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Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese is a family favorite, easily customized with different cheeses and ready in 30 minutes.
Table of Contents
Why I Love This Recipe
- Old Fashioned Comfort Food – Creamy cheese sauce over tender pasta is as simple combination and about as good as it gets.
- Thick, Creamy Sauce – The sauce is ultra creamy and just thick enough to coat the noodles perfectly.
- Three Kinds of Cheese – You’ve got sharp cheddar for tang, cream cheese for creaminess, and Parmesan for a slight nuttiness.
How To Make Mac & Cheese from Scratch
Making macaroni and cheese from scratch is much easier than most people think. It involves first making a roux, then a bechamel, and finally a cheese sauce.
The Roux. Melt butter and whisk in flour, cooking for a couple of minutes until it’s light golden in color.
The Bechamel. Once you’ve cooked the roux, add milk to make a bechamel. The flour will thicken the milk, which is the base for the sauce.
The Cheese. Remove the pan from the heat, then slowly whisk in shredded cheese in small batches, fully incorporating each addition before adding the next.
The Pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain, then add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to cook. Serve immediately.
What Cheese is Best for Mac and Cheese?
Cheddar and parmesan are my favorite combination for cheese sauce. I also almost always add cream cheese. It helps to make the sauce extra creamy, and keeps it from breaking.
Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. Reheat gently in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add a splash of milk if needed.
Can You Freeze Mac and Cheese?
Yes, Mac and Cheese actually freezes quite well. Allow the pasta to cool completely, then portion into freezer bags or containers, getting out as much air as possible. Freeze for up to 6 months.
Thaw in the fridge before reheating. Heat on the stovetop in a saucepan over medium-low heat. You can reheat in the microwave but make sure to use 50% power and add a splash of milk to help keep the sauce from breaking.
- Grate cheese off the block. Pre-shredded cheese won’t melt properly into the sauce.
- Once grated, let the cheese sit out while you cook the pasta
- Grate your cheese before you start and let it sit out while you cook the pasta. Cold cheese will almost always separate the sauce, resulting in a gritty texture. Room temperature cheese melts quicker and easier.
- Move the pan off the heat when adding the cheese. This will keep it from separating.
- For extra creaminess, add two tablespoons of cream cheese to the white sauce and stir until it’s melted before adding the cheddar. This will keep your sauce from breaking.
- Try adding proteins like shredded chicken or ground beef or veggies like broccoli or spinach for different variations.
More Mac and Cheese Recipes to Try
- Crab Mac and Cheese
- Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
- Spaghetti Mac and Cheese
- Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese
- One Pot Mac and Cheese
Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 pound small pasta like shells or elbow macaroni
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3 cups nonfat milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 3 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Boil 4-6 quarts of water in a large pot. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt and pour in uncooked pasta. Cook until al dente, according to package directions.
- Drain pasta into a large colander and set aside.
- Add butter to the pot over medium-low heat and melt. Stir in flour and cook for several minutes, stirring often, until golden brown.
- Meanwhile, pour milk and cream into a microwave safe glass bowl and heat for 2 minutes. (Alternatively, heat milk in a small saucepan on the stove until hot, not boiling). Pour milk/cream mixture into the flour mixture and stir often, bringing to a simmer while it thickens. You will know it's done when the sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon.
- Stir in cream cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper and dry mustard. Whisk until the cream cheese is melted.
- Remove from heat and add cheddar cheeses, stirring constantly until completely melted.
- Stir pasta into the cheese sauce. Divide into bowls and serve hot.