Mac and Cheese

October 24, 2018

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Mac and Cheese made from scratch is a million times better than a box. This macaroni and cheese is perfectly rich and creamy and it’s sure to be loved by people of all ages!

stovetop Mac and Cheese in bowl with fork

Easy Mac and Cheese Recipe

Mac and cheese is just one of those staple recipes we all grew up eating. This version skips a powder and instead uses real shredded cheddar, mozzarella, and cream cheese for a rich and satisfying flavor.

It’s total comfort food and it pairs well with just about anything. It’s easy enough for weekday dinners but good enough to serve at holiday get togethers.

This easy homemade mac and cheese is made on the stovetop and uses basic everyday ingredients. As much as I love creamy mac and cheese that’s been baked in the oven, this stovetop version is more practical for everyday cooking and is just as delicious!

Mac and Cheese Video

 

Here’s my go-to mac recipe.

homemade mac and cheese in saucepan Homemade Mac and Cheese Ingredients

As promised, this stovetop mac and cheese recipe is super simple to make. Here’s what you’ll need to make the silky smooth mac and cheese sauce and pasta:

  • Elbow macaroni
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Low-fat milk
  • Dry mustard
  • Garlic powder
  • Cream cheese
  • Sharp cheddar cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese

Stovetop Mac and Cheese ingredients elbows milk flour cream cheese cheddar mozzarella butter mustard garlic

How to Make Mac and Cheese

  • Cook pasta: bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, boil pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain pasta and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.
  • Make a roux: while pasta is cooking, in a large saucepan (4 quart) or medium pot melt butter over medium heat then add flour, cook 1 minute whisking constantly.

making roux in saucepan with butter and flour

  • Make the mac and cheese sauce: While whisking slowly pour in milk, add in mustard and garlic powder. Increase heat slightly, then bring mixture to a low boil whisking constantly.

adding milk to mixture in saucepan

  • Melt in cream cheese: Reduce heat to low add in cream cheese and whisk until melted.
  • Melt in cheddar: Remove saucepan from heat add in the shredded cheeses half at a time, and whisk to melt.

whisking together a mac and cheese sauce

  • Returning pan to warm heat as needed to melt fully.
  • Season sauce with salt to taste.

mac and cheese sauce in saucepan

  • Toss pasta with cheese sauce, thin with pasta water a splash at a time as needed. Serve immediately.

Tossing cooked pasta with mac and cheese sauce in pot.

What’s the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese?

Use a blend of cheeses for a nice combination of flavor. Here we go with cheddar, mozzarella and cream cheese.

How to Reheat Mac and Cheese

If you wind up with leftovers of this homemade mac and cheese, I recommend reheating them in a saucepan over low heat. You may need to add a splash of milk to thin out the mac and cheese sauce and prevent the pasta from drying out.

What to Serve with Mac and Cheese

I’ll admit, sometimes this simple mac and cheese recipe gets served by itself when I’m short on time. But I prefer serving it as a side to one of the following main dishes:

Macaroni and cheese in a large pot

Tips for the Best Mac and Cheese

  • Don’t use pre-shredded cheese or the sauce might end up grainy and gritty. Shred it yourself for a nice smooth sauce.
  • If you don’t have mustard powder, substitute 1 tsp prepared mustard (regular or dijon).
  • Don’t rinse the pasta. It adds starches and helps thicken up the sauce and keeps the sauce clinging to the pasta.
  • Want a crunchy topping? Try sautéing panko bread crumbs in a skillet in a little melted butter or olive oil until golden brown. Sprinkle over individual servings so it stays crisp.

More Easy Side Dish Recipes You’ll Love:

Mac and Cheese

4.89 from 35 votes

A rich and creamy mac and cheese the people of all ages will love! Includes three kinds of cheese - cheddar, mozzarella and cream cheese. Made on the stovetop for a quick and easy side dish. Makes about 9 1-cup servings.

Servings: 9
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 14 oz. dry elbow macaroni
  • Salt
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 1/3 cups low-fat milk
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard, or more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, diced into small pieces
  • 8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Reserved pasta water

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, boil pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain pasta and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.

  2. While pasta is cooking, in a large saucepan (4 quart) or medium pot melt butter over medium heat then add flour, cook 1 minute whisking constantly.

