Recipe Box

Baked Mac ‘n’ Cheese

A classic casserole dish from the 1950s. This dish is characterized by its ease of preparation and savory, cheesy flavor.
Recipe Box
Chef Ryan Callahan
Author of Cooking for Chemo...and After! and Cooking for Kids with Cancer

Ease of Preparation: Beginner

Dish Description:
A classic casserole dish from the 1950s. This dish is characterized by its ease of preparation and savory, cheesy flavor. For me the highlight of this dish is the way the bacon gives a nice smokey flavor tying the whole dish together. Adding chicken breast to this dish solidifies it as a meal, whereas omitting the chicken keeps it a side dish.

Tasting Guidelines:
This dish should taste savory and cheesy with a hint of salty.
The weight of this dish is heavy but can be balanced with vinegar.
The texture of this dish is soft.
This dish is good for people with low to moderate treatment side effects.
This dish gives an emotional response of childhood memories.
This dish is best categorized as comfort food.


  • 4 slices crispy bacon, chopped
  • 1 chicken breast, cooked and chopped (optional but highly recommended)
  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked in salted water
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 8 slices American cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. flour

Flavor Balancers:

  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tbsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp. sugar


  • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. bay seasoning

Recipe Directions:
Preheat your oven to 375°F. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Allow onions to caramelize stirring frequently. Stir in flour until butter is absorbed. Add milk. Stir thoroughly, avoiding burning the milk. Add seasonings, bacon, chicken, and cheese. Mix thoroughly, and taste for flavor. Slowly stir in macaroni. If there is not enough sauce, slowly add milk until pasta is thoroughly coated. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Bake in deep casserole dish at least 15 minutes.

Chef Tips:
To make this more of a meal, add some cooked, cubed chicken breast. This is a fantastic meal in itself or used as a side. I prefer to use applewood smoked thick-cut bacon. Applewood is a sweeter wood, lending a very pleasing smokey flavor to the dish. Use good elbow macaroni as cheap macaroni will fall apart and get far too soggy.

Baking the macaroni will cause a little crispiness to occur; for a softer, more mouth sore–friendly option, skip the baking part.

For more information about Chef Ryan and Cooking for Chemo, visit

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Last modified: March 10, 2022

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