*Added* New Recipe for: Macaroni & Cheese for a Smaller Crowd! Serves 10-12 people
I could probably make a pretty big dent in this giant mac and cheese on my own, but it actually serves a crowd of 20-25! I find myself feeding throngs of people quite often and have recently started to write down these voluminous recipes. It’s much easier than trying to “guestimate” exactly how many pounds, cups, teaspoons you used the last time you multiplied the recipe.
I’ve never written down my macaroni and cheese recipe before because I make it like my Mom did…white sauce + whatever cheeses I need to use up in the fridge + macaroni then, bake it up. But sometimes it would turn out better than others, so I paid attention, took notes and did a little research.
Here’s what I have learned:
- Salt your pasta water liberally, seriously it needs a lot of salt. This is really the only way to flavor your macaroni noodles. Taste the water you’re going to boil your noodles in, it should taste like salty ocean water. (LOL!! I’m laughing at this one now, that Chef Anne Burrell told me my pasta wasn’t seasoned well enough on America’s Best Cook!! I guess in the heat of the moment I didn’t dump in enough salt! Glad it was good enough to get me to the next round!)
- Use lots of water, so your macaroni has room to move around and release their starches.
- Undercook the pasta by a few minutes. It will cook more when you bake it. Otherwise they’ll end up mushy.
- Your white sauce does not need to be super thick. I used to make it way too thick and then I’d be disappointed that my macaroni and cheese wasn’t gooey enough.
- Season your white sauce. I use white pepper, salt, dry mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
- Don’t heat your white sauce too hot or the cheese can separate when you add it, making it a grainy textured cheese sauce.
- I used to over-bake the macaroni and cheese and it would end up too dry. It just needs to be hot. I usually check the temperature with my instant read thermometer and make sure it’s at least 150 degrees.
Use a Super-Fancy Pan:
Lol! Using this pan certainly won’t get my Macaroni & Cheese photo onto Foodgawker, but let’s be real – when you’re going to a pot luck, block party or picnic, foil pans are just so easy! This recipe fits perfectly in this gigantic “Large Rectangular Rack Roaster (16 5/8 x 11 7/8 x 2 5/8 inch). Scott at Handi-Foil Corp. was kind enough to let me know that this pan “has a 240 fluid ounce capacity. That equates to 30 cups or 7.5 quarts.” Wowzers! So if you need to use another pan, you’ll know what size to aim for.
If you need a smaller amount of Macaroni & Cheese – this smaller version fits a half-steam tray pan and serves 10-12 people.
The Cheese Sauce:
You can really use any combination of cheeses you like. This recipe uses cheddar and American, which makes a creamy, mild Mac & Cheese that kids and adults will both like.
Assemble, Top with Crumbs & Bake!
Thanks for spending some time in the cloud with me! I hope you enjoy the recipe! Tina ( :
Macaroni & Cheese for a Crowd
- 2-3 tablespoons salt for water
- 2 boxes/pounds elbow macaroni (I used Barilla brand)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 9 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 pounds sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 3/4 pound American cheese, cut into strips Use the deli type, Don't use the "singles" individually wrapped kind
Bread Crumb Topping:
- 3 tablespoons butter melted
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Prepare Pan & Boil Pasta:
- This makes a large foil roasting pan, I used the Handi Foil, Eco Foil, Large Rectangular Rack Roaster Foil Pan (16 5/8 x 11 7/8 x 2 5/8 inch).
- You can alternatively use enough baking dishes that will hold about 7.5-quarts.
- Place your foil pan on a large baking sheet for stability.
- Butter pan(s) and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Set a large pot (8-quart or larger) water to boil. Salt it with 2-3 tablespoons of salt.
- I like to use a pasta pot so I can boil the pasta in two batches without having to reboil another pot of water.
- You can just boil one batch, lift them out with the insert, add a bit more water, then boil the next batch.
- Cook the pasta, in two batches, about a minute or two less than the package directions.
- Drain and pour into baking pan - don't rinse. (If cooking pasta ahead of time, toss with a little butter or oil so it doesn't stick together, you can even cover and refrigerate at this point. May need to add to bake time if you do this.)
- In 6-quart sauce pan make roux: melt butter and stir in flour, white pepper, mustard and salt until smooth. Cook for a few minutes stirring constantly.
