There's nothing more comforting than creamy, delicious stovetop mac and cheese, but you don't have to use the prepackaged stuff! This homemade version is SO quick and easy, it'll be your new go-to recipe!
Check out these other great recipes featuring pecans: Pumpkin Crunch Cake, Caramel Pretzel Turtles
Stovetop Mac and Cheese Recipe
When I think of my childhood lunches, I always default to creamy and delicious macaroni and cheese! Who doesn't love it? Although I totally enjoy the crispy, crust on top of baked mac and cheese, there's something to be said for the stovetop version- it's pure comfort and takes you right back to your childhood kitchen table.
So naturally, I had to make a recipe for and and the thing I love the most about it is how easy it is. I always used to grab a box of the prepackaged stuff, and I have nothing against it. But once I saw how easy it was to make homemade mac and cheese on my stove, I started making this version a lot more and you should too!
Tips for how to make creamy mac and cheese
- Melt butter and add flour to make a roux. Then add milk and whisk until smooth.
- Keep whisking frequently as it cooks and this will thicken the cheese sauce and avoid scalding the milk.
- Be careful not to make the heat too high or it will scald the milk. Yes, it takes a tiny bit longer, but it's totally worth it.
Helpful ingredient information:
- Pasta: I used elbow macaroni for this particular recipe, but this will work with any small pasta you have, just cook per package directions and don't forget to salt the water!
- Cream sauce: The cream sauce starts with a roux of flour and butter which then gets a mixture of milk, salt, pepper, ground mustard, nutmeg and garlic powder added into it. I prefer to use whole milk for the best consistency.
- Cheese: To keep it simple, I went with shredded mozzarella and shredded sharp cheddar cheese, but any shredded cheese that melts well will work for this, so get creative! Also, full fat cheeses melt better.
Can I use pre-shredded cheese to make mac and cheese?
Yes- shredding the cheese yourself helps it melt smoother, but I've made this several times with pre-shredded cheese and it worked out great every time.
How do I tell if the cream sauce is thick enough to add the shredded cheese?
It will coat the back of a spoon.
Can homemade mac and cheese be frozen?
Technically, it can be frozen, but I wouldn't recommend it. I find the pasta tends to get mushy and it's just better made and served right away.
Can I make this gluten free?
Yes- Just use your favorite gluten free small pasta, cooked per package directions and substitute with the same amount of King Arthur Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour (I'm told this behaves the most like regular flour, so I can't speak for other brands).
What can I add to mac and cheese to make it better?
Oh my goodness- just about anything. For homemade macaroni and cheese on the stovetop, I'd recommend veggies that have first been blanched like broccoli florets, diced bell pepper, peas etc. Canned diced green chiles are always a great addition, and of course bacon or even lobster! Have fun with it!
Leftovers and reheating:
Although this is best served right away, this will last up to 3 days covered in the refrigerator. The best way to reheat is by adding it to a small sauté pan over medium heat and cook stirring often with a little milk to help loosen it up and make it creamy again.
Ingredients that can be prepped ahead:
- Shred cheese
- Par-boil pasta (and then finish just before adding to cheese sauce)
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Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- 1 ½ cups elbow pasta, cooked per package directions and drained
- 2 Tablespoons salted butter
- 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground mustard powder
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
- Add flour and whisk until no lumps remain. Cook for 2 minutes stirring often.
- Whisk in milk, salt, pepper, ground mustard, garlic powder and nutmeg.
- Cook for 5-7 minutes stirring the entire time until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Reduce heat to low and add both cheeses. Whisk until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth.
- Mix well with pasta and cook for another minute or two. Serve immediately.