Macaroni Gratin

macaroni gratin in a cast iron skillet

Macaroni Gratin is a creamy macaroni and cheese recipe baked up in a skillet, gratin style. It’s an elegant 30 minute version of everybody’s favorite comfort food.

I admit this might look like just another excuse to make more macaroni and cheese. But this is different, really. It’s even easier than mac and cheese because you don’t have to make a sauce, you simply layer everything into your skillet or gratin dish, and bake.

Putting the macaroni and cheese together like a classic gratin results in some interesting differences. For one thing you get so much more cheese flavor because it’s not diluted in a creamy sauce. And the layer of cheese on top gets nice and crusty in the hot oven.

I make it a point to under cook the elbows, so they remain firm even after half an hour of bubbling away in the cheesy gratin. And use really good cheese, the sharper the better.

This is macaroni and cheese good enough to impress your Valentine. What could be more sensual than a bubbling skillet of ooey gooey cheesy pasta topped with a crisp brown crust, and thou? Serve it up with a baguette and a nice California chardonnay to seal the deal..

Reader Rave ~

“Susan, I made this tonight for evening meal. It was superb! Very easy to put together and waaaaaaay better than any other type I’ve tried. Drizzled a bit of truffle oil on top. Amazing! And I even forgot to add the butter between layers. This is definitely the way to go. Thanks for a great go to recipe.”  ~ JBeanie

macaroni gratin in a cast iron skillet
3.1 from 11 votes

Macaroni Gratin

Macaroni Gratin is a creamy macaroni and cheese recipe baked up in a skillet, gratin style.  It's an elegant 30 minute version of everybody's favorite comfort food.
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Author Sue Moran


  • olive oil
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni cooked in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, then drained
  • 6 oz shredded cheese I used sharp white cheddar and Gruyere
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper


  • Set oven to 375F
  • Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of a gratin dish, casserole, or cast iron skillet.
  • Layer 1/3 of the macaroni on the bottom. Top the pasta with 1/3 of the cheese. Dot with butter, and sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg and cracked black pepper.
  • Repeat this two more times for a total of three layers.
  • Mix the milk and cream together and pour over the gratin.
  • Bake the gratin for about 25 minutes, until bubbling. Set it under the broiler for the last minute or two if you like your crust browner, but watch it like a hawk.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.


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  • Reply
    Joanne Mulvey
    October 19, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    5 stars
    I am wondering why this recipe is referred to as “more elegant” than the traditional mac & cheese made with butter, flour, milk and made into a thickened sauce. I live both. Thank you!

    • Reply
      October 19, 2020 at 1:42 pm

      I think I just meant it’s more like a French gratin, a little simpler and more ‘adult’.

  • Reply
    April 22, 2020 at 7:35 am

    5 stars
    This was easy to put together and absolutely delicious!!

  • Reply
    December 24, 2019 at 9:57 am

    I’ve made this almost every Christmas for the past few years. This year I made it today for tomorrow. and I’m not sure if I should bake it now and reheat or wait until tomorrow.

    • Reply
      December 24, 2019 at 10:11 am

      I think I’d bake it tomorrow.

      • Reply
        December 24, 2019 at 10:23 am

        Oh wow, thank you so much for responding so quickly, especially on Christmas Eve! That was my instinct but wanted your expert opinion!

        • Reply
          December 24, 2019 at 10:40 am

          Lol, I’m always available to my peeps, 24/7!

  • Reply
    May 17, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Susan, I made this tonight for evening meal. It was superb! Very easy to put together and waaaaaaay better than any other type I’ve tried. Drizzled a bit of truffle oil on top. Amazing! And I even forgot to add the butter between layers. This is definitely the way to go. Thanks for a great go to recipe.

    • Reply
      May 17, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      So glad to hear it — I just discovered truffle oil recently and I am in love!

  • Reply
    January 26, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Sounds really yummy.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2013 at 7:13 am

    You think this would still turn out ok if I doubled everything? Looking to make it for a crowd this Thanksgiving…

    Let me know! Thanks!

    • Reply
      November 26, 2013 at 7:30 am

      I think so, especially is you can find a wide relatively shallow dish to cook it in. A deep dish will give you a different texture.

  • Reply
    November 25, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    You can do the same with sliced potatoes, only add a sprinkle of flour each layer along with the butter. mmmmm…

  • Reply
    July 31, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I’ve only ever layered! Where have you people been. lol I haven’t tried heavy cream & milk mixed. Only egg & milk or egg & evaporated milk. Will also have to try dotting the butter on the layers as well. Thanks!!

  • Reply
    March 19, 2013 at 3:19 am


    Sorry I found it.

  • Reply
    March 19, 2013 at 3:18 am


    What is oven temperature.

