Seafood Mac and Cheese

With three cheeses, a hint of Cajun spice, and plenty of shrimp and scallops, this Seafood Mac and Cheese is comfort food at its finest! Save this one for your next dinner party, Valentine’s Day, or anytime you want to treat yourself and the ones you love.

Fancy Mac and Cheese with Shrimp and Scallops

Baked Shrimp Mac and Cheese in a glass casserole dish on top of a dark colored table.

If mac and cheese were an actor, I’d say it has range. It’s a scene stealer no matter where you find it–the $5 kids menu, the swankiest restaurant, or your family dinner table. Mac and cheese can be made with processed orange powder or loaded up with shrimp and scallops, and I’m going to love it either way.

Of course, I would never deign to compare Seafood Mac and Cheese to the boxed stuff. This is mac and cheese at its peak. It’s NSYNC in 2001, it’s The Office Season 5, it’s Simone Biles RIGHT NOW.

This is mac and cheese leveled up. But there’s no reason to spend $20 for a small dish of lobster mac at a fancy restaurant. You can make incredibly rich, creamy, luxurious Seafood Mac and Cheese at home for a fraction of the cost.

I’ll break down the whole process and give you all the tips you need to make this restaurant quality dish at home!

Ingredients in Mac and Cheese

Bowl filled with raw shrimp and scallops, surrounded by other prep bowls with ingredients for mac and cheese-milk, cream, butter, seasonings, and shredded cheeses.

This recipe is based off our Creamy Mac and Cheese, one of the most popular recipes on our site. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • Butter and Flour– These are the base of the roux, which is used to thicken the sauce.
  • Milk and Half and Half– I find this combo offers just the right amount of richness and creaminess.
  • The Three Cheese Trifecta– Monterey Jack, Cheddar, and Pecorino
  • Seasonings– A combination of cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika provide both heat and flavor.
  • Seafood– Of course, you can’t have Seafood Mac and Cheese without seafood! I used a combination of shrimp and bay scallops. The bay scallops are so delightful–I love biting into these sweet, tender morsels throughout the mac. If you really want to go all out, add crab and/or lobster to the mix as well!
  • Pasta– Any short pasta will work for this recipe. Elbows are traditional, but I really love a heartier noodle for this seafood mac. Cavatappi is my personal favorite, but orecchiette (shells) or penne can also work.

How to Make Seafood Mac and Cheese

Cook the Seafood and Pasta.

Start a pot of salted water to boil. You’ll want to cook the pasta while you’re making the sauce, so they’re done at relatively the same time.

Toss the seafood with seasonings, then heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Coat with olive oil. Add the seasoned shrimp and scallops to the pan, cooking for about 1½ minutes per side, or until shrimp is pink and opaque. Remove the seafood to a plate and set aside while you prepare the pasta.

Shrimp and bay scallops shown seasoned and cooked in a dark non stick skillet.

Make the Bechamel Sauce

All my mac and cheese recipes start with a bechamel, a sauce made by cooking butter and flour together into a thick paste, then adding milk until a creamy, thickened sauce is formed. Bechamel isn’t hard to make, but it’s not a sauce that should be made while multitasking. Give it your full attention, and you’ll be done in 10 minutes flat! To see a video of the bechamel-making process, check out my Creamy Mac and Cheese recipe.

TIP: Before making the bechamel, heat up the milk and half and half until it’s hot to the touch. This helps it incorporate into the flour mixture without clumping.

To make the bechamel, melt butter in a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until well combined. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until it’s a light brown color.

Slowly add the milk and half and half, whisking constantly. The mixture will bubble and look very thick at first, then slowly thin out as you add more liquid.

Continue to cook the mixture, whisking often, until it is slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes. It should coat the back of the spoon. If you run a finger through the mixture, the line should hold (as pictured below).

Wooden spoon dipped into a homemade roux to show the desired consistency--thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Immediately turn down the heat to low, then stir in the seasonings, taste, and adjust accordingly. Slowly add the cheeses, stirring to melt. If the sauce is too thick, add additional milk or half and half, a splash at a time, until it is thick but very creamy/pourable.

Broil and Serve

Add the pasta and seafood mixture to a deep dish pie plate or casserole dish. Stir in the sauce until it is well coated.

Creamy mac and cheese shown in a glass casserole dishwith seasoned shrimp and scallops on top.

Sprinkle additional shredded cheese on the top of , then pop the dish under the broiler until the cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling. Your Seafood Mac is ready to serve!

Up close image of freshly baked seafood mac and cheese with melty browned cheese on top.