- Whisk ½ cup of the milk into the roux and stir until they combine smoothly.
- Add a little more milk and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the rest of the milk.
- Heat and stir frequently over medium heat. Make sure to scrape the bottom and edges of pan while stirring.
- When slightly thickened, before it simmers, remove from heat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce and cheeses.
- Stir until melted and smooth. Taste and add more seasonings if desired.
Assemble and Bake:
- Pour cheese sauce into pan with pasta and stir to combine. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes.
- Stir together melted butter, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.
- After baking 30 minutes, remove foil from pan and sprinkle on breadcrumbs.
- Bake uncovered for another 20-30 minutes or until hot all the way through.
- Should be at least 150-160 degrees in the center of the pan on an instant read thermometer.
- If breadcrumbs are not browned to your liking, you can broil until browned.
My family will love this recipe!
Thanks for stopping by Roberta!! Hope you and your family enjoy!!
Just made this for my church’s youth Thanksgiving meal for tonight! Hopefully this passes the teen test. If so, it’s coming to family Thanksgiving this year! Thanks for sharing your recipe.
Thanks for sharing Lauren! Hope they all love it! Was a hit at our neighborhood block party just a few weeks back. Let me know what they think!
Tina ( :
I’ve made this recipe on three occasions and the reviews are always positive. If needed, it can be made ahead and frozen. The recipe doubles nicely.
Thank you so much
Hi Julie –
Thanks so much for sharing! Makes me happy to know that you had nice reviews! ( :
Have a good one!
Tina ( :
Connie Hofmann O'Murchu
I googled Mac and Cheese for a crowd, and lo and behold it is Mrs. Verrelli! Looks great, I will be making it this weekend for the cast of Best Christmas Pageant Ever at Footlighters in Berwyn (which includes two New Eagle fourth graders!) Come on over and see the show! 😉 I am sure the mac& cheese will get rave reviews, just like the show.
Connie (Maeve’s Mom)
Maeve is a frequent visitor in the morning with the girls I had last year ( : I was just chatting w/Mr. Adlin today about going to the show! Hope everyone loves the Mac & Cheese! Thanks for stopping by! Tina ( :
Can this be made the night before and then heated the next day? If so, at what point in the process do you suggest I stop on first day? After completely cooked or before bread crumbs go on?
I have assembled the night before w/o bread crumbs – totally not baked.
I have also baked up until the bread crumbs and cooled.
Another great option is to cook the pasta, toss with a little oil so it doesn’t stick and refrigerate. Make the cheese sauce and refrigerate.
Then assemble when you’re ready and bake. If the cheese sauce gets too thick to mix when chilled, just warm it until it loosens up.
Enjoy!! Let me know how it all goes!
Take Care! Tina ( :
Made it in large oval turkey roaster from my Grandmother for my Grandson’s 1st Birthday Party. We had about 35 adults and children and it was a huge hit – many second helpings! I didn’t like the American cheese or the Worcestershire sauce in a trial run, so I left them out and just upped the cheddar using a milder version than I normally would because of the kids. It was so wonderful to be able to add a warm dish to the buffet that was so uniformly enjoyed by all ages. Thank you!
Hi Joan – Sounds like a fun party! Happy Birthday to your grandson! Glad everyone liked it!!
this is great ..would like to scale it for 40-45..just double everything?
Thanks for stopping by!
Yes, I would just double the recipe and make it in a really big pan or two of the pans I used in the recipe. You’ll have to adjust the cooking time. You’ll need a pretty big pot for the cheese sauce and I wouldn’t boil all the elbows at once. Sounds like fun – enjoy!! ( :
Can this be made ahead and bakes next day?
Hi Kathy! Thanks for stopping by! Yes, you can make ahead the day before. I think I put some make ahead tips on the bottom of the recipe. Have a great day!! Let me know how it goes ( :
Hi again Kathy – I just double checked and I don’t think I added any tips – oops sorry!! You can make ahead. I like to boil the noodles, toss them with a little oil in the pan to keep them from sticking together. Cover and refrigerate. Then refrigerate the cheese sauce. The next day warm the sauce just enough to loosen it up so you can mix it in with the noodles- then go forward with the baking. You can mix it the day before and refrigerate, but sometime the elbow noodles will absorb some of the moisture from the cheese sauce and it may seem a little drier. I’ve fixed this before by stirring in a little heavy cream to loosen it up before I put it in the oven. Either way I think you’ll be in good shape!! Let me now how it goes!! Tina ( :
Have made this recipe several times for our football tailgating events, at least two batches, sometimes three. Never any leftovers. Bought a pasta cooker to speed the prep, which really helps. Great recipe to use for a crowd.