  • Reply
    Rachel @ Bakerita
    March 9, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Mmmm, this sounds amazing! I’m a mac and cheese fiend, and your version sounds absolutely heavenly. So much easier than making a cheese sauce. Pinned!
    -Rachel @

  • Reply
    February 9, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Oh! This is the closest version of our (well, the one made in Finland) macaroni casserole I’ve seen online (and I haven’t really searched). Our country has like no idea of the “greatness” of your mac and cheese, this is what we do: boil the macaroni and fry some ground meat. Sieve the macaroni, season the meat, dump it all into a casserole dish, mix up a few raw eggs and a few dl of cooking cream or milk (or as my mom used to do it, some meat broth) and pour it over the dish. Finish with some/lots of grated cheese and put in to the oven (usually 200 Celsius dergees) for about an hour. The top tastes cheesy is crusty and the bottom is soft; altogether it’s a hearty meal that almost has leftovers for the next day.

    – Annukka from Finland

  • Reply
    February 4, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    I made this this weekend and it didn’t turn out very well for me. The milk/cream mixture only went partway up, so didn’t cover all the macaroni and the macaroni on the top got a little hard. My oven was at the correct temperature. Also, the sauce did not seem super cheesy. I used finely grated cheddar jack. Was that my problem? I was a little leery of using a sharp cheese because I like the more mild cheeses. But I do have to say that I was REALLY skeptical about the nutmeg (they sprinkle it over rum punch and I always hated it), but it really added a nice flavor to the dish. It wasn’t a total disaster, because it tasted good, but I think I need to work on it to make it look like yours.

  • Reply
    February 1, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    confession–the crusty bit on the top is my favorite part! my mom makes her mac and cheese like this and it’ll probably always be the best to me. 🙂

  • Reply
    From Beyond My Kitchen Window
    January 31, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Mmmmmm, my mouth is watering so badly. One thing I really like about this idea is there aren’t a lot of pans to wash out. I hate washing the white sauce and cheese pan out.

  • Reply
    Mary Younkin
    January 30, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    I’ve been on a mac ‘n cheese mission for the past couple years. I’ve tried so many, because my kids just LOVE it. However, I still can’t find one that “I” love. Apparently, my mother ruined my tastebuds forever with that boxed stuff. Homemade Mac just tastes over-the-top cheesy to me, which might explain why my kids love it so much. When we stopped buying it a few years ago, I pretty much gave up on finding anything I would love.

    My sister messaged me yesterday to tell me that I needed to try this version. (How funny is that? My sister thinking that I wouldn’t see this myself? ha ha ha ha ha ha) Doesn’t she know I check out your posts almost the moment you publish them? This does look delicious. I am going to try it soon. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Kitchen Belleicious
    January 30, 2013 at 2:35 am

    i don’t know which I like the most- this mac or the post after it with the fried portabellas? Humm. I think I will just have to try both and then make my decision:) LOVE THEM ALL!

  • Reply
    Magnolia Verandah
    January 30, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Oh yes this sounds good.

  • Reply
    Debby Foodiewife
    January 30, 2013 at 4:31 am

    I’ve been doing it all wrong, making a roux and then a cheese sauce! This way looks much easier. OMG, I want to sink my teeth into this. I’d almost be tempted to sprinkle with some panko crumbs and melted butter combo…then bake…then… see? I’m getting food lust, just thinking about it. You nailed this one!

  • Reply
    January 29, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    I can definitely get behind the idea of extra tasty crispy bits on top of that dish of mac! The idea of cutting out the whole white sauce ordeal is even better. 🙂

  • Reply
    Savory Simple
    January 30, 2013 at 3:53 am

    Now this is total comfort food!

  • Reply
    SavoringTime in the Kitchen
    January 29, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    I’m trying to be good and you’re killing me! 🙂 This looks so good.

  • Reply
    G'ma Jan
    January 29, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    When do you use the milk and cream?

  • Reply
    January 29, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I certainly do not need to be convinced to try this cheesy goodness.

  • Reply
    January 29, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Wait. where is the milk and heavy cream? Did I misread this? Gotta make it!

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    January 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    I love that this recipe is just a dump it in/layer it on type of recipe. PERFECT! I rarely make homemade mac c cheese because all that stirring, mixing, etc…meh. But this, this I can handle! Love the toasted top, too!

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      January 29, 2013 at 5:41 pm

      It’s funny how much of a difference it makes to me when a recipe is direct and easy like this. I remember the first time I made a potato gratin this way, I was astounded at how easy it was and how luscious it turned out.

  • Reply
    La Table De Nana
    January 29, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Looks good..I’ve made 2 in the last with spinach..and mom made one with a hint of tomato in hers..wish I could find that recipe:0 Just a hint..any ideas?

    One of the ones I made ..the sauce is made with some chicken bouillon instead of cream..I loved worked..
    This is nice that you don’t even make a sauce:)

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      January 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      The idea of including some tomato really appeals to me. That must make a nice color, too. I’ll get to work on it!

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