Want to make homemade macaroni and cheese for 20 or even 50 people or more? This is your recipe! Few dishes please old folks and young peeps alike like creamy, traditional macaroni and cheese. This recipe makes a large batch for 20 to 25 people, which you can then double for 50 to 60 people. Cooking in batches ensures proper seasoning and consistency, allowing large scale preparation of consistently delicious cheesy mac.
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Why this recipe works
Making creative mac and cheese recipes is one of my favorite things on my primary blog, Erica’s Recipes, but there is no love like the love I have for my Basic mac and cheese recipe. I love it, my family loves it, and when I make it for a LOT of people, they love it too.
When I scale up my basic recipe for dozens of people, however, there are a few tweaks I find I need to make to have it come out the way I want. Tweaks such as salting the pasta water, adding more American cheese, adding more milk, etc.
Why make in batches
Whether cooking macaroni and cheese for 20 people, or 50 people, or even 75-100 people, I recommend cooking in batches for 20-25 people (as laid out in the recipe card below).
- This volume lets you get the sauce nice and tasty, especially for seasoning.
- This volume is still small enough to make the sauce while the pasta is cooking, including getting the cheese mostly melted. A larger batch can result in a ton of unmelted, gummy cheese.
- These volumes are manageable. I can lift a large pot of water and sling 2 lbs of pasta at a time.
Because of these reasons, I have turned off the adjustable portion slide in the recipe card for this recipe.
Main courses to serve with large batch mac and cheese
A large batch of macaroni and cheese is great to make as a vegetarian main dish, but I do prefer to keep it as a side for meat of some kind. Here are my favorites that are also easy to scale up for a crowd:
- Pulled pork. On the occasion I made this recipe for a Church dinner, it was served with pulled pork sliders. Also, buttered corn and homemade cole slaw YUM.
- Roast pork loin. Pork loin is relatively affordable and easy to roast to feed a crowd up to 50 to 60 people. It’s even easier if you get them already in marinade, then just roast at 400 degrees F to an internal temperature of 155 degrees F. Rest 5-10 minutes, slice, and serve.
- Meatloaf. Large scale meatloaf takes a bit of elbow grease to mix and form into logs in hotel pans for baking, but this old-fashioned dish is a hit every time.
- Chicken quarters. Chicken quarters can be oven roasted or, even better, grilled if you are able and always so good with macaroni and cheese. Regardless of cooking method, cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
- Burgers. Can’t go wrong with juicy grilled burgers and mac and cheese.
Always cook meat to temperature! This is especially important when cooking for a lot of people – we don’t want to get anyone ill.
Be sure to check out my Broccoli Cheese Casserole for a Crowd, which can be assembled up to a day in advance. Also, if you are new to quantity cooking, my 12 Essential Tips to Cook for a Crowd is a great place to start.
Macaroni and Cheese for a Crowd
For the mac and cheese
- 32 oz elbows macaroni pasta
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 gallon whole milk, plus additional 2-3 cups to adjust consistency
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 4 tsp kosher salt, plus more to salt the water for the pasta (see Notes)
- 5 slices American cheese
- 32 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
For the topping
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 6 oz Ritz crackers, crushed
- 1 handful chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley for garnish, if desired
Make the topping
- Combine the melted butter and crushed crackers in a bowl. Set aside.
Cook the pasta and make the sauce
- Bring a very large pot of water to a boil (see Notes). Add a handful of salt.
- Heat oven to 400℉.
- Separately, in a large pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and once bubbly, cook a minute to make a roux.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water. Stir to ensure pasta doesn’t sink and stick to the bottom. Cook to al dente according to package directions.
- While pasta is cooking, whisk in the milk to the roux. Cook until the milk starts to steam, stirring constantly. Occasionally, also stir the pasta again to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Once the milk starts to steam, add the Dijon, salt, and cheeses. Stir until cheese is at least half melted and the mixture thickens a bit. Turn off the heat.
- Add additional milk to adjust for consistency (~2 cups). This will ensure the mixture stays creamy while cooking and serving because the pasta will thicken it further. You want the sauce to be the consistency of hearty soup: not thin broth and not thick chowder, but in between. Like a bechamel.
- Taste for seasoning! This is KEY. You want to taste SALT at this point. If you don’t, your mac and cheese will be bland once the pasta is added.
Assemble and bake
- Drain the pasta and add to the cheese sauce. Pour all into a hotel pan (see Notes).
- Top with the butter-cracker mixture.
- Bake at 400℉ for ~30 minutes or until golden on top and bubbly around the edges. Garnish with chopped flat-leaf parsley, if desired, and serve.
- If a very large pot is not available, use to large, regular kitchen pots and simply divide the pasta between the two. This does not have to be exact since the pasta will all end up in the sauce.
- Hotel pans are the large pans seen in large-scale buffets. They are generally 12 x 20 inches in dimension, and 2.5 to 4 inches deep. If not available, divide the mac and cheese between 2 (13 x 9 inch) pans or bake dishes. Note that 2 (13 x 9-in) pans may cook faster than 1 (12 x 20 inch) pan.
- I don’t generally add salt to water for cooking pasta, but I do when large scale cooking as extra insurance against a bland outcome.