Notes and Tips

  • Don’t skip warming the milk! This is the key to a smooth sauce without clumps.
  • Use freshly shredded cheese. Pre-shredded cheese is often coated with additives that keep it from sticking together. Unfortunately, this can also prevent it from melting smoothly. Whenever I need to shred a large amount of cheese at once, I use my food processor.
  • If your sauce is too thick, don’t panic. If you go past the “coats the back of the spoon” stage to the “super thick, gloppy sauce” stage, just slowly splash in additional warm milk until the sauce is thinned.
  • You can easily adjust the heat in this recipe to your liking. At the amounts I’ve written, the dish will have a pleasant warm heat, but it’s not very spicy. If you’d like it spicier, increase the cayenne pepper and Cajun seasoning.
Scoop of Seafood Mac and Cheese.
  • You’ll notice I have a range for the amount of pasta to use in the ingredients. We like our mac and cheese VERRRRY creamy and saucy, so we use less pasta for this amount of sauce. However, you can add up to the 3 full cups if you prefer a greater pasta to sauce ratio. I always recommend cooking the full amount the first time so you can see how much pasta you prefer.
  • I baked this in a 9.5 inch deep dish pie dish, but a 9 inch square casserole dish also works well.
  • Cooking for a crowd? Feel free to double the recipe and bake in a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish!
  • Want to add breadcrumbs? This Seafood Mac and Cheese can be baked instead of broiled if you prefer a crumb topping. Follow the instructions for the breadcrumbs and baking times on this Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese with Panko Breadcrumbs.
  • Store any leftover mac and cheese in the fridge in a sealed container. Leftovers are best reheated on the stove top (you may want to add an extra splash of milk) or baked in the oven until warmed through.
Spatula taking a scoop of shrimp macaroni and cheese from a casserole dish.

What to Serve with Seafood Macaroni and Cheese

If you’re serving this for a special occasion and want the full fancy steakhouse vibe, serve seafood mac and cheese as a side dish with Steak and Scallops or a Cast Iron Ribeye.

If you’re serving Seafood Mac as the main course, pair it with a Creamy Caesar Salad, Easy Garden Salad, or Air Fryer Asparagus.

Metal spatula removing a big scoop of Seafood Mac and Cheese from a dish.

Seafood Mac and Cheese

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Super rich and creamy Seafood Mac and Cheese is loaded with shrimp and scallops and spiced with Cajun seasoning for a decadent comfort food entree.

Ingredients

For the seafood:

  • ¾ lb. bay scallops
  • ¾ lb. uncooked shrimp, de-veined and tails off
  • ¾ teaspoon salt free Cajun seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

For the sauce and pasta:

  • 2-3 cups (8-12 oz) dried cavatappi pasta
  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter
  • ⅓ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup half and half
  • ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt free Cajun seasoning*
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 ½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese, divided

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, combine the bay scallops, shrimp, and all seasonings. Toss well to combine.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil to coat. Add the seafood and cook until browned on both sides and no longer translucent, about 1.5-2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  3. Start a large pot of water to boil, adding about 1 Tablespoon of Kosher salt. When the water is boiling, cook pasta to al dente, according to package directions. Drain. If the sauce is not prepared yet, coat the pasta with olive oil so it doesn't stick together.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove top until very hot but not boiling. 
  5. In a heavy bottomed sauce pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in
    the flour and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture turns a light brown color, about 3-4 minutes. Lower the heat.
  6. Slowly start pouring in the milk, whisking constantly. The mixture will look very thick at first and will thin out as you whisk in the remainder of the milk.
  7. Increase the heat back to medium and cook the mixture, whisking continuously, another 3-5 minutes or until thickened. The sauce should coat the back of the spoon. If you put a little bit on a spoon and run your finger through it, the line from your finger should remain.
  8. Lower the heat back to low and stir in the seasonings: salt, Cajun, cayenne, and paprika. Taste and additional seasonings if desired.
  9. Add all of the Monterey Jack cheese and 1/2 cup each of the cheddar and Pecorino, stirring to melt. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a splash or two of warm milk to thin it out.
  10. Add the sauce and shrimp mixture to the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the cooked pasta. Test for creaminess. If it's too saucy, stir in the remaining pasta.
  11. Spoon the pasta into a deep dish pie plate or 9 x 9 inch square casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese. Place under the broiler for 4-5 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden. Serve.

Notes

If you can't find salt free Cajun seasoning, just reduce the amount of salt added to 1/4 teaspoon. Add additional salt to taste once you've added the Cajun seasoning.

The amount of pasta you'll want to use for this recipe is totally dependent on how creamy (or saucy) you like your macaroni and cheese to be. If you like it to be very saucy, make 8 ounces of pasta. If you prefer it less saucy, make 12 ounces. I always recommend making the full amount the first time until you know which way you prefer it.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 655

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5 Comments

    1. Absolutely! You can use either real or fake crab meat. I actually have a fondness for imitation crab meat, though it certainly doesn’t taste like the real thing. It’s really up to your personal preference!

    1. Yes! You can mix it up the night before, then reheat in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or so. I would keep it covered for the first 20 and uncover for the last 10 minutes.

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