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Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese is a family favorite, easily customized with different cheeses and ready in 30 minutes.

Try some of my other mac and cheese recipes like Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese or Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese.

Macaroni and cheese in a large por with a woden spoon.
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Why I Love This Recipe

I love to put a spin on a good homemade mac and cheese recipe, like Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese or Taco Mac and Cheese, but classics like this easy stovetop version never go out of style.

  • 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.

Ingredients + Variations

  • Pasta – I like elbow macaroni or small shells the best. Penne, rotini, cavatappi or rigatoni will all work.
  • Butter and Flour – For the roux.
  • Milk and Cream – For the bechamel (white sauce). It can be used as a sauce for vegetables or the base for a gravy or cheese sauce.
  • Cheese – I use a combination of cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, and cream cheese. You can also use Gouda, Gruyere, Fontina, or Monterey Jack.
  • Dry Mustard Powder – Adds a tangy flavor that you can’t distinctly taste in the finished dish.

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.

A roux made with flour and butter in a large pot, with a whisk.

The Roux. Melt butter and whisk in flour, cooking for a couple of minutes until it’s light golden in color.

Milk being poured into a pot with a roux.

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.

Shredded orange and white cheese in a large pot, sitting on top of a bechamel 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.

Cooked macaroni and a cheese sauce being stirred together in a large pot and with a wooden spoon.

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.

The key to a good mac and cheese is getting the ratios right. Equal amounts of butter and flour, then equal parts milk and shredded cheese (2 cups of each).

Once you have the basic recipe down, you can play around with the ratios and perfect your favorite batch.

Macaroni and cheese in a large pot.

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.

Storage

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.

Pro Tips

  • 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.
Bowl of mac and cheese with a black fork.

More Mac and Cheese Recipes to Try

Recipe

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

4.80 from 10 votes
Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese is a family favorite, easily customized with different cheeses and ready in 30 minutes.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 10 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 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
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Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

Nutritional values are based on serving this as a side dish, with about 10 servings per batch. As a main dish, you will get 6-8 servings.
Keyword easy macaroni and cheese, one pot pasta, stovetop macaroni and cheese

Nutrition

Calories: 599kcalCarbohydrates: 44gProtein: 23gFat: 37gSaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 115mgSodium: 524mgPotassium: 302mgFiber: 2gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 1362IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 484mgIron: 1mg

Nutritional Disclaimer Kristin Maxwell of “Yellow Bliss Road” is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. For accurate calorie counts and other nutritional values, we recommend running the ingredients through your preferred online nutritional calculator. Calories and other nutritional values can vary depending on which brands were used.

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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Comments

  1. Bev says:

    This is the best homemade Mac & Cheese I have made. It had lots of sauce which is key for me. I did add a Con Queso spice I had for extra flavour. Most important was when reheated as leftovers it was not dried out! I don’t usually like Mac n Cheese as leftovers and this was really good. Will definitely make again!

    1. Kristin says:

      Nice! Love the feedback Bev! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Ellen says:

    I’m trying to make for my dish I bring to Christmas. I have to travel about 2 hours. Can I put the mixed Mac and cheese into a crock pot and add milk and heat it up that way? I’ve never made Mac and cheese from scratch so any tips are helpful! Thank you!

  3. Wendy Hampton says:

    Oh Kristin! This is exactly what I was looking for today. I think I had this recipe before and lost it. So glad to have it back! I DID add a can oft tuna and some green peas for color. It is soooo good! I will definitely be adding bits and pieces of other cheeses to use them up. I bet that tastes even better! Thanks for this. I will use no other recipe from now on.

    1. Kristin says:

      You are so welcome Wendy! Awesome feedback!

  4. Haley H says:

    Made this last night and it was the best Mac and cheese I’ve ever made!!! How can you go wrong with a stick of butter? Lol! But seriously thank you for the recipe – it turned out perfectly and now I know how to make that perfectly silky cheese sauce thanks to your instruction !

    1. Kristin says:

      That’s awesome Haley! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave some positive feedback.

  5. Shannon moss says:

    Looking for a good Alfredo sauce

  6. Mrsherbst says:

    Do I put the shells back in at the end?

    1. Kristin says:

      Yes

  7. Beverley says:

    New to your blog and what a recipe. So delicious thank you xoxo

  8. Sharon / tpt says:

    When you put it that way: Roux and Béchamel – How can we resist being a little classier with our Mac and cheese habits! Lol.