Oven-baked until brown-edged and bubbling, this creamy macaroni and cheese casserole has a bottom layer of tender, slow-cooked beef brisket! It’s a classic comfort food recipe packed with flavor, and super easy to make. A creamy, gooey homemade cheese sauce ties it all together!
This easy Brisket Macaroni & Cheese Casserole needs to go on your list of no-fail recipes that your family and friends will love. I’m not sure why, but casseroles seem to have gone out of style. Maybe because when you think of casseroles, you think of mushy food with canned soup and not this fabulous macaroni and beef casserole.
I asked for a cute casserole dish for Christmas and the girls searched and searched and couldn’t find one. I’m on a mission to bring back the casserole. In the South we love our casseroles, like homemade hamburger helper or simple chicken and rice.
This mac and cheese casserole is a hearty meal that will serve a crowd. It’s great to have a no fail dish to take to a friend or potluck.
Why should you make a casserole
There is nothing like a casserole when you want to feed a crowd. Most can be made ahead of time, frozen and then when you need to take a dish to the beach for vacation, or take a comfort meal to someone who is recovering from a medical issue.
Maybe the guys are going on a golf junket, or you don’t want to have to cook when you get home from vacation, you have dinner already taken care of. Brisket macaroni and cheese is just what you need for all of these occasions.
I don’t normally cook brisket but after watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I had to give it a try.
This is not one of those mushy casseroles and there is no canned soup involved. However, that doesn’t mean it’s difficult or time consuming. All I can say about beef brisket with macaroni and cheese is that it’s AMAZING. Everyone that’s tried it, has gone on and on about the flavors. I never thought about making mac and cheese with meat, but it’s brilliant.
Who doesn’t love homemade mac n cheese and this one is a super creamy version using evaporated milk. I used a mixture of White Cheddar, Mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheese to get a really creamy combination but you can mix it up and add your favorites. I’m surprised we had enough left to top the brisket because Natalie and I could not stop eating it.
Pro tip: Once the brisket has cooked in the slow cooker you can prep everything in the time it takes for the water to boil and the pasta to cook.
What is beef brisket
Brisket is a cut of meat from the breast of the cow that is a tough piece of meat containing connective tissue. Because of the cut, it needs to be cooked slowly to tenderize and release the fabulous flavor.
For everything you might want to know about choosing and cooking a brisket, check out this post by 4 ways to Cook a Brisket. There are several different ways to prepare brisket. In Texas they smoke it for barbecue, while in North Carolina, our “barbecue” is pulled pork not beef.
How do you cook it
Whatever method you choose, a brisket needs to be cooked slowly. I use a slow cooker with just a little garlic and onion and beef broth and cook it for six hours. It comes out so tender. Once it cools enough to cut into bite size pieces, add it to a red wine and tomato paste mixture and then put it in the bottom of a casserole dish.
If you have leftover brisket, you can use that as the base. You will need enough to cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. If you have less, then decrease the amount of the mac and cheese.
Which macaroni and cheese recipe should go on top
With so many different types of mac and cheese recipes it’s hard to choose what type to put on the top of a slow cooked brisket. I found that homemade macaroni and cheese using evaporated milk, half-and-half and a three cheese mixture complimented, but did not overpower, the brisket.
For cheese, I used a combination of white cheddar for flavor, and Monterey jack and mozzarella to give it a creamy texture.
The result is comfort food at it’s best! Be prepared for the oohs and ahhhs. After experimenting with this the first time, Mike asked if I’ld make it for him to take on their golf junket. It was a big hit!
This recipe uses 2-3 lbs. of brisket which makes a large enough portion to feed 10-12 people You can adjust the amount of meat to macaroni and cheese ratio per your preference. I made this a week or so before they left and froze it. All they had to do was thaw it and warm it in the oven. They are still raving about it.
Unlike some brisket that is seasoned with bbq sauce this beef brisket mac is seasoned with a red wine sauce which adds a whole new level of deliciousness to the creamy cheddar mac and cheese on top.