Hi GolfWV!! You just made my day!! ( : Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know – happy tailgating!!
This sounds great. I am going to make it for my church staff Friday (about 25 people). Assuming the large elbow macaroni?
Hi Laura – Thanks for stopping by! I use the regular "elbows" – the box doesn’t specify size, but they’re about an inch long and 1/4-inch wide before they’re cooked. I like the Barilla or Ronzoni brands – they don’t seem to get mushy. Best to you and your church staff!
Hi there! Just came across this recipe and will be trying it for a big family event next week. Question for you: Have you tried freezing the mac and cheese? Wondering how it will fare if I make a head/freeze until the day. Thanks so much.
Hi Alexis! Yes, I freeze mac and cheese! I would assemble everything but the bread crumb topping, wrap in plastic wrap and then wrap in foil to freeze. I would thaw overnight in the refrigerator the night before I wanted to bake it. I would keep it foil covered through most of the cooking to retain moisture. You may need to cook longer as it’ll still be very cold. Enjoy!! Hope you family loves it ( :
Thanks! Will let you know how it goes but I’m sure it will be divine! Thanks again for the freezing tips.
My daughter is pregnant and for her baby shower wants macaroni and cheese as one of the main food items (along with mini sandwiches and vege/fruit trays. This recipe seems easy. We are expecting 50-60 women so I will use this recipe and double it. Thanks.
Thanks for stopping by! Congrats to your daughter and family – how exciting!!
Funny that you just commented as I just made the mac and cheese again last night! LOL! It’s certainly a crowd pleaser!
Best wishes with everything!
I made this last night for my son’s high school hockey team – they LOVED it! I only wish I made two trays… It definitely was a huge hit!
I’m so glad the hockey team loved it!! Thank you for letting me know – makes my day!! GO TEAM!
For my son’s high school open house after the graduation ceremony, we are doing a Hot Dog Bar and he wants Mac and Cheese with it. I am wondering if I made or actually just served this in a large electric roaster (so it will stay warm) how do I prevent it from getting to dry during the party. We will be serving about 150-200 people.
Hi there Kelly!
That sounds like it’s going to be such a great celebration!
If I were going to use a large electric roaster like a warmer, I would keep it at a pretty low temp. so it doesn’t burn on the bottom or dry out a lot. I would also try to keep it covered or partially covered. Sometimes I’ll cover a big pan with foil and just fold back the first third or so, then keep folding back as needed.
I would bake the mac and cheese in the separate foil pans. I would foil cover them and keep them warm in a low oven. I’d just pour/spoon them into the roaster as you need to fill it up.
As for the crumb topping, which would end up getting all mixed in as you pour/spoon into the roaster. I’d either skip it or toast up the crumb mixture in a pan on the stove and just sprinkle it over the macaroni once you get it arranged in the roaster.
I hope you have a wonderful celebration & big congrats to your son! What an exciting time for him! ( :
You can put some water in the bottom of the roaster and the place the foil trays of Mac in the roaster suspended over the water. It keeps the Mac warm and moist. Remove the lid to serve and then cover leftovers with foil.
I used your reciepe for my husbands annual Knight of Columbus Fish Fry. I have been making macaroi and cheese for this event for many years but wanted to find a recipe that was for a larger quantity and would be easier to use. Boy was this it!!! It was a hit! Thank you so much for posting thie recipe it was the best macaroni and cheese that I have ever made!
Well I’m honored that you used my recipe for the Fish Fry! I am so happy that it was a big hit! I’m sure they appreciated all your cooking efforts! Take Care! ( :
Hi Tina, I’m making this recipe as part of a soup kitchen meal and will be adding bite size ham. Can I use pre shredded Cheddar and American cheese? And, should I add a little more milk to the sauce? Gloria
Hi there Gloria!
So nice of you to cook for the soup kitchen! ????
Yes, pre-shredded should be fine.
