The BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese

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This truly is the BEST stovetop mac and cheese recipe!  It only requires one pot (no extra pot to cook the pasta), it’s ready to go in about 20 minutes from start to finish, and it’s perfectly creamy and cheesy and delicious.

Seriously the BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe! It's ready to go in about 20 minutes, only requires one pot, and is totally creamy and cheesy and delicious. | Gimme Some Oven #macandcheese #pasta #recipe #comfortfood

This weekend, Barclay and I went to a food festival here in Barcelona that was fabulously, deliciously, entirely devoted to CHEESE.

And it was just about the best thing ever. ♡♡♡

Literally everywhere you turned, ooey gooey cheesy dishes were being served.  And you’d better believe we took full advantage of them.  From freshly-scraped raclette toasts, to the most amazing Korean-inspired mushroom grilled cheese sandwiches, to Spanish (slightly different than French) onion and smoked cheese soup, to vegan Mexican cheesy quesadillas, to the best ricotta I’ve ever sampled, to the most dreamy Italian gyoza-ish dumplings filled with potato and cheese and served in a pecorino-sage sauce…the day was all of our cheesiest dreams come true.  And we left feeling so happy.  And soooo full, ha.

That said, there was one dish notably missing at the festival.  But, it just so happens that I’ve been on a mission this month to nail down my all-time favorite recipe for it.  So yesterday, we decided to round out our cheesy weekend by taste-testing a final version of this recipe.  And ohhh guys, I think we’ve got it.  I’m humbly calling it…

The Best Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe.  Ever.

The BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese Recipe | 1-Minute Video

Seriously the BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe! It's ready to go in about 20 minutes, only requires one pot, and is totally creamy and cheesy and delicious. | Gimme Some Oven #macandcheese #pasta #recipe #comfortfood

I should probably say right now that this recipe is the real deal.  Because on the special occasions when I indulge in creamy mac and cheese, I’m not interested in healthy shortcuts.  Gimme all the carbs + all the cheese, please.  🤗

Even better?

Let’s talk about this delicious recipe that’s ready to go in about 20 minutes from start to finish (seriously!) and only requires one pot.

Seriously the BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe! It's ready to go in about 20 minutes, only requires one pot, and is totally creamy and cheesy and delicious. | Gimme Some Oven #macandcheese #pasta #recipe #comfortfood

For most of my homemade mac and cheese making life, I’ve always done the two-pot method — one for cooking the pasta, and one for making the cheesy sauce — which totally works!  But dishes have always been the bane of my existence.  AND when I started posting on Instagram about my macaroni and cheese recipe experimenting this month, I heard from many of you who recommended the one-pot method.  Because apparently cooking the pasta in the sauce itself releases all of those starches into the sauce…which makes it extra creamy…and also helps bind the sauce to the pasta even better.  Also, the entire process only takes about 15 minutes to cook.  And also, no need to wash the extra pan.

Sounded like a win-win-win…win…win to me.

Sure enough, after testing a few batches, I’m now a total convert to the one-pot camp.  Works like a cheesy charm!  👏

Seriously the BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe! It's ready to go in about 20 minutes, only requires one pot, and is totally creamy and cheesy and delicious. | Gimme Some Oven #macandcheese #pasta #recipe #comfortfood

Also, let’s talk about your cheese options here.

I kind of feel like mac and cheese is the savory equivalent to chocolate chip cookies when it comes to people’s Very Strong Food Opinions.  Everyone seems to have their cheese of choice (or blend of cheeses) that they prefer with their mac and cheese!  So if you have a strong preference here, this recipe is totally flexible when it comes to cheeses, so I say go for it.

As for me?  I have always fallen firmly in the sharp cheddar camp.  Sharp…because extra cheesy flavor is always a win in my book.  And cheddar…because it’s my nostalgic favorite when it comes to mac and cheese.  Nowadays, I usually opt for extra sharp white cheddar, mostly because it’s affordable and awesome at Costco (and also at Lidl, our ALDI-ish favorite grocery store here in Barcelona).  But feel free to use your favorite brand.

