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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105 Comments

  • Andrea

    My entire family loved this Mac and Cheese! The sauce was creamy and delicious. I will say I did not have dried mustard, so I just added a bit of yellow mustard, and I didn’t have mozzarella, so I added about 1/4 cup Parmesan instead. I really think it was the cream cheese that made it special.

  • Lisa

    If I could give this less than one star, I would.
    I hate recipes like this, that sound so promising and only end up wasting time, money and food. This was quite possibly the worst macaroni and cheese I’ve ever made or tasted. It was gloppy, pasty and absolutely flavorless. The ratios of flour, butter, milk and cream cheese are wrong, resulting in a floury congealed mess. Sorry, but I cook a LOT and followed this recipe down to weighing the ingredients. Awful, but thanks for trying.

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Sorry to hear that but something had to have gone wrong, as you can see in both the photos and video you should end with a nice smooth velvety sauce not a “floury congealed mess”. And of course for bold flavor you can use extra sharp cheddar and even swap mozzarella for more cheddar – that’s a easy fix to suite your taste.

  • Ashley

    We tried this tonight, I think the cream cheese was a little distracting in the taste. It wasn’t my favorite, unfortunately.

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Sorry to hear that! Next time you could omit then try some cream in place of some of the milk to add that richness and use some extra cheddar.

  • Nancy

    I’m having a party …Do you think I could make and keep warm in a crock pot? Thanks

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      If it’s under and hour that should be fine (you may need to add a little extra liquid just keep an eye on it), after that I think the sauce may start to separate.

    • Carol

      This was great! I made a few slight substitutions (omitted mustard powder and used canned milk) Where have you been? After 40+ years of cooking mac n’ cheese, this is the best and quickest recipe I’ve found! Thanks!

  • Amanda Burton

    This is a extremely good side. I didn’t know if it would be good since you add cream cheese, but I was pleasantly surprised. I LOVED it!! Will be making this again. Thanks for posting it. ???️

  • Amanda Cook

    I made this and the directions made it super easy. It was nice and creamy and well balanced. I made it with Halloween pasta to be festive and also baked it with a sharp cheddar crust. DELICIOUS!
    Wish i could share a photo!

  • Zack

    So I just have a quick question:

    I am planning on making this as the main mail for a group of friends.
    Was wonder if I just need to double the noodle count and the rest would be fine or not.

    Please let me know. (This Looks Amazing)

      • Zack

        hmm I see. For a group of 4-5 do you think I should double the noodle and sauce or will it be fine?