How to Make Stove Top Mac and Cheese in 3 Easy Steps

This Homemade Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese recipe is so rich and creamy you won’t even miss the boxed kind. Plus, this scratch-made version is ready in the time it takes to boil the macaroni!

Mac and cheese is not only a comfort food classic but it’s always a family favorite. It makes a great side dish that both kids and adults enjoy.

If you have kids who like to help in the kitchen, grating the cheese is a fun task to let the kids get involved. I know my daughter always asks to grate the cheese. Another task she enjoys is measuring the spices and this gives us a teachable moment to go over fractions! What better way to get some math homework done than while making her favorite meal? It hardly seems like learning at all! 

A pinterest pinnable image for Easy Stove Top Mac and cheese recipe.

What is the best cheese for homemade macaroni and cheese?

Cheddar cheese is my go-to for the classic take on macaroni and cheese. I use mild or medium. Do not use aged, sharp, or extra sharp cheddar cheese. These varieties have less moisture due to aging and have a tendency to turn the sauce grainy in texture.

To change the flavor of this dish for variations, I add small amounts of different cheeses like Parmesan, smoked Gouda, Jalapeno Jack, or mozzarella into the sauce. For extra creaminess, I like to add two ounces of mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese). This is one dish my whole family enjoys. The secret is how easy it is to make!

For best results, use block cheese that you have grated yourself. The pre-shredded cheese contains cellulose to keep the cheese from clumping. These extra ingredients transfer into the cheese sauce giving it a grainy texture.

Freshly grated block cheese is more flavorful than the pre-shredded cheese which is dry and dusty from the addition of cellulose powder.

A bowl of homemade Mac and cheese on a woven mat and a light blue paisley cloth. In the background, there is a set of blue owl salt and pepper shakers and a hand held cheese grater on an off-white and teal blue polka dotted napkin. A wooden spoon handle sticks out of the serving bowl of mac n cheese.

What Variations Can I make with this Classic Mac and Cheese?

  • Bacon and Blue: Add 4 pieces of crumbled bacon and an ounce of blue cheese crumbles.
  • Bacon and Broccoli: Add 4 pieces of crumbled bacon plus a cup of steamed, chopped broccoli.
  • Cauliflower: Add a cup of steamed chopped cauliflower, and an ounce of brie cheese, and 1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley.
  • Butternut Squash: Add a cup of steamed, mashed, or cooked diced butternut squash, 1-ounce goat cheese, and 4 to 6 pieces of fried sage leaves that have been crumbled.
  • Spicy: Add a tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste), and a cup jalapeno jack cheese.
  • Chili Mac: Add 1/2 tsp chili powder, plus a can of Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes, diced jalapenos, or mild green chili peppers.

A lansdscape image of the ingredients for homemade Mac and Cheese Recipe. Macaroni, flour, butter, herbs, spices, milk, 3-cheese blend.

How To Make Homemade Cheese Sauce:

  1. Make the roux.
  2. Bloom the spices.
  3. Add the milk and cheese.
  4. Add Cheese Sauce into the Macaroni.
1. Make the roux.1. Make the roux.
3. Add the milk and cheese3. Add the milk and cheese
2. Bloom the spices2. Bloom the spices
4. Combine Cheese Sauce and Pasta.4. Combine Cheese Sauce and Pasta.

What Should I serve with Macaroni and Cheese?

I typically serve macaroni and cheese as a side dish to our main meal. Here are some dinner ideas where I typically serve mac and cheese as a hearty side:

How Do I reheat Mac and Cheese?

The sauce for this mac and cheese tightens up a lot especially after it’s been cooled. Reheat leftovers on the stove over low to medium heat, adding a tablespoon of milk (per serving) or a some cream (I use half and half) to reconstitute the sauce while it heats. Stir occasionally.

You can also reheat in the microwave under half power for a minute or two adding a splash of milk or cream and stirring in 30-second intervals.

An overhead landscape photo of a bowl of homemade mac and cheese. A wooden spoon sticks out of the serving bowl.

