Looking for a Kid Friendly Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe?
This baked macaroni and cheese recipe is easy to make and adds a fun twist by using mashed potato smiles as a topping. This is a sure way to make kids like this dinner even more! This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of McCain Foods USA, Inc. ©. The opinions and text are all mine.
I don’t know about you, but say the word cheese, and I am there. What may really surprise you all is that I have a mild dairy allergy, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying some good old mac & cheese.
Call me a kid, but this dish is like my childhood dream come true. I always loved when my mom bought these and made them for us. Granted, I was already a teen but is there really an age limit here? Enjoying fluffy mashed potatoes in a crispy outer crust with smiles is my kind of happiness! Top McCain® Smiles® on some baked mac & cheese and you take things to the next level of awesomeness
McCain Smiles are a food that I frequently buy at Walmart for my kids. You can find them in the frozen potato aisle near the other McCain potato products like their Seasoned Curly Fries. We pretty much love all they have to offer, and my kids are never picky when I serve these as a side dish.
Ready in minutes, McCain Smiles contain no artificial flavors and are made with real mashed potatoes.
Plus, they go perfectly with some ketchup or paired up with foods like sandwiches, pizzas, tacos, and more. You can pretty much make almost any meal kid-friendly when you serve McCain Smiles.
Adding McCain Smiles to my 3 Cheese Baked Mac & Cheese was the best idea ever! I think it not only brought complementary flavors to my macaroni and cheese, but it also made it extra fun! I guarantee your kids will love it. This recipe is not only kid-friendly but adults can enjoy McCain Smiles too. They are perfect for any occasion.
You cannot help but smile when you look at this comfort dish!
Helpful tips when making Baked Mac & Cheese:
Do I need a topping for baked mac & cheese?
While most people opt for a breadcrumb topping you don’t necessarily need one. Depending on the type of cheese you use, your casserole should brown up nicely and make its own crispy cheese crust. However, you can make your macaroni and cheese more fun and tastier by adding toppings like fried onions, or these McCain Smiles.
What is the best pasta for macaroni and cheese?
Technically speaking, you really can use pretty much any type of pasta for this dish. However, like the name says, macaroni works the best. The elbow pasta shape helps to lock in flavor and the creaminess from the dish.
Is shredded or block cheese better for macaroni and cheese?
Speaking from experience (and knowledge gained on my dairy tour last year), I can confirm that block cheeses are best for macaroni and cheese. Pre-shredded cheese contains an anti-binding ingredient that will prevent your mac and cheese from becoming creamy.
What type of cheese is the best for macaroni and cheese?
My favorite cheese for macaroni and cheese are the following:
- Sharp Cheddar in yellow
- Extra Sharp Cheddar in white
- Swiss Cheese
- Monterey Jack
These cheeses create rich, and creamy flavors that meld perfectly with the spices and pasta. You can even combine more-than one for a more complex flavor profile.
What are some macaroni and cheese toppings?
Last year, while participating in a dairy cookoff, I was able to sample 10+ mac & cheese recipes that were all different. My favorite macaroni and cheese toppings were:
- French Fries
- Garlic butter croutons
- Seasoned bread crumbs
- French Fried Onions
- Candied walnuts with bacon
- Mashed potatoes, hence today’s use of McCain Smiles.
Why is my macaroni and cheese sauce gritty?
Chances are your sauce is gritty due to one of two things: You are not mixing your roux (butter and flour) until it is golden brown.
Or, you are adding too much cheese, too fast! The key is to slowly add in the cheese with a constant whisking motion (over low heat). You want your sauce to be creamy and not lumpy or gritty.
Overall, this Baked Mac & Cheese with Potato Topping came out perfect, and truly did make us smile!
Don’t forget to stop by Walmart and purchase your own! Visit McCain Smiles for more recipes!
What is your favorite way to enjoy McCain Smiles?
Baked Mac & Cheese with Potato Smiles Topping
- 15 whole McCain Smiles cook 50% of the way
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 1 8 ounce bar sharp cheddar yellow, grated
- 1 8 ounce bar extra sharp white, grated
- 1 8 ounce bar swiss grated
- 3 1/2 cups white whole milk
- 1 stick butter you can use either salted, or unsalted
- 1/2 cup white flour
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsps yellow mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- Gather all ingredients you will need.
- Fill a pot with water to boil pasta, and then boil it while grating the cheese.
- Once the pasta is done, set it aside. I cook mine 2 minutes less so it is not over inflated.
- In the oven, cook the McCain Smiles 25% of the way (follow bag instructions)
- In a stock pot, (over low/medium heat) melt butter and then whisk in flour to create the roux. You will want to whisk it until it turns golden brown and is not chunky.
- Once this is done, slowly whisk in the milk continuously.
- Bring milk to a boil for 1 minute, and then reduce heat to low/medium, and slowly add in the grated cheese. You don't want to do it too fast or you risk gritty mac & cheese. You want to do it low and slow all while continuously whisking.
- Once cheese sauce is smooth and velvety, remove from heat.
- Drain pasta and add it to the stock pot with the cheese.
- Mix all the way and add it to a casserole dish.
- Top with 25% cooked smiles and bake for 30 minutes at 350.
- Enjoy warm! The Smiles are the best the same day.
This is the comfiest comfort food ever! I HAVE to make these for the family. My kids are going to love them.
Seeing those smiley potatoes warms my heart. This is a delicious dish!
Such a cute idea for a topping. I think I’d also crush some up and sprinkle it over the top to get a little crunch in every bite!
Yum! Sounds delicious and love those smiles. My girls would love those… a nice fall meal at the end of a week at school.
Shelley R Zurek says
The smiley face toppings from McCain is a very inspired way to dress up Mac and Cheese. The pictures alone made me smile.
I love Mac and Cheese, it’s one of my favorite meals. Super cute way to make it fun for kids (and adults). Love this idea.