This easy cheesy stovetop mac and cheese is a one pot wonder of elbow pasta and a simple two cheese sauce. The whole family will be excited when you serve up a bowl of this creamy mac and cheese.
It's not just a childhood favorite, mac and cheese, it's an adult favorite too! You won't be able to stop making this quick stovetop version and your family won't stop asking you to.
All you need is 30 minutes and a few simple ingredients.
A lot of recipes call for evaporated milk in their stovetop mac and cheese recipes but my recipe is just milk and water. The water is added because it's a one pot recipe and you cook the noodles right in the liquid. So it's a water and milk combo.
If you want it to be extremely rich, you could use heavy cream.
If you're thinking you need something as a main dinner instead of a side dish, try my broccoli chicken cheese pasta. It's a creamy mac and cheese recipe with shredded chicken and broccoli florets and is more of a main dish recipe.
Browse the list of ingredients you'll need but make sure to reference the recipe card for the full list and the amounts needed.
- Butter: The butter works to help create the roux for the base of the mac and cheese, which acts as a thickener.
- Flour: Just a bit of flour to mix with the butter for the roux.
- Milk: Milk makes up the liquid for the mac and cheese. If you want a super rich and decadent mac and cheese you could use half and half or even cream.
- Water: You need some water because the pasta will cook within the sauce, instead of boiling it separately.
- Elbow Pasta: Elbow pasta gives the mac and cheese a very traditional look, but feel free to use any pasta shape you have on hand.
- Cayenne Powder, Ground Mustard, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder: All of these seasonings and spices add to the overall flavor of the mac and cheese.
- Monterey Jack Cheese: Monterey jack melts really nice and gives the mac and cheese a gooey texture, it has a mild flavor.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese: Sharp cheddar provides most of the flavor.
- Kosher Salt: Kosher salt enhances the flavor of food, whereas table salt makes things taste salty. I always suggest using kosher salt in mac and cheese.
How To Make Mac and Cheese
Roux. Melt the butter in a pot over medium/low heat. Add the flour and stir for 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking it in until smooth.
Seasonings. Stir in the water, cayenne, ground mustard, onion powder and garlic powder.
Cooking the Pasta. Add the dry pasta. Turn the heat up to medium. As steam starts to form, before it starts bubbling, turn the heat back down to medium/low.
Cook an additional 8 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
Cheese. Turn the heat off and stir in the grated cheeses and salt. Keep stirring until the cheese is completely melted and smooth.
Pasta Shape: Pay attention to the type of pasta shape you choose and how long you let it simmer in the liquid. For example, the recipe calls for elbow pasta (cooks fairly quick), so if you change it to bow ties (takes longer to cook) you will need to up your simmer time.
Basically, just be smart. If the noodles are still hard, simmer it longer.
Cheese: Always use a block of cheese and grate it yourself. Stay away from pre-shredded cheese that comes in a plastic zippered bag, they usually have some sort of coating on them and they don't melt as smooth or have as good of a taste.
Also in the category of cheese - stay clear of using mozzarella. In many tests, mozarella always made the mac and cheese way to gooey and stringy. You're looking for a smooth and creamy mac and cheese, not stringy.
Sharp cheddar and monterey jack really do give the best results paired together.
Looking to amp up your basic mac and cheese? Here's some suggestions to take it to the next level!
- Bacon: Bacon would be a great addition. Cook it up separate, chop it and add it to the mac and cheese at the very end.
- Onion: Caramelized onions would be delicious. Add some sliced onions to the butter at the very beginning. Once the onions have reached the color you want, add in the flour and continue on making the roux.
- Bread Crumbs: Toast some buttered bread crumbs and add them on top of the mac and cheese before serving.
- 4 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 c milk
- 2 c water
- ⅛ tsp cayenne powder
- ½ tsp ground mustard powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 8 oz dry elbow pasta
- 2 oz monterey jack cheese, grated
- 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- Melt the butter in a pot over medium/low heat. Add the flour and stir for 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking it in. Stir in the water, cayenne, ground mustard, onion powder, garlic powder and dry pasta.
- Turn the heat up to medium. As steam starts to form, before it starts bubbling, turn the heat back down to medium/low. Cook an additional 8 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- Turn the heat off and stir in the grated cheeses and salt. Keep stirring until the cheese is completely melted and smooth.
Pasta: You can use any pasta shape! Some shapes take less or more time to cook, so just adjust according.
Cheese: I've found these two cheese work the best together for flavor and texture, but if you don't have them you can substitute them out. Mozzarella doesn't work well because it's very gooey and stringy, that's the only cheese I'd suggest not using.
Re-Heating: Put the mac and cheese back on the stove in a pot with some extra milk and a bit more grated cheese, heat through.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 247Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 40mgSodium: 330mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 10g
This information comes from online calculators. Although moderncrumb.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.