This cream cheese macaroni pasta bake is the simplest, creamiest mac and cheese ever – and it’s ridiculously easy! There’s no need for a roux that could split, and you can choose whether to top the bake with breadcrumbs or melty cheese. Plus, you can customise the flavours to your heart’s content. What could possibly be better than that?
Now, I’m a massive macaroni cheese fan. So, I was looking for a way to make macaroni cheese without always having to make a roux (or use a jarred cheese sauce – they always lack flavour!).
I also prefer to minimise washing up, which I do in this recipe by boiling the macaroni in one pan (it’s only had pasta water in; it’ll only need a quick rinse, right?) and then using the tray I bake the mac and cheese in to mix together the cream cheese (and rest of the sauce ingredients) with the pasta, which I then top with mozzarella, cheddar or a crispy breadcrumb topping.
This means that you only need to properly wash up the dish you bake the pasta in. To be honest, if you have a pan that can be used both on the stovetop and then in the oven then you could just use that for everything!
My favourite thing about this cream cheese macaroni, though, isn’t that there’s minimal washing up – it’s that it’s practically impossible to mess up! I’ve made this recipe at least 30 times already, and not once has the sauce turned grainy or has there been a lack of flavour. It’s brilliant! This also means that it’s a brilliant recipe for children or inexperienced cooks to try.
What ingredients do I need to make this recipe?
The ingredients list for macaroni cheese is generally very short, though this one is definitely shorter than most:
- macaroni pasta – you could use another small pasta shape such as fusilli or bowties, but I definitely prefer macaroni here. After all, it’s a classic!
- cream cheese – do not use low fat here or the sauce will become watery as low-fat cream cheese contains more water. However, it doesn’t matter whether you use a name-brand cream cheese such as philadelphia or a store’s own brand.
- garlic powder – this is optional, but it does add flavour, so I’d definitely recommend using at least a little.
- parmesan – you could also use another Italian hard cheese here such as grana padano (my favourite!). Try not to use pre-grated if you can help it as it contains anti-clumping agents so will not melt as well.
- ball mozzarella – you could use another cheese here (or use pre-grated mozzarella), but I’m a sucker for nice, fresh ball mozzarella. After all, cheese is integral for a proper macaroni cheese, so you may as well use a good quality cheese!
So, that’s 3 types of cheese, macaroni, and garlic powder! See? I told you it was simple! For measurements, please scroll down to the recipe card below.
How do I make baked cream cheese macaroni?
The method here is super simple! Just a handful of steps:
- Preheat the oven and cook macaroni as per the packet instructions.
- In the baking dish, mix together the cream cheese with garlic powder, half of the parmesan, and season to taste.
- Add the cooked macaroni to the baking dish (ensure that you add a little of the pasta water – 2 tbsp should be plenty). Mix together until the macaroni is coated in sauce.
- Top with the mozzarella and the rest of the parmesan.
- Bake and serve.
For full instructions, please scroll down to the recipe card below.
How can I customise this recipe?
There are several options here, and while some are easier than others, they’re all absolutely delicious!
For the first option, you can edit which types of cheese you use. I’d recommend using freshly grated mature cheddar in place of the mozzarella, and potentially a stronger cheese such as gruyere in place of the parmesan. You may not need the same amount of cheddar as you would mozzarella, so it’s best to just judge it by eye.
You can also add some veggies to your simple macaroni cheese. I’d recommend peppers and tomatoes – and olives, if you like them. Frozen peas stirred into the sauce would also work very well – just experiment and see what you like!
You can also use whole grain pasta here if you prefer. Gluten-free macaroni is another good option as you can get many different lentil (or other ingredient)-based types of pasta these days.
Why not try mixing seasoned breadcrumbs with the parmesan for the topping and skip the mozzarella? This way you’ll get a brilliantly crispy topping with gooey, cheesy pasta underneath.
What should I serve with my creamy mac and cheese? What should I make next?
Personally, I’d recommend my cheesy garlic butter pinwheels, though a side salad may be the healthier option!
As for what to make next, |’d recommend:
- 150g (5.25 oz) macaroni
- 250g (9 oz)cream cheese
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 50g (2 oz) parmesan
- 225g (8oz) ball mozzarella
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 F). Cook macaroni as per packet instructions.
- Stir together the cream cheese, garlic powder and half of the parmesan. Add the cooked macaroni and gently stir until combined.
- Place the macaroni mixture in a baking dish and top with the rest of the parmesan and the mozzarella.
- Bake for 25 minutes and then serve.
Once cooled, this mac and cheese can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge and microwaved to reheat. Do not reheat more than once.
Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 502Total Fat 38gSaturated Fat 22gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 12gCholesterol 118mgSodium 775mgCarbohydrates 19gFiber 1gSugar 3gProtein 22g
All nutrition values are an estimate and will vary.