Families With Grace

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The best baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping

You’ll never have a better baked mac and cheese than this one inspired by a restaurant in St. Louis!

Nearly two years ago, we took a family vacation to St. Louis. We had a great time exploring the city and making lots of family memories. We also tried some incredible food. The hamburger from Hi-Pointe Drive-In was fabulous. Cookies from Insomnia Cookies hit a sweet spot. Floats from Fitz’s Root Beer were in their own category of sweet treats.

But, hands down, the most memorable for me was Salt + Smoke BBQ. My daughter and I went there solo while the boys ate elsewhere. The barbeque was good. Stupidly good. However, the baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping stole my heart.

I literally said to my daughter as we were eating, “If I wasn’t already married to your dad, I’d marry this mac and cheese.” That may sound dramatic, but the mac and cheese really was that good. (I’m not even a big mac and cheese fan.)

Since we live a few hours away from St. Louis, I knew my odds of having that baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping again were slim. If we go back someday, I’ll definitely hit it up. But until then, I’ve found and tweaked a recipe that tastes incredibly similar.

This baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping has become a regular for Thanksgiving dinner at my house. I’ve served it to up beside sloppy joes. Most recently, I made it as a main dish and enjoyed every single bite of it. So much so that I seriously debated having its leftovers for breakfast the next day. You have got to try this simple recipe that only uses six ingredients (besides a bit of salt and pepper)!

Baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping ingredients: triple cheddar shredded cheese, heavy whipping cream, flour, pasta shells, butter and Ritz crackers

Stovetop prep for the baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping

Salt the water in a large pot and let it come to a boil, then add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes. While the pasta cooks, preheat the oven to 300-degrees (F). The Salt + Smoke mac and cheese uses pasta shells, so that’s what I have used. You could use any pasta shape you prefer.

About four minutes before the pasta is finished getting, melt 2 tablespoons of butter into a medium saucepan over medium/high heat.

Butter for the baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping melting in a medium saucepan over medium/high heat

When the pasta is finished cooking, strain it and return it to the pot, removed from the heat. Once the butter has melted, stir in 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Here’s how it will look start to finish:

The flour and butter starting to be mixed for the baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping
Add the flour to the melted butter.
Part way through mixing the flour and butter for this baked mac and cheese with Ritz crackers recipe
Stir the flour and butter constantly for 1 to 2 minutes.
The flour and butter mixture completely mixed together after cooking for 2 minutes over medium/high heat
How the butter and flour mixture looks when it is finished cooking.

Once the flour and butter are well combined and cooked together, begin adding in the heavy cream about 1/4 cup at a time. Let it mix in each time completely before adding more. It will go from a texture of runny oatmeal to mashed potatoes to pudding to sauce.

Starting to stir in the heavy cream for the baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping
Adding the first 1/4 cup of heavy cream into the flour and butter mixture looks a bit like runny oatmeal.
Continuing to gradually stir the heavy cream in for this baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping
As you keep adding, the cream, it starts to be more of a mashed potato consistency.

Once the cream is completely stirred in and the mixture is more sauce-like, continue cooking it over medium/high heat, stirring frequently. When it just starts to move around a bit, remove it from the heat. Do not let it boil. It will look like this:

The cooked sauce removed from the heat for this baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping

Next, stir in 8 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese. Salt + Smoke uses white cheddar, I think, but I use triple cheddar blend because it’s easier for me to find. Add a dash of salt and pepper.

Stirring the cheese into the sauce for this baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping
Pour the shredded cheese into the sauce.
Stir well until the cheese melts completely.

Getting it ready to bake

Once the cheese sauce is totally together, pour the sauce over the cooked and strained pasta.

The cooked pasta with the cheese sauce poured over the top of it for this baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping

Stir together the sauce and pasta so it is well mixed and all the pasta is covered.

The pasta stirred together and coated with the cheese sauce for this baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping

Transferred the coated pasta into a 9×13-inch baking dish, lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Use a spoon to spread it evenly throughout the dish.

The prepared mac and cheese being spread into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish

Crush the Ritz crackers for the topping and spread over the top of the prepared mac and cheese. I use about 8 to 10 Ritz crackers for this. I have store brand ingredients for everything except the crackers, because the buttery flavor of Ritz really does work best for this recipe. (Please note that I am in no way affiliated with or sponsored by Ritz crackers.)

The baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping ready to go into the oven

Bake it in the preheated 300-degree oven for about 12 minutes until heated through. I often serve this with additional crackers on the side for added crunch if people want. Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers.

I promise this will become your favorite baked mac and cheese recipe! Look at this cheesy, yummy goodness!

A finished dish of the baked mac and cheese with Ritz topping
The cracker crust gives just a hint of crunch and extra buttery-ness!
A forkful of the finished baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping
Doesn’t that just make your mouth water?!
Baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping Pinterest image 4

Baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping

This baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping recipe is the best ever. With only 6 ingredients, it will quickly become a favorite!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 12 mins
Total Time 32 mins
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8 people


  • 1 pound medium pasta shells
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8-10 Ritz crackers crushed
  • salt & pepper to taste


  • Bring a lot pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 300-degrrees (F).
  • About four minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium/high heat.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of flour to the butter and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Drain the pasta and return it to its pot off the heat; set aside.
  • Slowly add the heavy cream to the butter and flour mixture. Stir in about 1/4 cup at a time, waiting until it's completely mixed in to add more.
  • Once the cream is all added, continue cooking over medium/high heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid starts to move. Do NOT let it come to a boil.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the 8 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese until completely melted and smooth. Add a dash of salt and pepper. (If you use unsalted butter, you may need to add more salt.)
  • Pour the cheddar cheese sauce over the cooked and drained pasta. Mix well so the sauce covers all the pasta.
  • Spritz a 9×13-inch baking dish lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the pasta into the baking dish and spread it out evenly.
  • Crush the Ritz crackers by hand and sprinkle evenly over the top of the pasta.
  • Bake for 12 minutes until heated through. Serve immediately, and enjoy!
Keyword baked mac and cheese, carry-in, carry-in recipe, Christmas, family dinner, family friendly, family recipe, kid friendly, mac and cheese, macaroni and cheese, potluck, salt + smoke mac and cheese, Thanksgiving, weeknight dinner

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Stuffed peppers skillet recipe

A simple summer dinner idea!

