This creamy baked mac and cheese is easy to prepare and is topped with a buttery Ritz cracker topping. A comfort food favorite the whole family will love.
Macaroni and cheese is a classic comfort food. This baked version is easy to prepare and has the most crave-worthy Ritz cracker topping.
Skip the box and serve this mac and cheese instead... your family will thank you!
Why you will love this
- Creamy and cheesy. Is there anything better?
- So easy. This mac and cheese comes together quickly and easily. Cook the pasta then use the same pan to make the cheese sauce.
- No roux is required. Using evaporated milk eliminates the need to use flour and butter to thicken the cream/milk mixture.
- Simple ingredients. Keep evaporated milk in your pantry to make this comfort food favorite with just a handful of ingredients.
- Pasta - Elbow pasta is classic because the curves catch all of the cheesy sauce. Any pasta with ridges or a curved shape can be used.
- Evaporated milk is a versatile pantry staple. It helps the cheese melt smoothly and prevents the sauce from getting a grainy texture.
- Cheese - I used Parmesan, Cheddar, and Monterey Jack. Pepper Jack, Fontina, and Gruyere are also great options. TIP: Be sure to use freshly shredded cheese for the best melting quality.
- Seasonings - Ground (dry) mustard, black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika round out the flavors.
- Ritz crackers provide an incredible buttery and crispy topping. Don't skip the topping!
See the recipe card for complete instructions and ingredient amounts.
- Cook the pasta for 1-2 minutes less than the package directions state. Drain and set aside.
- In the same pot, add the evaporated milk and warm it over low heat. This will take about 3 minutes.
- Slowly add the cheese in batches, whisking until it's melted before adding more.
- Add the seasonings and whisk to combine.
- Fold in the drained pasta. NOTE: The mixture will look soupy or loose. This is perfectly fine. The sauce will thicken while it bakes, yielding the perfect consistency.
- Transfer the pasta to a 9x13 baking dish.
- In a small bowl, combine the crackers and melted butter. Spread this topping evenly over the mac and cheese.
- Baked at 375 degrees, uncovered, for 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve and enjoy!
Storing and reheating
This baked mac and cheese keeps well in the refrigerator for up to five days. Small portions can be reheated in the microwave. To reheat larger portions, cover the casserole with aluminum foil and heat in a 350-degree oven until warmed through.
Tips for Success
- Use freshly shredded cheese in the cheese sauce. Packaged, pre-shredded cheese does not melt as smoothly because it contains anti-caking ingredients that are used to prevent the cheese from clumping.
- Undercook the pasta - Since this is baked mac and cheese, cook the pasta a little less (about 1 minute) than al dente.
- Finish with a cracker topping - This crispy Ritz cracker crumb topping adds texture and will keep you coming back for more.
- Save dishes with one pot. Cook the pasta and drain. Then use the same pot to make the cheese sauce.
Baking this macaroni and cheese is not required, but you will be missing out on the crispy Ritz topping. If serving this straight out of the pot, I recommend letting it sit for 5-10 minutes to thicken since the cheese sauce typically thickens while baking.
Absolutely! Like lasagna and other pasta dishes, mac and cheese freezes well.
Freeze before baking - Pour the mac and cheese into an oven-safe dish. Let cool. Do not add cracker topping until you are ready to bake. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and add the cracker topping. Bake for 5-10 minutes longer until the topping is golden brown.
Freeze after baking - Let cool. Cut into individual portions. Wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and/or use a freezer-safe zipper top bag. Freeze for up to 2 months and thaw in the refrigerator. Portions can be reheated in the microwave or in the oven. The oven method will allow the cracker topping to regain its crispy texture.
Grater - This is my go-to grater. I prefer shredding my own cheese for the freshest quality.
9x13 Baking dish - This is the dish I used in this recipe. It's perfect for going from oven to table.
Try these pasta recipes next
Baked Mac and Cheese with Ritz Cracker Topping
Macaroni and Cheese
- 12 ounces elbow pasta
- 24 ounces evaporated milk (2-12 ounce cans)
- 8 ounces Cheddar cheese (shredded)
- 8 ounces Monterey Jack or Fontina cheese (shredded)
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese (shredded)
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Ritz cracker topping
- 32 Ritz butter crackers (1 sleeve)
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large pot, add the pasta to salted, boiling water and cook accordingly to package directions, but removing 1 minute before al dente. Drain and set aside.
- To the same pot, add the evaporated milk and heat over medium-low heat. Add the cheese in small batches and whisk until melted.
- Stir in the ground mustard, garlic powder, paprika, and pepper. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir until the pasta is evenly coated. Transfer the mixture to a 9x13 baking dish.
- In a small bowl, crush the Ritz crackers and add the melted butter. Stir together and sprinkle over the top of the mac and cheese.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around the edges.
- Use freshly grated cheese for the best melting quality.
- Undercook the pasta slightly since it will finish cooking in the oven.
- If you skip the baking step, let the mac and cheese sit for 10-15 minutes so the sauce has a chance to thicken up.
- To freeze before baking - Pour the mac and cheese into an oven-safe dish. Let cool. Do not add cracker topping until you are ready to bake. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and add the cracker topping. Bake for 5-10 minutes longer until the topping is golden brown.
- To freeze after baking - Let cool. Cut into individual portions. Wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and/or use a freezer-safe zipper top bag. Freeze for up to 2 months and thaw in the refrigerator. Portions can be reheated in the microwave or in the oven. The oven method will allow the cracker topping to regain its crispy texture.
Nutritional information is an estimate and will vary depending upon the exact amounts and specific ingredients used.