Also, if you want an even creamier mac and cheese, you’re welcome to use half cheddar, and half gouda or fontina (two of my other creamy faves).  But 99% of the time, I keep things simple with straight cheddar (plus a handful of Parmesan) and never regret it.

🌟🌟🌟 That said, I do have one non-negotiable tip that goes for all types of cheeses — always, always, always use freshly-grated cheese for mac and cheese.  Most all of the pre-shredded cheeses at the store have a coating on them that prevents them from melting smoothly.  So while it’s a bit of extra work, be sure to buy block cheese at the store, and then shred it at home just before using. 🌟🌟🌟

Seriously the BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe! It's ready to go in about 20 minutes, only requires one pot, and is totally creamy and cheesy and delicious. | Gimme Some Oven #macandcheese #pasta #recipe #comfortfood

As always, feel free to stir in any of your desired mix-ins as well if you’d like, such as:

  • Proteins: cooked chicken, bacon, shrimp, etc.
  • Veggies: I’m obsessed with adding roasted veggies to my mac and cheese!  Also, greens like baby spinach, or sun-dried tomatoes, or artichokes are delish.
  • Nuts: Pine nuts, toasted almonds, etc.
  • Seasonings: Some faves include Cajun seasoning, Italian seasoning, a sprinkle of za-atar…you name it.

The sky’s basically the limit here.

But if you’re on the hunt for an irresistible, cheesy, creamy, classic homemade mac and cheese recipe, here you go.  Enjoy, everyone!

Print

The BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Description

This truly is the BEST stovetop mac and cheese recipe!  It only requires one pot (no extra pot to cook the pasta), it’s ready to go in about 20 minutes from start to finish, and it’s perfectly creamy and cheesy and delicious.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 pound uncooked pasta (I used cavatappi)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 45 cups (16-20 ounces) freshly-shredded* sharp cheddar cheese (I used sharp white cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup freshly-shredded* Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add flour, and stir until combined.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.  Then pour in 1 cup of the water, and stir (or whisk) until the mixture is completely smooth and begins to thicken.  Gradually pour in the remaining water and milk, stirring until evenly combined.
  2. Stir in the pasta, salt, garlic powder, and mustard until combined.  Then continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture just reaches a simmer.  (Btw, I recommend grating your cheese while the pasta cooks to save time!)  Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain the low simmer.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 9-10 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente.  (Be careful not to overcook the pasta!)
  3. Remove from heat, and stir in the cheeses until melted.  Taste, and season with additional salt (and black pepper, if you’d like), as needed.
  4. Serve immediately, and enjoy!!

Notes

Instant Pot Option: If you would like to make this recipe in the Instant Pot, see my tutorial here.

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140 comments on “The BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese”

  1. Wonder if those who ended up with soupy pasta may have pre cooked their pasta???

  2. I added sauteed 2 tablespoons of chopped white onion on the butter, three slices of American processed cheese for a more traditional cheesy flavor and seasoned the sauce further with a dash of Worcestershire sauce and Lawry’s seasoning salt. I also found a liitle extra liquid, about 1/4 cup , was necessary because the sauce got a bit thick. Very quick and easy.

  3. Felt like the recipe is good using your favorite shredded cheese or cheeses. The sharp cheddar mixed in with my usual of the Mexican mix and Colby jack mix ruined the meal for me. Will try this recipe again with the cheeses I know and love. Love how quick it took to prep and cook though! 😊

  4. Followed to a T…mine came out a little too soupy. However, the flavor was great! And it was the easiest Mac & cheese I’ve ever made. I strained out some of the sauce when I served it up…not a big deal at all. I’ll probably cut the water by a cup next time. Easy & yummy!

  5. A real winner — delicious and oh-so-homemade! I cooked it in the new Pampered Chef 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet and start-to-finish, ready in 30 minutes. Add a side of broccoli. Quick, easy and super delicious!

  6. Super easy and fast. I add some chopped onion, Lawry’s seasoning salt and did put it in the oven with buttered bread crumbs at 325F for about 15 minutes. It did a little more dry, but I revived it with a splash of milk.

  7. Way too much liquid. I only did 2 cups of water and 4 cups of milk and its still way too soupy. I strained off some of the liquid to save for another try. Very good otherwise.

