Whether you call it macaroni and cheese, mac and cheese, or mac n cheese one thing is for sure, everyone loves it. This homemade mac and cheese recipe is the best. It is gourmet with a cheese sauce made from scratch, plus the additions of caramelized sweet onions and crispy bacon. This is made with a tasty 3-cheese blend of Gruyere, sharp cheddar, and jack for the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever. It is a few steps to make this but it is still easy and once you bake it in the oven and smell how wonderful it is, you will be happy you made this.
There are many versions out there and most families have a favorite recipe they make all the time and pass it down from generation to generation. That is the sentimentality of mac and cheese. For many of us, our love for pasta and cheese sauce is a life-long affair. But every now and again, a new mac and cheese recipe comes along that just changes everything. That recipe is this one right here. It takes the famous gooey cheese sauce that makes up most macaroni and cheese recipes but uses three kinds of cheese to ensure a perfectly melty mixture that is both classic and creamy. Finally, the addition of sweet caramelized onions and smoky crispy bacon just lifts an old-fashioned macaroni and cheese recipe to a whole new level of elevated goodness.
What are the Best Cheeses for Mac and Cheese?
- Sharp Cheddar - the old standard with pronounced aged cheddar perfection
- Gruyere - adds an earthy depth and complex nuttiness *(substitute swiss cheese if hard to find)
- Monterey Jack - mild, buttery, and melts easily
Ingredients for Macaroni and Cheese Include the Following:
- 3 kinds of cheese - sharp cheddar, gruyere, and Monterey jack
- elbow shaped pasta
- salt, pepper, and nutmeg
- bonus ingredients = bacon and onions
How to Make the Best Bacon Mac and Cheese
This is my go-to recipe when I want a crowd-pleaser that will make the kids happy but get all the adults talking and wanting seconds. Be prepared to have people ask for the recipe and praise your cooking. As a side dish, this recipe feeds about 8 and as a main dish, it feeds about 4-5 people. It is wonderful as a side dish but hearty enough for a main dish accompanied by a salad or roasted vegetables. A great vegetable accompaniment for this is my green bean recipe https://theshortordercook.com/amazing-roasted-green-beans-with-everything-but-the-bagel-sesame-seasoning/
How to Make Homemade Mac & Cheese
How to Caramelized Onions
The extra steps of caramelizing the onions and making crispy bacon are completely worth it. Do not fret that this takes more time than other recipes. Just grab a beer or cocktail, get some music playing, and just go for it.
Pour the milk into a 2 cup measuring cup and let sit out to get to room temperature. Next, begin dicing the onion and the bacon. Once they are diced, start with sauteing the onion in the pan with the melted butter. Do this on low. You want the onions to cook slowly and get tender and soft. You are not browning these like you would for other dishes. You want them to be translucent but not brown. A little bit of color and a soft give means they are done.
Fry the Bacon
Set the onions aside and next crisp up the bacon pieces in a saute pan. Drain the bacon on a plate with paper towels. Once both are ready, start the roux for the cheese sauce and get the pasta cooking.
Begin boiling a large pot of water for cooking the elbow macaroni.
Making the best Three Cheese Macaroni and Cheese Sauce
Meanwhile, as the water is coming to a boil, heat a medium saucepan on medium heat to melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until a smooth golden paste. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with the whisk. You want to make sure you cook this so that there is no raw flour taste in your sauce. Do not immediately add the cheeses. While whisking, add the milk slowly and cook for a minute or 2 more on medium-high, until thickened and smooth.
Remove from the heat, add the 3 kinds of cheese, nutmeg, and cayenne. Stir to combine so it is a rich smooth cheese sauce. The results are a creamy cheese sauce that is so flavorful thanks to three kinds of cheese. It is creamy and then later baked, the best way to make macaroni and cheese.
Ready to Bake the Macaroni and Cheese
To assemble, butter or spray a large casserole dish. To the cooked macaroni, add the cheese sauce, ½ of the crumbled bacon, and the onions and stir well.
- Vegetarian Mac & Cheese - you can make a simple substitution and omit the bacon. But you still want a smoky taste, replace the Monterey Jack cheese with a smoked gouda. It also melts easily and is mild, plus it will add that smoky flavor to complement the sweet caramelized onions.
- Turkey Bacon - use turkey bacon instead of pork bacon if that is your preference. It will still have that crispy & salty texture that makes this mac & cheese irresistible.
Pour into the casserole dish and top with the remaining bacon. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly on the edges and warm in the center. Let sit a few minutes before serving.
Storing Mac & Cheese
You can make macaroni and cheese ahead of time. Just cover and place in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. On the day you want to bake it, let it sit on the counter as you preheat the oven. Then put in the oven and cook for 40 -45 minutes instead of 30 minutes.
Leftover mac & cheese stores well in the refrigerator & freezer. Place in an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and in the freezer for up to a month. To thaw, place a frozen container in the refrigerator for 48 hours. Reheat refrigerated mac & cheese in the microwave - it may need a splash of milk or more butter to make it creamy again but it will still be fantastic.
What to Serve with Homemade Mac & Cheese
Here are some family favorites to serve with this recipe. There are some main dish items for when you want mac & cheese to be a side dish. There are also some lighter and more healthy recipes to serve when you are eating macaroni & cheese as a main course. All go well together for a complete meal - the kid's favorite is AIR FRYER POPCORN CHICKEN!
PIN FOR SAFEKEEPING & SHARING!
Product Recommendations for this Recipe:
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Macaroni and Cheese with Caramelized Onions and Bacon
- 2 tablespoon salted butter
- ½ yellow sweet onion diced or sliced thin
- 6 slices bacon diced
- 1 package elbow pasta 16 oz
- 3 tablespoon salted butter
- 3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 C whole milk
- 6 oz Gruyere cheese grated
- 6 oz sharp cheddar cheese grated
- 3 oz jack cheese grated
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- pinch ground nutmeg
- pinch cayenne pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Measure the milk and let come to room temperature while you do the upcoming steps.
- Heat saute pan on medium heat and melt butter. Add diced onion and set to low, cook the onion slowly until they are soft, translucent, and only slightly brown. You do not want these dark but more soft and tender to bring out the natural sweetness. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- In the same saute pan, bring the heat back up to medium. Add diced bacon and saute until crisp. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, typically 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well then return to the large pot.
- Meanwhile, heat a medium saucepan to medium and melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until a smooth golden paste. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with the whisk. You want to make sure you cook this so that there is no raw flour taste in your sauce. Do not immediately add the milk and cheeses.
- While whisking, add the milk slowly and cook for a minute or 2 more on medium-high, until thickened and smooth.
- Remove from the heat, add the 3 kinds of cheese, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne. Stir to combine so it is a rich smooth cheese sauce.
- To assemble, butter or spray a large casserole dish. To the cooked macaroni, Add the cheese sauce, ½ of the crumbled bacon, and the onions and stir well. Pour into the casserole dish and top with the remaining bacon.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and warm in the center.
- Remove from oven and let sit for about 5 minutes to cool and for the cheese sauce to thicken. Plate and enjoy.
- To store the remaining macaroni and cheese, cover the casserole dish and place it in the refrigerator. It can be stored for up to 3 days.
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 40.8g||52%|
|Saturated Fat 23.8g||119%|
|Total Carbohydrate 65.7g||24%|
|Dietary Fiber 2.7g||10%|
|Total Sugars 6.8g|
|Vitamin D 39mcg||196%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.|