The simple summer dinner ideas continue with this stuffed peppers skillet recipe. I love that this recipe is easy, tasty, uses veggies and has a great Mexican flavor. My family is pretty much sold on anything Mexican and this dish is no different. It’s a great twist for taco night and doesn’t require using the oven at all, which is perfect for summer evenings!

Another good thing about this recipe is the protein is pretty flexible depending on what you like or have on hand. I usually use ground pork (not sausage) for this, but ground beef, ground turkey, tofu or chicken would also be good with it.

Get started

To make sure you’re all prepared once you start cooking, start with prepping your bell pepper. I use a green bell pepper for this stuffed peppers skillet recipe, but you can use any color depending on what you like. We like green bell peppers and they are usually the cheapest, so that’s what I use. Clean and dice your pepper. Set it aside.

For this recipe, you’re going to also use boxed rice to serve it on. You can totally make the rice in your rice cooker if that’s you thing, but I went with boxed Spanish rice. Mexican rice works as well. Check your directions for the rice and get it started so it has plenty of time to cook as needed. Here is what I used:

Cook the protein

Once you have prepped your pepper and sorted out cooking your rice, the next step in this stuffed peppers skillet recipe is to cook your protein. I use ground pork, but as I mentioned, ground beef, ground turkey, chicken or tofu also work. Put a drizzle of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add your protein. (For a drizzle of oil, I’d say 1/2 tablespoon.) I use 1/2 pound of meat for our family because we aren’t big meat eaters, but if your family likes meat more, feel free to use 1 pound of meat.

Add your protein and cook and crumble it until it is no longer pink and is cooked through. When your protein is cooked through, add in 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning. I used Old El Paso taco seasoning, because it’s what I had on hand. You can use whatever taco seasoning you prefer, including your own mix if you’d rather. Stir it into the protein and simmer for about three minutes to let it combine.

The tomatoes

While the protein is cooking, keep check on your rice and deal with your can of fire roasted tomatoes. You can definitely add them in as-is, but we aren’t big on chunky tomatoes, so I like them pureed. Here is my tomato process:

The end result after a brief stint in the food processor.

The stuffed peppers skillet only needs 1/2 cup of tomatoes, so I used the remaining pureed tomatoes in my rice, because it also called for diced tomatoes.

Cook the veggies

If your family will all eat all the veggies, go ahead and toss them in with the protein to cook for this stuffed peppers skillet. However, if you also have picky eaters like me, you’ll want to cook the veggies separately. I moved the seasoned ground pork to a small pan and kept it on low to keep the meat warm.

I used the skillet I had cooked the meat in with the drippings still in it and added 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil and then started adding the veggies. First, I put in the pureed roasted tomatoes, then the green pepper, 1 cup of corn (no need to thaw it) and 3 cups of spinach.

The frozen corn goes right in.
I didn’t pack the spinach tightly as I measured. I used a 2-cup measuring cup and filled it like this then halfway to measure out the spinach.

Let the veggies hang out and simmer for about 5 minutes over medium heat and then simmer for 3 to 5 minutes until they are cooked through and the spinach is wilted. If you need to, you can add up to 3 tablespoons of water if your veggies need to simmer longer as your rice cooks or for any other reason. The water just keeps the veggies from drying out.

Put it together

And that’s it. Now you just put it all together. It’s so good all mixed together, so I put down rice and then layer on the veggies and the meat. My pickier eater can get smaller amounts of veggies (one avoids spinach, for example). And my pickiest eater, I made a taco using the ground pork instead. I suggest serving it with some tortilla chips for crunch. The stuffed peppers skillet is yummy to scoop up with a chip or two as well!

Stuffed Peppers Skillet

An easy recipe with lots of veggies that your whole family will love!
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 4 people


  • 1 bell pepper any color
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 to 1 pound ground pork, turkey or beef (Tofu also works!)
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
  • 3 cups spinach
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 box Mexican or Spanish rice


  • Dice your bell pepper; set it aside.
  • Check the directions on your rice box and start the rice, so it has time to cook.
  • Put a drizzle (about 1/2 tablespoon) of vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add your protein; crumble and cook through.
  • Add taco seasoning and let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • While the protein cooks, puree that fire roasted tomatoes if preferred.
  • Put the bell pepper, spinach, corn and fire-roasted tomatoes into the pan with the protein. If you prefer to keep them separate, then move the protein to another container and use the skillet the meat cooked in to add the veggies. Put 1 tablespoon of oil into the skillet and then add the veggies.
  • Cook the vegetables for 5 minutes on medium heat; reduce heat to simmer for 3 to 5 more minutes until the vegetables are tender. (If you are cooking the veggies separately and they seem dry, add up to 3 tablespoons of water, one at a time, until they are moist.)
  • Serve with the rice. We prefer it with the rice on bottom topped with the veggies and meat. Tortilla chips are also a great addition for scooping up the stuffed peppers skillet!
Keyword family dinner, Mexican recipe, rice recipe, stuffed peppers, stuffed peppers skillet, weeknight dinner

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