole family loves!

Beefy Macaroni with a savory yet simple seasoned tomato sauce!  I’ve been making this amazing goulash recipe for years, not only does it taste great but it’s a really quick and inexpensive way to feed a crowd (and so much easier to put together than lasagna!)

What is Goulash?

American Goulash is not the same thing as goulash in other parts of the world are not the same thing! This is NOT the same dish as a traditional Hungarian GoulashHungarian Goulash is which is made with chunks of meat, peppers, paprika and other spices to create a traditional soup.

This particular version is often called Goulash or even American Chop Suey.  It’s similar to a Chili Mac but is more of a tomato sauce flavor (and I skip the chili powder).

close up of American Goulash in a bowl.

When to Add the Macaroni

  • Thicken the sauce: I personally prefer a nice thick goulash so I usually let the meat sauce boil down for a little bit before adding the macaroni.
  • Add Your Favorites: This american goulash recipe is versatile and you can easily add whatever you like. Extra veggies like mushrooms or shredded zucchini, swap out ground beef for other ground meats add extra Italian Seasoning or Chili Powder.
  • Add the Macaroni: If you’re short on time (or prefer your goulash a little bit of a soupier texture) you can certainly just add the macaroni in right away.
  • Top With Cheese: I top this with sharp cheddar to make a cheesy goulash that my kids can’t get enough of! Any kind of cheese will work. If you’d prefer, put it under the broiler for a few minutes until bubbly.

Goulash in bowls at the table

More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love

What To Serve With Goulash

We serve it up with some 30 Minute Dinner Rolls and a fresh Italian salad for a complete meal!  To make it extra yummy, serve it topped with a little bit of sour cream!

The great thing about this goulash recipe is that it’s one of those dishes that tastes just as good the next day (or even better). It keeps well in the fridge for a few days but it also freezes perfectly for lunches or meals later in the week!

Can You Freeze Goulash

You can! Goulash will generally freeze pretty well, apart from the pasta. Once reheated, pasta will often become mushy and overcooked.

If you plan to make a big batch of American goulash to freeze some, cook the pasta separately and add it in as you serve the portions.

Grandma's Goulash

This easy American goulash recipe is full of flavor and the perfect way to feed a crowd as it makes a huge batch! A simple skillet dinner with tomatoes, beef and macaroni noodles in a zesty tomato sauce creates the perfect comfort food on a budget!

  • 2 onions (chopped)
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 jar tomato based pasta sauce (approx. 26 oz.)
  • 2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (6 oz tomato paste)
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 green bell pepper (optional)
  • salt & black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups macaroni noodles (uncooked)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  1. Cook ground beef, onion and garlic over medium high heat until no pink remains. Drain any fat.
  2. Add pasta sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, water, seasonings, bay leaves and green pepper. Simmer covered for 15 minutes.
  3. Add in the in the macaroni and continue to simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until pasta is tender (about 20 minutes).
  4. Remove & discard bay leaves. Top with cheese and replace the lid. Let sit about 5 minutes or until melted.

This EASY Goulash recipe is a family favorite and quick to prepare.Lean beef is simmered in a deliciously fast tomato sauce & topped with cheese for a comforting dish everyone will love! This makes a huge batch and is perfect to feed a crowd.

The Best Mac & Cheese You’ve Ever Had!

Homemade Mac and Cheese

Homemade Mac and Cheese is a rich, creamy casserole that is truly a show stopper!

Not only is this creamy macaroni and cheese recipe easy to make it, has a special ingredient making it extra delicious!

This dish has so much velvety cheese in a quick homemade sauce that, once you try it, this is going to be the only baked macaroni & cheese dish you’ll ever need!

Scooping mac and cheese out of a white casserole dish

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Hello, my name is Holly and I am addicted to Macaroni and Cheese.  It is literally my favorite thing to eat on the whole planet! It doesn’t even have to be fancy, I love crock pot mac & cheese, stove top mac and cheese or even out of a little blue box.

Of all of the mac and cheese recipes, *this* little gem right here is like striking mac and cheese gold. It is definitely the best mac and cheese recipe ever and always gets rave reviews! Take it from me, I definitely should know!

How to Make Homemade Mac and Cheese

Making homemade macaroni and cheese (including this 5-star recipe) is surprisingly easy and quick!

This mac and cheese casserole starts with tender macaroni noodles that are slightly undercooked so they don’t get mushy when it’s baked.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese on Plate next to serving dish

About This Mac and Cheese Sauce

The sauce for this easy homemade mac and cheese is a classic roux based cheese sauce.  Roux sounds very fancy but truthfully once you make a roux, you’ll realize how easy it is! It’s just butter and flour cooked and then milk added so don’t let it scare you away!

