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This New Orleans Cheesy Baked Mac and Cheese, also known as baked spaghetti, is coated in a creamy cheese sauce and baked to golden-brown perfection. Ready from start to finish in under an hour, this comforting dish is bound to become a staple in your home.
If you’re looking for the ultimate comfort food, then you’ve come to the right place. Made from scratch in under an hour, New Orleans Baked Mac and Cheese is easy to cook and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
The homemade cheese sauce starts with your basic blonde roux and is brought to life with a combination of heavy whipping cream, spices, sharp cheddar cheese, and mozzarella. By sprinkling extra cheese over the mac and cheese before we bake it, we get an incredible golden-brown crust that makes you want to dive right in before it’s even on the table.
Unless you grew up in New Orleans, you might have already noticed a distinct difference between this mac and cheese and the kind you’re used to. Instead of elbow noodles or shells, I use spaghetti noodles for my mac and cheese. And it’s not just me; this is how we do it in New Orleans!
Now, we New Orleanians might be a little quirky, but I promise there’s a method to the madness. I can’t quite explain why, but using spaghetti noodles for mac and cheese just works. You’ll have to trust me on this for now and try it out for yourself to come up with a verdict of your own.
I have cooked my New Orleans Baked Mac and Cheese for friends, family, and strangers alike and have always gotten the same resounding ‘WOW’ in response. Serve it up alongside your favorite protein source and cornbread or a side salad for a complete meal that promises to impress even the most finicky of guests.
To make this creamy baked mac and cheese recipe, you will need the following key ingredients:
● Spaghetti noodles. The New Orleanian in me stands firmly by this one, but I won’t be offended if you choose to use a different noodle other than spaghetti. Common choices include elbow, shell, and cavatappi.
● Cream. We will be using both heavy cream and half and half to form the base of our rich and creamy cheese sauce.
● Cheeses. Sharp cheddar cheese and mozzarella make up our dream team! Both of these cheeses offer a fantastic flavor and melt beautifully into the sauce. My favorite is pepper jack.
● Spices. We don’t need to rely too heavily on spices for flavor because we get plenty from the cheese. I like to keep my mac and cheese spices simple with kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper.
● Roux. A basic mixture of butter and flour, we use a roux to get our macaroni and cheese sauce started and ensure that it gets nice and thick.
How to Make New Orleans Baked Mac and Cheese
You can make this flavorful mac and cheese recipe in just 5 easy steps:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and cook pasta in boiling water for 6 minutes, then drain and pour into a 9×13 casserole dish.
- Heat a pot over medium heat and melt the butter, then add flour and whisk together for 30 seconds. Once thoroughly combined, add salt, pepper, cayenne, and garlic.
- Slowly whisk in the half and half, then add cream and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add sharp cheddar and mozzarella, then reduce heat to medium-low and stir until the cheese has melted.
- Add sharp cheddar and mozzarella to the spaghetti, then pour the cheese sauce over the dish and stir to combine. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly so that the top is fully coated.
- Bake the mac and cheese for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is golden-brown and bubbly. Optional: Garnish with hot sauce and/or fresh parsley.
New Orleans Mac and Cheese Recipe Tips
Here are some of my top tips and tricks to help you make this recipe:
● To cook the flour taste out of your roux, make sure to whisk in the half and half slowly in thirds.
● Got a serious craving for cheese? Feel free to add as many types of cheese as you like. I’ve used anywhere from one to five different kinds of cheese in my mac and cheese, so there’s room for creativity here.
● If you’re a spicy food lover like me, try doubling up on the cayenne pepper or garnishing with a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce.
● To ensure that your mac and cheese browns evenly rotate the pan halfway through baking.
● Try adding a fresh sprig of rosemary or thyme when cooking your sauce to impart some extra flavor. Be sure to remove the sprig before pouring the sauce into the casserole dish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this baked mac and cheese recipe:
What’s the best cheese for mac and cheese?
Sharp cheddar is pretty widely considered to be the king when it comes to mac and cheese. I like to use a combination of sharp cheddar and mozzarella because both cheeses melt well into a creamy texture with tons of rich, amazing flavors.
How to make a Creamy Cheese Sauce?
Here’s the easiest way to make one. It’s all in the roux, you’ll need equal parts flour and unsalted butter, a medium pot and a whisk or a wooden spoon and about 10 minutes.
- Melt butter in a pot over medium heat, stir in flour with a wooden spoon or whisk. I prefer a whisk when making a roux because it helps prevent lumps.
- Once the roux forms, pour milk or heavy cream in thirds to allow the flour to cook out so there’s no flour aftertaste.
- Stir in cheese, garlic powder and other spices until cheese melts and sauce thickens. The sauce should be smooth and able to coat a spoon.
Can you freeze mac and cheese?
Absolutely. When freezing mac and cheese, it’s crucial to allow it to cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight storage bag or container. After properly containing the mac and cheese, you can store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, let it thaw for 48 hours and then heat it in the oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes.
How can I make this dish spicier?
To kick your baked cajun mac and cheese up a notch, you can either double up on the cayenne pepper or garnish with a few dashes of Louisiana hot sauce. I prefer the latter because it allows each person to control how much spice they add to their serving.
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More Comfort Food Recipes
If you liked this delicious comfort food recipe, try these next:
- 20 Minute Creole Jambalaya
- Chicken Enchilada Pasta
- Oxtail Quesadillas
- New Orleans Red Beans and Rice
- Texas Style Oven Brisket
Macaroni and cheese are some of the most beloved comfort foods in America. If you want a mac and cheese recipe that impresses your guests try out my tasty New Orleans-style mac and cheese recipe.
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New Orleans Baked Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb. spaghetti
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 quart half and half
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 4 cups sharp cheddar
- 4 cups mozzarella
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook pasta in boiling water for 6 minutes.
- In a pot over medium heat melt butter, then add flour and whisk together for 30 seconds. Add salt, pepper, cayenne and garlic.
- Whisk in half and half in thirds, then add cream. Bring to a boil once boiling add 2 cups cheddar and 1 cup mozzarella. Reduce heat to medium low and stir until cheese has melted.
- Add the spaghetti into a 9 x 13 casserole dish, add 1 cup of mozzarella and 1 cup of cheddar. Pour cheese sauce over, stir to combine, sprinkle the remaining cheese over top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese has browned evenly.
- To cook the flour taste out of your roux, make sure to slowly whisk in the half and half in thirds.
- Got a serious craving for cheese? Feel free to add as many types of cheese as you like. I’ve used anywhere from one to five different cheeses in my mac and cheese, so there’s definitely room for creativity here.
- If you’re a spicy food lover like me, try doubling up on the cayenne pepper or garnishing with a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce.
- To ensure that your mac and cheese browns evenly, rotate the pan halfway through baking.
- Try adding a fresh sprig of rosemary or thyme when cooking your sauce to impart some extra flavor. Be sure to remove the sprig before pouring the sauce into the casserole dish.