This Crab Mac and Cheese recipe is a creamy baked macaroni made with ricotta, cheddar cheese and crab meat. Enhance the flavor of baked macaroni with lump crab meat.
Make some hearty baked macaroni with ricotta cheese and lump crab meat
Growing up my Italian grandmother always made us baked macaroni with ricotta cheese in it. I think it is her way of making it more Italian like a lasagna. Either way, the result is a super creamy, rich and delicious macaroni and cheese.
Her classic recipe inspired this crab mac and cheese. It has all of the elements of a classic baked macaroni and cheese with some extra spices and, of course, the lump crab meat.
Stir lump crab meat in with the cheese sauce. Then, sprinkle lots of shredded cheese over the top and bake in the oven until bubbling. It tastes like a classic comforting macaroni and cheese, but made fancy with a bit of crab meat.
Grab these simple kitchen items to make a decadent crab macaroni and cheese.
- Large pot for cooking elbow noodles and making cheese sauce
- Casserole dish for baking mac and cheese
- Measuring cups and measuring spoons for measuring ingredients
- Whisk and spatula for making the roux and mixing the cheese sauce
This crabmeat mac and cheese is the perfect addition to any holiday meal. It has the same vibe as a lobster mac and cheese, but at a way better price point.
If you have friends and family around your home for the holidays, add this comforting seafood mac and cheese to a simple menu to serve a crowd. I like to serve this with crispy oven baked panko chicken and a lemon kale caesar salad. Serve it with something like crockpot beef stew for the ultimate comfort food meal.
Not a fan of crab meat? Try this old fashioned baked macaroni and cheese for a classic recipe.
- Dried elbow pasta or any other small noodle shape like small shells
- Lump crab meat – I like Phillip’s brand, but any canned jumbo lump crab from the grocery store will work
- Sharp cheddar – for this recipe I like to use extra sharp white cheddar cheese. I like to shred the cheese myself, but you can also use pre-shredded cheese
- Unsalted butter, flour and half and half to make the roux. You can use heavy cream in place of the milk for an even creamier sauce.
- Ricotta cheese to make the mac and cheese extra creamy
- Smoked paprika, salt, and pepper for seasoning
What is the best cheese for macaroni and cheese?
This is certainly up for debate, but in my opinion sharp cheddar is the best cheese for macaroni and cheese. When it melts it stretches and pulls and coats the noodles beautifully.
I used Trader Joe’s shredded unexpected cheddar for this crab mac and cheese because it has an extra sharp and bold flavor. When you mix that bold flavor of the cheddar with the spices and some crab meat, the result is incredible.
Like I said, you can basically use any kind of noodle for the crabmeat mac and cheese recipe. I prefer to use something that will absorb all of that delicious sauce like a macaroni elbow, mini shell or cavatapi noodle.
You can replace the seasonings listed here with a couple of teaspoons of old bay seasoning to really give the dish that cooked crab flavor.
In place of the shredded white cheddar cheese you can use something like a monterey jack cheese for extra spice. I also like using a blend of shredded gruyere cheese and sharp cheddar.
If you don’t have ricotta cheese, blend some cottage cheese in a food processor or blender and use that instead.
Feel free to add panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese on top of the baking dish just before you place it in the oven. This will add a crispy crust to the dish.
How do you make crab mac and cheese from scratch?
Step 1: Cook elbow noodles and make a roux
To begin, preheat oven to 350F and grease a large 9×13 casserole dish. Then, cook elbows in salted water until just cooked and slightly al dente, drain, rinse and set to the side.
Next, prepare the roux. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat, once the butter has melted reduce the heat to medium low, slowly whisk in the flour, this will make a paste.
Then, slowly pour in the half and half and whisk constantly until all of the milk is mixed in.
Step 2: Prepare the cheese sauce and mix in the pasta
Mix in the ricotta, smoked paprika and black pepper until fully combined. Then, pour in 3 cups of the shredded cheddar cheese.
Turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the stove and mix constantly until all of the cheddar is melted. Then, remove from heat.
Add the cooked pasta noodles and lump crab meat to the pot with the cheese sauce and mix immediately. Make sure each noodle is coated in the cheese sauce.
Step 3: Bake the noodles, lump crab meat and cheese sauce
Then, pour the mixture into the casserole dish and top with the remaining cup of shredded cheddar cheese.
Bake uncovered at 350F for 20 minutes. Then, increase the heat to broil for just a few minutes to brown the cheese on top. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn!
Allow to cool slightly and then serve.
Can I make this crab macaroni ahead of time?
Yes! You can prepare this crab mac and cheese ahead of time. Follow the instructions up until its time to bake the mac and cheese.
Then, cover the casserole tightly with tinfoil. Place in the fridge for up to 24 hours and bake according to instructions when you are ready to enjoy.
Can I freeze this crab mac and cheese?
Yes! Like I said before, just follow the instructions up until its time to bake the mac and cheese. Then, cover the mac and cheese in its casserole dish with a few layers of foil so that it is tightly wrapped.
Freeze the casserole like that. Then, when you want to cook it, allow it to defrost in the fridge and bake according to instructions.
Check out these other side dish recipes
- Veggie Couscous Salad
- One Pot White Cheddar Mac
- Easy Creamy Mashed Potatoes
- Old Fashioned Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Looking for another dish to use up some of that delicious lump crab meat? Make a Maryland Crab Cake!
You can find the full recipe below. If you make this recipe, please rate and review it in the comments, or share it with me on Instagram!
- 1 lb dried elbow pasta
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 cup half and half or whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 cups lump crab meat
- 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar
- Preheat oven to 350F and grease a large 9×13 casserole dish
- Cook elbows in salted water until just cooked and slightly al dente, drain, rinse and set to the side
- In a large pot heat butter over medium heat, once the butter has melted reduce the heat to medium low, slowly whisk in the flour, this will make a paste, then slowly pour in the half and half and whisk constantly until all of the milk is mixed in
- Mix in the ricotta, smoked paprika and black pepper until fully combined then pour in 3 cups of the shredded cheddar cheese, turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the stove and mix constantly until all of the cheddar is melted
- Add the cooked noodles and lump crab meat to the pot with the cheese sauce and mix immediately – make sure each noodle is coated in the cheese sauce
- Pour the mixture into the casserole dish and top with the remaining cup of shredded cheddar cheese
- Bake uncovered at 350F for 20 minutes then increase the heat to broil for just a few minutes to brown the cheese on top – keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn!
- Allow to cool slightly and then serve