Stovetop Mac and Cheese is the ultimate quick comfort meal! The tender pasta coated in a flavorful, smooth, creamy, cheesy sauce is basically a big ole hug in a bowl. All it takes is six ingredients and 15 minutes!
You’ll never let a box of mac & cheese enter your home again after trying this homemade Stovetop Mac and Cheese made with REAL 100% cheese! For more recipes made with cheese, try Homemade Cheese Sauce for Broccoli and Spinach Artichoke Dip.
Stovetop Mac and Cheese
Fresh homemade Mac & Cheese takes just a few more minutes than a box of Kraft but tastes like 682 times better. It’s so worth it! Just look at the thick creamy sauce! It’s the perfect cool weather comfort meal the whole family will love!
Ingredients for Mac and Cheese:
- Elbow Macaroni– This is the classic shape for mac & cheese but any short noodle will work. Shells or spirals are great because they can catch more of the sauce.
- Butter– Salted or unsalted works just fine. This is used to help make the roux to thicken the sauce.
- Flour– This is used to make the roux that thickens the sauce.
- Milk– The higher the milk fat, the creamier and thicker your sauce will be. I prefer to use whole milk or a combination of cream and 1% if I don’t have whole milk on hand.
- Salt– Adjust to your liking. Don’t forget to also add it to your pasta water!
- Ground Mustard Powder– This is acidic which helps cut through the fattiness of the sauce and round out the flavors.
- Cheese– For the smoothest sauce, freshly grate the cheese. You can really use any kind of semi-hard cheese. I really like the combination of Colby Jack and Muenster. This combination has more of a mild taste which my kids prefer. Be sure to use good quality and good tasting cheese!
How to make Mac and Cheese:
Time needed: 15 minutes.
- Boil Pasta
Cook pasta in salted water according to directions on package. Drain and set aside.
- Make a Roux
While pasta boils, heat butter in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add flour once it begins to bubble. Cook and whisk for 1 minute.
- Turn it into a Béchamel
Whisk in the milk a little at a time, whisking until smooth before adding more. Stir in the salt and mustard. Continue to cook and stir until thickened (5-7 minutes) and coats the back of a spoon.
- Turn it into a Mornay
Remove pan from heat and whisk in the grated cheese a little at a time until melted and smooth.
- Add Pasta
Add cooked and drained pasta to the cheese sauce and stir until evenly coated.
Any semi-hard cheese will melt well for making Mac and Cheese. Cheddar is the most popular but some other great options are Colby Jack, Muenster, Gouda, Gruyère, Fontina, and Havarti. If using all cheddar, I recommend using medium or mild.
Not stirring or letting it boil- Do not leave the pot while thickening the sauce! No need to go crazy with stirring, but a gentle continuous scraping of the bottom of the pan is needed to keep the sauce an even temperature and prevent boiling.
Over cooking- REMOVE the pot from the element once the béchamel can coat the back of a spoon. Add a handful of cheese to the pot and stir until melted before adding another handful of cheese. The sauce will be plenty hot to melt the cheese. Be patient and just keep stirring it together.
Any milk will work! Using skim or 1% will result in a thinner sauce. If you have half-and-half cream or heavy whipping cream you can mix 1/3 to 1/2 of it with your low fat milk to get whole milk.
Salting the water is necessary for seasoning the pasta. The pasta will absorb the salt in the water as it boils. This is necessary for a good flavorful dish even if you add a sauce to the pasta.
Serve broccoli or peas on the side or mixed in. Mac and Cheese is meant to be comforting and delicious. I don’t recommend using low-fat products. You’ll have the best results and greatest enjoyment by following the recipe ingredients.
TOOLS USED TO MAKE THIS PASTA:
- Pot & Skillet Set– These are the skillets and pots I use. They have a heavy bottom making them sturdy and cook the food evenly. I use these multiple times a day.
- Liquid Measuring Cup– This baby gets used almost everyday. I love having a glass one because it’s doesn’t get stained, scratched, and it can go in the microwave. This is a must for every kitchen.
- Cheese Grater– Freshly grated cheese is so much better and this grater is the best! I love that it has two sides, folds up, and stands sturdy when grating.
LOOKING FOR MORE CREAMY PASTA RECIPES? CHECK OUT THESE:
- Macaroni Grill’s Chicken Pasta Milano
- Creamy Cajun Sausage Pasta
- Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta
- Creamy Lemon Asparagus Pasta
- Creamy Tomato Chicken Florentine Pasta
Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- 8 ounces pasta
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 3/4 cups whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard powder
- 2 cups freshly grated colby jack & muenster cheese, (~8 ounces)
- Cook pasta in salted water according to directions on package. Drain and set aside. (While waiting for water to come to a boil for the pasta, begin the sauce.)
- Heat butter in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add flour once it begins to bubble. Cook and whisk for 1 minute.
- Whisk in the milk a little at a time, whisking until smooth before adding more. Stir in the salt and mustard.
- Continue to cook and stir until thickened (5-7 minutes) and coats the back of a spoon.
- Remove pan from heat and whisk in the grated cheese a little at a time until melted and smooth.
- Add cooked and drained pasta to the cheese sauce and stir until evenly coated.