Pasta cooked to perfection then coated in a creamy rich sauce makes this Stovetop Mac and Cheese a winner in our book! Full of cheesy goodness, packed with flavor and loaded possibilities it can be served as a side or main dish.
With little cleanup, this one pot dish is fast and easy. Taking less than 20 minutes to prepare, what’s not to love about this comfort food?
Having three kids, we definitely eat our fair share of Macaroni and Cheese over here. You could easily say it is one of my go-to dishes when the kids are screaming at me that they are hungry and I need food on the table quick.
Always a hit with the kids and pickiest of eaters, this pasta will quickly become a favorite in your recipe arsenal.
This Stovetop Mac and Cheese is the perfect dish for adding to your next summer BBQ, holiday get together or family weeknight dinner.
My kids LOVE Auntie Anne's white shells and cheese. Like, we use to eat it at least once a week. So I decided it was probably time to go ahead and try making a homemade version. After some trial and error we had a winner.
This recipe is literally the best! So fast to prepare. No baking, no roux, no extra ingredients or steps. It takes the same amount of time as preparing a boxed mac and cheese but is hundreds times better!
Plus, I love that it is all simple ingredients with no added junk or preservatives. With just six ingredients it doesn't get much easier to whip up a delicious meal for busy weeknights.
- Pasta - We love using a shell or traditional elbow style pasta. Penne also works well. In an effort to sneak in some added fiber I've also used whole wheat pasta before.
- Cheeses - We like to use white cheddar and colby jack cheese. Both are pretty mild in flavor which is what my kids like, but you can choose your cheeses accordingly for a more "adult" flavor.
- Salted Butter
- Heavy Cream
Although it is probably an unpopular opinion, when it comes to a stovetop Mac and Cheese, I’ll be the first to tell you, it is okay to not use a roux!
I know, I know. Some of you are over there yelling blasphemy. But when you need dinner on the table quick sometimes you have to do what you got to do.
And I’ll be honest, sometimes making roux intimidates me. So if you are like me, skip the roux this time and keep it nice and simple. I promise it will still be just as creamy and delicious!
Cook and Drain Pasta
Following the box instructions cook your pasta. Drain pasta while still al dente. Your pasta will continue to cook while preparing the cheese sauce so in order to avoid having over done pasta drain off the water while still a little undercooked or al dente.
While the pasta is cooking go ahead and grate your cheeses so they are ready to be added to the sauce for your stovetop mac and cheese.
Keep in mind, pre-shredded cheese has an added coating to it to keep it from sticking together in the bag or when frozen. Unfortunately, this additive also keeps the cheese from melting as it should.
So, when you can - you definitely want to take the time to grab a block of fresh cheese and shred it yourself. Trust me, it’s worth the extra effort!
And with a cheese grater like this 3 in 1 Box Style Grater it will be done in no time!
Make Cheese Sauce
After adding the drained pasta back to the pot, add the butter and cream. Mix till all pasta is coated. Next add the salt and freshly shredded cheeses to the pasta mixture.
Stir gently and once cheese is partially melted add the milk. Continue to stir until sauce is creamy and mixed throughout the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat and allow pasta to sit for a thicker consistency.
Lastly, grab a spoon or fork and enjoy! It’s hard to beat the creamy perfection of a homemade mac and cheese.
👩🏻🍳 Make it Your Own
Wether you want to serve this stovetop mac and cheese as a side or main dish, it is so easy to make this recipe your own! You can easily up the ante on this meal by adding in your favorite proteins.
Or try sneaking in extra veggies for those picky eaters. Amp up the decadence and get fancy with the cheeses and pasta your choose to use.
Here are a few of our favorite ways to quickly and easily change up this yummy dish.
- Add veggies like peas, broccoli, peppers or a can of Rotel tomatoes.
- Stir in crumbled bacon, savory sausage, or cubed ham.
- Swap the milk for heavy cream to get an extra rich dish.
- Toss in a little cream cheese for added creaminess.
- Try using different kinds of cheeses for a variety of flavors.
- Change up the pasta shape or type.
- Spice up your dish by adding a dash or two of garlic powder, paprika, nutmeg or ground or fresh mustard.
- Top your finished dish off with breadcrumbs or fresh Parmesan.
Stovetop Mac and Cheese makes for delicious leftovers. Store any leftover pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days. You can also freeze leftovers if wanted.
When ready to serve leftover stovetop mac and cheese don't fret! If frozen pull it out of the freezer the night before and allow it to thaw overnight. If already in the fridge, place leftovers in a pot on the stove over low heat.
Add a little milk or cream to the pot and stir gently to incorporate. The added liquid will help prevent the noodles from drying out and ensure each bite is as creamy and delicious as it was the first time!
What are the best kinds of cheese for mac and cheese?
There are so many different varieties of cheeses. Each has it's own flavor and creaminess it brings to the table. But when it comes to a classic homemade stovetop mac and cheese you really never can go wrong with a sharp cheddar.
I also like to try and use at least one other type of cheese so I can get nice balance of both flavor, creaminess and cheesiness. I usually go with Colby Jack for my second option.
Can you freeze mac and cheese?
Of course you can freeze leftover stovetop mac and cheese. In fact, I sometimes double the recipe just so I can freeze any leftover pasta for an easy meal on a night when I need a break!
Be sure to let your pasta cool as much as possible before placing in a freezer safe container. Then portion your pasta accordingly so it will be easier to pull out what you need later. Pop in the freezer and you are good to save it for 3 or 4 months.
- 1½ cups uncooked pasta
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup colby jack cheese
- ¾ cup white cheddar cheese
- ⅓ cup milk
- Prepare noodles as directed on the box. Cook till just al dente. Strain pasta and return to the pot.
- Add butter and cream to the pasta. Stir till butter is melted and mixture has coated the pasta.
- Add freshly grated cheeses and salt to pasta. Stir until cheese begins to melt.
- Add milk to and stir till everything is combined and all cheese is melted.
- Remove pasta from heat and allow to sit for a thicker consistency before serving.
- Pasta will continue to cook while preparing the sauce. So be sure it catch it and strain when pasta hits just al dente to prevent from getting too overcooked.
- Freshly grated cheese is key here! Do yourself the favor and use freshly grated cheese for better meltiness and flavor.
- For a thinner sauce add up to ½ a cup of milk at the end.
- For freezing and reheating instructions see sections above for more detail.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 290Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 55mgSodium: 410mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 11g