I don’t think you’ll need extra milk – you’ll see it starts out almost soupy, but bakes up nicely – still creamy and moist.
Tina ( :
Hello Tina! First of all, the first time I made this was for my girlfriend’s bridal shower over a year ago and now I will be making it for her baby shower per her request in a few months AND my company BBQ event tomorrow morning!!!! I am now known to all the people who I have made this for as the woman who makes the "slap-yoour-mama" good mac’n cheese hahahahaha so thank you for that! (I added some gruyere in with that american and white cheddar, YUM!!!)
Wondering however since this time I will not have time tomorrow morning to make it all fresh as I have done countless times, so I am using your tip for cooking pasta and sauce separate, then assembling tomorrow morning for heating. Wondered if the pasta also needs to be heated up a little or if you just usually throw in cold? I am just worried about the pasta getting dry!!! Any further detail would be appreciated. thank you SO much for sharing this amazing recipe!!!
Congrats to your friend on her baby shower! Glad your crowd is liking the mac and cheese!! Makes me happy!
The pasta doesn’t need to be heated prior to combining and baking. You should just heat up the sauce ever so gently, just enough to loosen it up enough so it will mix in with the pasta. It should all be A-ok! Hope you have a great company BBQ!
Hi Tina! I’m making this wonderful mac and cheese for a friend. I’m cooking for 150. When you say 2 boxes/pounds, do you mean 2lbs?
Hi Myrna –
Nice of you to cook for 150! ( :
Yes 2 pounds is correct!
I am making this for a party. Would it work out if I made it the night before and baked it the morning of the party?
oops never mind I saw that someone asked the same question below:)
I made your mac and cheese and refrigerated it yesterday before the baking process. I just put it in the oven from the fridge to bake and whilst it is delicious, it has a grainy texture. Do you have any idea why this is the case?
Hi Jules –
Thanks for stopping by! I’m sorry you didn’t have perfect results – I know that frustrates me when it happens with a recipe. The only time I have had Mac and Cheese turn grainy was when I added the cheese and had the heat too high. The cheese can separate and make that grainy texture. You want to make the white sauce until it thickens, but doesn’t simmer, then take the pan off the heat to add your cheese, stir until the cheese melts off heat. Hope that helps!! Take care!
Hi! I am making this now for my block party…how
On my way! Does it take for the cheese to melt completely? I feel like I’ve been stirring forever! Lol
Sorry… Autocorrect! How long does it take?
Hi there Michele!
Thanks for stopping by!
I’ve had that happen if the white sauce isn’t hot enough. Will be fine in the end – the cheese will melt the rest of the way in the oven. Better than making it too hot and having your cheese separate and be "grainy." Hope you love it! Take care!
Always looking for great large crowd pasta recipes for our cross country team! Going to try this one this week. My problem is I usually am taking it somewhere else, and have tried using a crock pot to do so (so it doesn’t have to be heated at the host’s home) – but that often makes it too mushy. Any suggestions? Also, I do like using Velveeta in macaroni and cheese – could I just sub some in for one of the other cheeses?
Hi Gina! Thanks for stopping by! I’m sure the runners will love some mac and cheese! ( : I haven’t tried velveeta – I would try subbing it for the American cheese. I take this recipe to our neighborhood block parties all the time. I try to take it right from the oven to the car. I cover it well with foil, keep it right on the hot baking tray and usually lay some kitchen towels on top – to try to insulate and keep the heat in. Hope that helps! Take care!
This is a delicious recipe! I made two of these pans of mac-n-cheese for my daughter’s graduation party back in June. It was gone quickly and I received numerous compliments on it. Since then, several people have asked for the recipe. I am making it again today for a holiday party for teen-aged girls! Thank you!
Hi Joanne –
Thank you so much for letting me know! So glad everyone enjoyed!! Take Care! ( :
I should’ve commented sooner but I did 6 batches of your recipe for my son’s hs grad party last july 2016 and it was great. I didn’t even try your recipe first I just made all 6 batches and prayed! being a grad party it was hard to tell how many folks we’d get so I made too much instead of the alternative. Like your family, I typically wing mac & chs, never the same way twice, it always pleases me but not always others. All guests and kids loved your recipe. I find myself now making it for other festivities because my go-to menu is always a bbq-mac/chs-bake bean/german coleslaw thing…it just works for a crowd. Your cheese sauce is so easy to spice up or down while making, I like extra Worcestershire, garlic powder, pepper and a bit of franks red hot. I could see how delicious it would be to add chopped ham, etc as another comment mentions below. I ended up having to freeze a few gallon ziplocks of this after the grad party the first time I made it and it froze very well. I reconstitute in a fry pan with a few drops of water and while the texture may have fell apart a little it was still as delicious if not better than when it was fresh. thanks again for this great ‘bulk’ recipe!!