The results of creating a roux based sauce means your macaroni and cheese is going luscious and velvety smooth every single time. This allows the cheeses to melt in evenly and perfectly for this casserole.

To add to the creaminess of this dish, I combine a little bit of milk and a little bit of light cream (I use a cream that is about 10-12%MF or half and half).

Homemade mac and cheese in serving dish with scoop taken out

What Cheese Is Best For Mac and Cheese?

Now, this recipe has a special ingredient that is a little bit unconventional but makes it extra yummy…  AND it is optional.

The addition of cheddar soup makes the sauce a little bit extra velvety and just adds a little something.

Mac and cheese with Velveeta, I personally prefer to make it without!  The addition of the cheddar cheese soup to this recipe is something you definitely should try!  (You can find it at your local grocery store with the other condensed soups or online here).

If you don’t happen to have cheese soup on hand (or if you just don’t want to use it), this baked mac and cheese recipe is still ridiculously great without.

You might be wondering what cheese is best for mac and cheese, and it’s one with lots of flavor!

I generally use a sharp cheddar in this recipe as I love the flavor however you can certainly use your favorite cheeses in this recipe too. Sometimes I mix up the cheeses and use a bit of gruyere, or even pepperjack for a little kick. If you have bits of cheese leftover, you can combine them all together in this easy homemade mac and cheese sauce.

I would suggest buying a block of cheese and shredding it yourself as pre-shredded cheeses don’t melt the same way as they have additives to keep them from clumping/sticking.

Making Homemade Macaroni and Cheese is not difficult but below are a few simple tips to make sure it turns out absolutely perfectly every single time!

A serving spoon of gooey macaroni and cheese with on the table

Tips to Make Creamy Mac and Cheese

  • Cook your pasta al dente (firm) as the noodles cook extra in the sauce and you don’t want them mushy.
  • Don’t forget to salt your pasta water.
  • While not everyone agrees with rinsing the pasta after cooking, in this particular recipe it stops the noodles from cooking and the sauce is created with a texture that pairs perfectly with the rinsed noodles.
  • A sharper cheddar cheese will add a stronger cheese flavor.
  • Pre-shredded cheeses contain additives to keep it from sticking together which affects the way it melts.  The sauce is best if you shred your own cheeses.
  • Allowing the baked macaroni and cheese to rest for a few minutes after baking will thicken the sauce.
  • Most importantly of all… Do not over bake this recipe.

When cooking your macaroni noodles, cook them according to the package directions but you want them to be still firm.  If your package says 6-8 minutes, just cook them 6…  you get the idea. I choose not to top this baked macaroni casserole with a bread crumb mixture but if you really like bread crumbs on your macaroni and cheese, by all means, add some!

How to Make a Bread Crumb Topping for Mac & Cheese

Combine the following and sprinkle over your casserole before baking.

  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (Panko Bread Crumbs are best)
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon parsley (optional)

This recipe makes an extra saucy creamy macaroni.  Do not over-bake this recipe.  You want it creamy and rich, over-baking will cause it to dry out.

I find that 20 minutes was perfect in my oven…  note that the recipe will thicken slightly while standing.

More Macaroni Recipes You’ll Love

Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole

This homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole is the best you’ve ever had. Tender noodles in a velvety sauce for the perfectly irresistible dish!!

  • 12 oz dry macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup light cream (about 10-12% MF)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 can condensed cream of cheddar soup (optional 10.75oz)
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar (divided)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water.
  3. Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Whisk in flour and let cook 2 minutes while stirring. Slowly whisk in cream, milk, mustard powder onion powder, salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat while stirring until thickened.

  4. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese & 3 cups cheddar cheese until melted. Add soup if using.
  5. Toss cheese sauce & macaroni noodles together. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Top with remaining cheese.
  6. Bake 18-24 minutes or until bubbly. Do not over cook. Cool 10-15 minutes before serving.

Creamy Mac and Cheese Casserole

This Creamy Macaroni and Cheese Casserole is a show stopper! It's easy to make with tons of rich cheese sauce and a specail ingredient making it extra delicious!

More recipes you’ll love

Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

Cheese and Macaroni in a Crockpot

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese in a white bowl with fork

 

 

This homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole is a show stopper with oodles of noodles and and luscious cheesy sauce! #spendwithpennies #macandcheese #macaroniandcheese #bakedmacaroni #macandcheesecasserole
This homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole is a show stopper with oodles of noodles and and luscious cheesy sauce! #spendwithpennies #macandcheese #macaroniandcheese #bakedmacaroni #macandcheesecasserole