Mac and Cheese

Published October 24, 2018. Updated April 15, 2020

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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.

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Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
4.91 from 42 votes

Mac and Cheese

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
Prep10 minutes
Cook15 minutes
Ready in: 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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • While whisking slowly pour in milk, add in mustard and garlic powder. Increase heat slightly, then bring mixture to a gentle simmer whisking constantly.
  • Reduce heat to low add in cream cheese and whisk until melted.
  • 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.
  • Season sauce with salt to taste.
  • Toss pasta with cheese sauce, thin with pasta water a splash at a time as needed. Serve immediately.

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.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.

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121 Comments

  • Cynthia Callaghan

    I tried this to the letter and don’t know what I did wrong but it came out gritty. What did I do wrong?

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Sorry to hear that! Next time you can try using pre-warmed milk and that will ensure the roux isn’t lumpy. Then For the cheese you can let the milk mixture cool a little before you add it off heat. Hope that helps!

  • Lauren

    Can this recipe be made ahead of time? I’m wanting to bake the night before in preparation for our Friendsgiving dinner this year! I’m just a little concern if it will be dried out when reheating it. The recipe sounds delicious!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      The sauce does start to absorb into the pasta as it sits, it’s still good the next day if you have leftovers but for best results I recommend preparing and baking shortly before serving.

  • Ben

    Made this recipe many times. First time followed the recipe exactly and it turned out great. After that, I’ve just substituted muenster for the mozzarella, and in my family’s opinion it makes the recipe even better.

  • Tammy

    I added double the amt of dry mustard and garlic powder plus onion powder..very good. Add some ham and green peas and you have another meal

  • Chase

    Do you have any tips for making the roux? Mine seemed to become grainy with flower? I loved the taste of the cheese blend, but I can definitely feel the grainy -ness of the flour in the cheese sauce. Overall great recipe tho!

  • Elizabeth

    I feel like the cream cheese throws off the flavor. Even if the cream cheese were omitted I believe this recipe still wouldn’t taste good. It’s too bland and I added a lot of salt and pepper. I won’t be making this recipe again.