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Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese

This Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese is so quick, easy, creamy and delicious, you can say bye-bye to the box and make your own homemade mac and cheese that’s sure to be loved by kids and grown-ups alike!

Macaroni and cheese is one of the great all-time favorite comfort foods, and making it from scratch is easier than you might think. All you need is a few simple ingredients and only about 20 minutes.

And the flavor? So, so, so much better than anything you can get from a packet of orange powder!

Now listen, I don’t want to dis the boxed mac and cheese too much. I grew up on the stuff, and I loved it. I still love it. It’s yummy.

I even buy a box every now and then for a little treat that takes me right back to my childhood every single time I eat it (although I have to say that it’s not quite the same as I remember – have they changed it over the years?).

Anyway, these days, I try to not eat a ton of processed foods. I’d much rather make something from scratch so that I know exactly what’s in it – as long as it’s relatively easy and tastes just as good (if not better).

Well, it sure doesn’t get much easier or more delicious than this stove-top mac and cheese. It’s sooo good!

We start by cooking some macaroni. While that’s cooking, we make a quick béchamel sauce and add some cheese. Then we stir in the cooked macaroni, and we are D-O-N-E and ready to dig in to that velvety, cheesy deliciousness!

stove top macaroni and cheese in a pot with a wooden spoon

WAIT. WHAT’S BÉCHAMEL SAUCE?

If you’ve never heard of it, don’t let that fancy French name scare you. Béchamel (pronounced bay-sha-mel) is simply a white sauce that is made from butter, flour, and milk. In French cooking, it is one of the “mother” or master sauces.

Knowing how to make béchamel sauce is a pretty handy skill to have in the kitchen. Among other things, it’s the base for creamy sauces like the cheese sauce in this mac and cheese as well as my Homemade Sausage Gravy. I also use it to make an awesome substitute for canned soup that I use in casseroles like my Chicken Zucchini Casserole.

To make a béchamel sauce, you make a quick roux (pronounced roo), which is another fancy French term that simply means cooking together equal parts butter and flour. Then you stir in milk and cook it until you have a thick and creamy sauce.

Okay. That’s our French lesson for today. Now let’s come back to America and make some mac and cheese, baby!

spoonful of mac and cheese being taken out of a pot

INGREDIENTS YOU NEED:

  • Elbow macaroni
  • Butter
  • Flour (all-purpose)
  • Milk (I use whole milk)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cheddar cheese (I use sharp)

HERE’S A QUICK LOOK AT HOW TO MAKE STOVE-TOP MACARONI AND CHEESE:

three images showing the steps to make stove top macaroni and cheese
three images showing the steps to make stove top macaroni and cheese
three images showing how to make stove top mac and cheese
three images showing how to make stove top mac and cheese

TIPS & TIDBITS:

  • Always salt your pasta water! This is the only time you have to season the pasta. Bland pasta will definitely affect the flavor of your final dish. We all have different tastes, and salts are different as well. Add enough salt so that the pasta tastes good but not so much that it’s salty. A good place to start is to use 1 to 2 tablespoons of salt and 4 quarts of water per pound of pasta. I recommend using kosher or sea salt.
  • To me, mac and cheese is not mac and cheese without elbow macaroni, so that it is the pasta that I always use, but feel free to use a different pasta shape if you’d like.
  • Grate your own cheese! It only takes a minute or two, and it makes a difference. The pre-shredded stuff usually has anti-clumping agents added to it, which can sometimes make your cheese sauce grainy. Freshly grated cheese will give you a velvety smooth creamy sauce.
  • Sharp (or even extra-sharp) cheddar is my cheese of choice for mac and cheese. It’s so much more flavorful than mild cheddar. Of course, you can use mild cheddar or even another cheese (as long as it melts well) or even a combination of cheeses.
  • This mac and cheese is as its best when served immediately, but if you end up with leftovers, it does reheat well. I reheat mine in a pot on the stove over low heat, stirring often. After being in the refrigerator, it will be stiff at first, but it will smooth out as it warms up. If needed, add a splash or two of milk to bring back that super creamy consistency.
forkful of macaroni and cheese being taken from a bowl of stove top mac and cheese

Look at that…you can just see how smooth and creamy it is! And wait until you taste it. It’s the real deal, and it’s perfect for lunch, dinner, or as a side dish.

I hope you try this recipe for Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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macaroni and cheese in a white bowl with a fork

Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese

This Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese is so quick, easy, creamy and delicious, you can say bye-bye to the box and make your own homemade mac and cheese that's sure to be loved by kids and grown-ups alike!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 22 minutes
Servings: 4
Estimated Calories: 620

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 (8-ounce) block sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
  • additional salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Cook the elbow macaroni in boiling salted water as per the package instructions.
  • While the macaroni is cooking, melt the butter in a pot (I use a 3 to 4-quart pot) over medium-low heat.
  • When the butter has melted, add the flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Don't let it get too brown. It should stay a nice light golden color.
  • Slowly add the milk while stirring constantly.
  • Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently; then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and add the cheese; stir until the cheese has melted completely.
  • Drain the cooked macaroni and add it to the cheese sauce; stir until the macaroni is evenly coated with the sauce.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as needed; serve immediately.

Notes

  • I don’t recommend using pre-shredded cheese for this recipe because it usually has anti-clumping agents added to it, which can sometimes make your cheese sauce grainy and unpleasant. Freshly grated cheese will give you a velvety smooth sauce.
  • This mac and cheese is as its best when served immediately, but if you end up with leftovers, it does reheat well. I reheat mine in a pot on the stove over low heat, stirring often. After being in the refrigerator, it will be stiff at first, but it will smooth out as it warms up. If needed, add a splash or two of milk to bring back that super creamy consistency.
  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for 3 to 5 days.
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