Wasn’t sure if I had responded to you Julie! Thank you so much for the great comments – I’m sure will help others! Congrats to your son and hope you had a wonderful summer! Tina ( :
Nine (9) cups of milk seems like a lot for the amount of flour / cheeses. Is that amount correct?
Hi Linda – Yes it’s correct! It’s amazing how it all soaks in! I’ve made it tons of times! Enjoy!! Take care ( :
excited to try this recipe. seems it’s been a hit for a few years now. I am making it for a pot luck after church. I saw the comment on bagging pasta and making sauce the night before then assemble in morning. Any tips on baking it? If i make it and bake an hour and half early how would you keep it warm? Or does it work in a roasting pan or slow cooker better? If so any advice?
Hi Cora – Thanks for reaching out! I haven’t tried it in a slow cooker myself – so I can’t say on that for sure. I have made it and kept warm on one of those flat warming trays. If I were to try the slow cooker, I’d bake it, then spoon into slow cooker to keep warm. I’d probably leave off the bread crumb topping as that wouldn’t stay put while spooning into slow cooker. I’d make sure to undercook the noodles a few minutes when boiling. I’d also keep some milk or cream on hand in case you need to stir some in right before eating as the pasta will absorb some of the liquid while it’s keeping warm in slow cooker – making it more dry. Hope that helps!!! Let us know how it works out! Take care!
I made this recipe for my son’s football team for their Thursday night pasta feed. Not a crumb left in the pan! This is now my official go-to recipe for feeding a crowd. Thank you so much!
So great to hear they enjoyed!! I’ll be making it for my daughters’ swim team pasta parties this winter! I could use a “Thursday night pasta feed” right now!! love that phrase! LOL!
Made this today for tailgate – awesome! As written fills hotel pan easily. I did 1.5x (3 boxes of pasta) and it was a heaping tray full :):)
YAY! So glad you enjoyed!! Thanks for taking the time to share!
I made 6 of this recipe for my daughter’s graduation party. I only needed 3, but my family was thrilled to have the leftovers. We used them 2 days later at a family gathering and they warmed up in the microwave fantastically! Truly a hit!
I had experimented with mac and cheese recipes for months ahead of the graduation party and this was the landslide favorite recipe! Outstanding! Thank you for sharing it!
WooHoo Pam!! Music to my ears! Congratulations to your daughter!! We have a HS grad this year too! Go class of 2020!
Hi Tina, I tried to find your Macaroni and Cheese for a Smaller Crowd recipe but it read Error 404. I have a waitlist order for your new cookbook which will arrive in November (in case it’s in it). I’d love to make the recipe soon, please. Can everything in the larger recipe simply be halved, please? There’s only 2 of us!
Thanks, Karen Mowry
Thanks for including the size of pots you use. I’m looking at investing in pots and pans as a larger than average family and a bulk cooker. Truly a blessing!
Glad it was helpful for you!
I needed to know how much mac n cheese to make for our field hockey pasta party. Your recipe popped up when I googled it so of course I made it and everyone loved it! I may have bragged about being your sorority sister and all your awesome accomplishments! Hope you are well and life is good. xo Jewels
Jewels!! How are you!? So glad the mac and cheese worked out!! Hope the team had a great season! ❤️
Instead of American slices, I would like to use shredded Gruyère but I’m not sure how much.
Hi Cindy – I have this recipe where I use Gruyere and Fontina, but it makes a smaller batch – I would maybe add equal amounts of cheddar and gruyere. –
Debbie in Pittsburgh
I made this for the cast dinner for Pittsburgh CAPA’s production of Matilda Jr. My grandson said it was a very big hit. I see many cast dinners in his future and this is now in my repertoire. Thanks.
Yay!! Hope they had a great show!! Thanks for letting me know!!