  3. While whisking slowly pour in milk, add in mustard and garlic powder. Increase heat slightly, then bring mixture to a gentle simmer whisking constantly.

  4. Reduce heat to low add in cream cheese and whisk until melted.
  5. Remove saucepan from heat add in the shredded cheeses half at a time, and whisk to melt, while returning to warm heat as needed to melt fully.

  6. Season sauce with salt to taste.

  7. Toss pasta with cheese sauce, thin with pasta water a splash at a time as needed. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

  • Don't use pre-shredded cheese or the sauce might end up grainy and gritty. Shred it yourself for a nice smooth sauce.
  • If you don't have mustard powder, substitute 1 tsp prepared mustard (regular or dijon).
  • Don't rinse the pasta. It adds starches and helps thicken up the sauce and keeps the sauce clinging to the pasta.
  • Want a crunchy topping? Try sautéing panko bread crumbs in a skillet in a little melted butter or olive oil until golden brown. Sprinkle over individual servings so it stays crisp.
Nutrition Facts
Mac and Cheese
Amount Per Serving
Calories 427 Calories from Fat 189
% Daily Value*
Fat 21g32%
Saturated Fat 13g81%
Cholesterol 67mg22%
Sodium 346mg15%
Potassium 235mg7%
Carbohydrates 39g13%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 9g18%
Vitamin A 705IU14%
Vitamin C 0.1mg0%
Calcium 342mg34%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Mac and Cheese
Author: Jaclyn

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103 Comments

  • Nora Hampton

    This mac and cheese really offer excellent taste, adding sharp cheddar gives it a unique taste and it is quite tasty. A great dish indeed, my kids also loved it very much. Thank you for this.

  • Audrey Luna

    Cooked mac and cheese from scratch with cream cheese first time with daughter n it great flavor and special time with her

  • Margaret

    YUM! This was my first time making mac and cheese the real way, and it was so indulgent and comforting. I did lots of fresh cracked pepper, and a bit more salt than it called for. I had some chili garlic hot sauce and that went with it beautifully. This is a great recipe because it’s so easy to make modifications if you want. Also, I used Banza pasta because that was what I had and I like to have some protein. Loved it, but watch it closely, because it can get mushy fast.

    This was a tiny bit mushy the next day (I kept the sauce and macaroni together) but you better believe I scarfed it down.

    I warmed the milk up first to be on the safe side and recommend doing that.

  • Stephanie

    Jaclyn, this looks delicious! My daughter-in-law has a gluten allergy. I’m planning on using gluten free macaroni, but I wondered about the flour. Do I need to use it or should I try a gluten free flour. If so, do you know what type and what quantity I should use? Thank you for your time!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      I’d probably switch to cornstarch to thicken mixing 1 tbsp cornstarch with 2 tbsp milk then stir into warm sauce and let thicken.

  • Josey

    Jaclyn
    Ok I have tried to made homemade mac and cheese and always settled for cheddar cheese soup as the base wow not anymore. This mac and cheese was so easy to make flavorful and I will never ever buy it in a box again !!! Thank u for being such an amazing cook and sharing with us all Josey

  • Monica

    Hi! I’m making this as a side for Xmas Eve dinner, about 5-6 hours ahead. Any tips on reheating? Should I keep cooked pasta & cheese sauce separate and mix right before serving? Should I add more pasta water and reheat in the oven? Please advise! What would you do if you were making this 6 hours ahead? Thank you and Merry Xmas!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      I haven’t tried reheating a full batch just smaller servings in the microwave. But what I would do is keep the sauce and pasta separate, then reheat the sauce over low heat and add reheated warm pasta. Then you may need a little more liquid to thin.

    • Alaina

      Hey Jacklyn can I add or sub Gouda cheese to this? If so what would you recommend?

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        Yes you could add gouda, you could sub for gruyere if you’d like. I’d probably go with half gouda half gruyere then leave the cheddar as is.

  • Drifter

    Good straightforward recipe. I think it calls for too much flour, the sauce is a bit too pasty and gritty. Perhaps using less milk would mean less flour would be needed?

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Sorry to hear that it sounds like the sauce maybe got too hot cause the flour to clump and separate, it shouldn’t be pasty or gritty.

  • Red

    I’m having a small get together for Christmas and was wondering if I can half this recipe? If so, would I need to change the heat or time settings?