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Stove Top Mac and cheese finished shot portrait

Stove Top Mac n Cheese

Ronda Eagle | Kitchen Dreaming
This Homemade Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese recipe is so rich and creamy your family won’t even miss the boxed version. It’s easy, too! This scratch-made version is ready in the time it takes to cook the macaroni.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 8 Servings
Calories 358 kcal

Equipment

  • Cheese grater
  • 5-Quart Sauce Pan
  • 3-Qt Sauce Pan

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces Elbow Macaroni or your favorite pasta shape (2 cups)
  • 2 tbsp Butter or Margarine
  • 2 tbsp All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Salt more or less to taste
  • 1/4 tsp Ground black pepper more or less to taste
  • 1/4 tsp Ground mustard optional
  • 1/8 tsp Paprika
  • 1/8 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/8 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 cups Milk
  • 2 cups Cheddar cheese Shredded [See Note 1]
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese grated [See Note 2]
  • 2 oz Cream cheese optional

Instructions
 

  • Cook the Pasta: In a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions. If you prefer your pasta softer, cook for a little longer than the package suggests. Note that the al dente pasta will absorb the cheese sauce and soften a little more once combined. Once cooked to desired firmness, drain pasta and return to the pot. See Step 3.
  • Make the Sauce: Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; stir in flour, salt, black pepper, ground mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika forming a roux. Next, slowly add the milk and cook until bubbly, whisking constantly. When you can feel the weight of the sauce begin to thicken against the whisk, stir in the cheeses and continue to whisk until melted.
  • Combine: Add the cheese sauce into the cooked pasta and stir to combine. Stir in optional ingredients for variations on the original. [See Note 3]
    Serve immediately.
  • Storage: Store leftover mac and cheese in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Reheating Instructions:

  • The sauce for this mac and cheese tightens up a lot especially after it’s been cooled. I recommend reheating it on the stove over low heat and adding a tablespoon of milk (per serving) or a some cream (I use half and half) to reconstitute the sauce while it reheats.
    You can also reheat in the microwave under half power for a minute or two adding a splash of milk or cream and stirring in 30-second intervals.

Notes

  1. Cheddar cheese is my go-to for the classic take on macaroni and cheese. Use regular (sometimes called mild), medium, or sharp cheddar cheeses only. Do not use  aged or extra sharp cheddar cheese. These varieties have less moisture due to the aging and do have a tendency to separate and turn the sauce grainy.
  2. For best results, use block cheese that you have grated yourself. The bagged cheese contains cellulose to keep the cheese from clumping. These extra ingredients often produce a grainy cheese sauce. I also find freshly grated block cheese to be more flavorful than the pre-packaged grated cheese which can be dry and dusty from the addition of cellulose. 
  3. Optional Variations (not included in the calculated nutritional values):
    1. Bacon and Blue: Add 4 pieces of crumbled bacon and an ounce of blue cheese crumbles.
    2. Bacon and Broccoli: Add 4 pieces of crumbled bacon plus a cup of steamed, chopped broccoli.
    3. Cauliflower: Add a cup of steamed chopped cauliflower, and ounce of brie cheese, and 1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley.
    4. Butternut Squash: Add a cup of steamed, mashed, or cooked diced butternut squash, 1 ounce goat cheese, and 4 to 6 pieces of  fried sage leaves that have been crumbled.
    5. Spicy: Add a tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste), and a cup jalapeno jack cheese.
    6. Chili Mac: Add 1/2 tsp chili powder, plus a can of Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes, diced jalapenos or mild green chili peppers.

Nutrition

Calories: 358kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 15gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 61mgSodium: 472mgPotassium: 181mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 680IUCalcium: 324mgIron: 0.8mg
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4 thoughts on “How to Make Stove Top Mac and Cheese in 3 Easy Steps”

  1. I really wish my kids liked homemade mac n cheese. Unfortunately my husband has tainted their taste buds with the Blue Box stuff. Yours looks so creamy and delicious!

    Reply

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