Why you’ll love it
- The slow cooker makes the beef so tender
- You can make it ahead and freeze it
- It will feed a crowd
- It’s topped with a creamy mac & cheese
- Casseroles are the best for an entire meal in one pan, no need for a side dish
What you’ll need for the brisket
- Brisket – 2-3 lbs will feed 8-10 people
- Beef broth – broth or stock
- Red wine – use one you like to drink
- Tomato paste – this will be the base of the sauce the brisket cooks in
- Pantry staples – onion and garlic
What you’ll need for the topping
- Pasta- elbow shaped is great for cheesy sauce but any small shaped pasta will work
- Half and half – makes for a creamy sauce, you could use whole milk instead
- Evaporated milk – adds texture without making it too rich
- Shredded cheese mixture – sharp cheddar cheese, mozzarella and monterey jack
- Fresh thyme – using a fresh herb enhances the flavor
- Pantry staples – Butter, flour, dry mustard
Step by step directions
Step 1 – brisket
Place brisket in a slow cooker with onion, garlic and beef broth and let it cook on high for 6 hours. Then shred it and remove any excess fat.
In a skillet, add wine, tomato paste beef broth and mustard and cook until it’s reduced. Pour over the brisket and place it in a casserole dish.
Step 3 – macaroni and cheese
Make the creamiest macaroni and cheese by making a bechamel sauce with butter and flour, half-and-half and evaporated milk. Cook until slightly thickened and add grated cheese.
Cook the pasta al dente per package instructions. Combine the cooked pasta with the sauce and season with salt and black pepper.
Place the brisket in the bottom of a casserole dish and top with pasta then sprinkle with cheese. If you have any remaining macaroni and cheese, it’s a great side dish!
Bake covered until it’s warmed through then remove the aluminum foil and bake until the macaroni and cheese has browned.
This is a no fail recipe that you can easily adjust. Of course you can eat it right away, but I promise it’s just as good if you freeze it once assembled and bake it later. Once baked, the leftovers freeze and reheat great for lunches.
Think about taking this with you on your next vacation. By the time you get to the beach, mountains or wherever you’re going, the casserole will be ready to pop in the oven and you can avoid the crowded restaurants. A win for everyone.
Having a crowd for the holidays, you’ll love having a macaroni and beef casserole in the freezer. The ultimate comfort food the entire family will love.
FAQs and tips
Bechamel sauce is a French white sauce made with a roux of butter and flour and milk.
Evaporated milk is a rich milk that offers a little different flavor than regular milk. In this recipe, it helps enrich the cheese sauce for the macaroni to cling to.
Allow the frozen dish to thaw and come to room temperature, then you can place it in the oven to heat through.
The short answer is no; it’s a tough cut of meat. However, long slow cooking of this cut allows the tissue to break down and gelatinize making it a tender, delicious cut of meat.
Looking for more easy dinner recipes
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Easy Brisket Macaroni and Cheese Casserole
- 2-3 lbs brisket
- 1 onion sliced
- 2 cloves garlic smashed
- 3 cups beef broth divided
- 1 cup red wine
- ½ cup tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
MAC & CHEESE
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 3 cups half and half
- 12 ounces evaporated milk
- 2 ½ cups sharp white cheddar cheese shredded
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1 cup monterey jack cheese shredded
- 1 lb macaroni cooked
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- Place onion and garlic in the bottom a slow cooker. Salt and pepper brisket and place on top, fat side up. Cover with 2 cups of beef broth. Cook on high for 6 hours. Remove and let cool slightly. Drain juice. Cut into bite size pieces.
- In a skillet, add wine, 1 cup of beef broth, tomato paste, mustard, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer for 10 minutes until it’s reduced. Add brisket and stir to combine. Place on bottom of a 9 x 13 pan or large baking dish.
- While the wine mixture is simmering, prepare Mac & Cheese. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk for about 2 minutes. Slowly add half and half and evaporated milk and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add all but ½ cup of the cheddar cheese to the milk mixture and stir until melted. Remove from heat and add thyme and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over cooked and drained pasta and stir to combine. Place on the top of the meat mixture and sprinkle with remaining cheddar cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.
- Bake at 350º until heated through and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil, Increase temperature to broil and cook for an additional 5 minutes until slightly browned.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- You can substitute your favorite mac and cheese recipe, as long as it is thick and not runny.
- You can prepare this in advance and just cover and refrigerate for 2-3 days before baking. Let it come to room temperature first.
- You can freeze this prior to cooking or bake, let it cool and freeze already cooked.
- This makes 10-12 large servings, you may need a large and small casserole dish.
- You can add cheddar cheese into the mix.