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-Quart Sauce Pan
3-Qt Sauce Pan
8ouncesElbow Macaronior your favorite pasta shape (2 cups)
1/2tspSaltmore or less to taste
1/4tspGround black peppermore or less to taste
1/8 tspGarlic Powder
2cupsCheddar cheeseShredded [See Note 1]
1/4cupParmesan Cheesegrated [See Note 2]
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.
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.
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.
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.
Optional Variations (not included in the calculated nutritional values):
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 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.