  8. Halved the recipe and added crab!! Homestlye decadence!!

    • Was delicious. Perfect thickness. Had an issue with my cheeses which cursed in the pot once mixed together. Maybe should’ve waited for the pasta/milk mixture to cool a bit before mixing in the cheeses? I added bacon, red pepper flakes and a dash of cayenne pepper.

  9. I made this tonight. It was pretty good by my standards and excellent by my childrens’ – age eight and nine. I read the comments about being soupy and it wasn’t. I followed the recipe exactly and didn’t hustle (it took less than 30 minutes). I made sure the first mix of flour and water was thick and then added the rest of the water and milk per instructions. I did wait for a slight boil before adding the pasta. Per the reviews, I thought a little more seasoning might be necessary so I doubled the garlic powder, mustard powder and added worchestershire sauce. I made the mac & cheese first, put a lid on it and made my main – salmon. When I served it 20 minutes later, the texture was perfect.

    I think the dish could have benefited from a sharper cheddar. I had only regular cheddar on hand and it was pre-grated. The thing I didn’t like (which my kids did not notice) was the taste of flour. It is only 3 T but I could taste it and it bothered me.

    It was a pretty good mac & cheese but I will look around for a better stove-top version. That being said, if you are not looking for amazing, this is a good recipe.

  10. Has anyone substituted with almond milk?

  11. Thanks for sharing the recipe! I tried it to save time, but the pasta cooked in sauce thing just doesn’t work. It took much longer to cook till al dente and the macaroni turned out much smaller than how the pasta would usually be if cooked separately in a pot of water. The noodle texture is unusual, too. I am not sure what went wrong.

  12. This really is THE BEST mac n’ cheese I’ve ever had! I’ve tried for years and years to make a decent mac n’ cheese and always failed miserably. THIS recipe was a game changer! Thank you!

  13. I’m not sure how people ended up with soupy sauce— maybe you used too-quick cooking pasta?

    I used Orecchiette, and I had to add water part way through to give it more time to soften. I also made sure to let each stage really thicken before adding more liquid. I think I over did it a bit cooking off the liquid at the end— the sauce thickened up more than I expected as it cooled.

    I quartered this recipe and it was plenty for two adults for our main dinner course. This was quick, easy and delicious (sharp cheddar, Gruyere, Romano) I think it could be improved by some shallots and peas— it is really rich and would have benefited from something to lighten up the flavor and add some texture— but that would make it no longer one pot.

  14. This recipe was amazing!!! Worried about the soupy comments, I reduced the amount of liquid to my dismay. Thankfully, I had some heavy cream laying available and was able to remedy my misguided attempt before I ended up with dry pasta…fyi, the starch from the pasta also acts as a thickening agent which is why the amount of liquid reconmended is required. Amazing bechemel sauce even before adding the cheese. I recommend everyone stick to the recipe as recommended as it is extremely good as is even though I just used the sharp cheddar I had on hand. Thank you for such an amazing and quick recipe. My entire family loved it along with many of the other recipes on your page. Thanks again and I look forward to trying many more of your recipes.

  15. this was so good I didn’t add enough cheese though so if you are going to make this make sure you add the full amount of cheese or else there’s barely any flavour!

  16. It’s great actually

  17. Been looking for a recipe to make my Grandma’s Cremettes and Cheese. This is it! Thank you so much.
    Soooo good and fun to play around with different cheeses (usually just use what I have).

  18. Tried for the first time. THE BEST!!!! only one pot and you can measure to your exact needs and make the way you like exactly.

  19. it was fab!

  20. I’ve used this recipe at least 10 times. The only one that I don’t modify

  21. Whole family loved it! We had to use store bought cheddar but added freshly grated provolone. Excellent! Making it again today. Thanks!

  22. !

  23. I made this recipe but added
    Chili powder with the spices and
    Heavy cream, sour cream and mozzarella balls at the end and stirred till mixed.

    Came out amazing!

  24. Loved it !!! My boys woke up at 2am and ate Mac and cheese. They are always after me to make it

  25. I have made this many times and really enjoy everything about it . It is a game changer when you shred your own cheese!