Easy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

from 12 votes

Easy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese for the comfort food win! This recipe is made with a few pantry and fridge staples, and the result is the best-ever homemade mac and cheese that will be on your table in 30 minutes or less.

A large blue stockpot containing macaroni and cheese.

Easy, cheesy recipes make many an appearance across these pages, from Whipped Brie Cheese and Cheesy Chicken Pizza Pockets to Beer Cheese Dip and Cheesy Leftover Mashed Potato Pancakes. It’s safe to say I’ve got all my fellow cheese lovers covered.

Now, the wait is finally over with this 30-minute homemade macaroni and cheese recipe starring sharp cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. There’s no baking and no breadcrumbs. Just pure and simple the best, easiest, cheesiest macaroni and cheese to ever cross your lips.

And for all those looking for an added kick to this comfort food favorite, don’t miss my crowd-friendly Roasted Garlic Macaroni and Cheese that bakes up golden brown and bubbly in your oven!

Why this Recipe is the Best

  • Quick and simple. With just 30 minutes of prep, you’ll have a creamy and satisfying dish on the table in no time.
  • Creamy perfection. No grainy sauces here! 
  • Kid-friendly and adult-approved. Even the pickiest eaters will find it hard to resist a bowl of this cheesy pasta. 
  • Real ingredients, real flavor. One taste and I guarantee you’ll be ditching those store-bought boxed varieties.

Ingredients

Various sizes of clear bowls containing the ingredients needed to make mac and cheese, including uncooked pasta, flour, Parmesan cheese, butter, cheddar cheese and milk.
  • Pasta: You can use whatever shape of pasta you prefer. Elbow macaroni, orecchiette and cavatappi noodles all work well.
  • Whole milk: Make sure you’re using whole milk, as lower-fat milks are more likely to curdle, especially if the sauce is brought to a boil. Plus, its high-fat content results in a richer, creamier sauce.
  • Unsalted butter:
 Butter contributes to the velvety texture and adds a rich flavor to the sauce. If you only have salted butter, you can use it, but reduce the amount of additional salt you add to the sauce.
  • All-purpose flour
: The flour acts as a thickening agent for the sauce, helping it achieve the desired consistency. You can use gluten-free flour, such as Cup4Cup, but keep in mind that it may slightly affect the texture.
  • Shredded sharp cheddar & Parmesan cheese: Opt for freshly shredded cheese over pre-packaged varieties, as they often contain additives that can affect the sauce’s texture.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Substitutions

  • For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free pasta and all-purpose gluten-free flour.
  • To make the dish lactose-free, you can use lactose-free milk and cheese alternatives made from plant-based ingredients, like almond or soy milk and vegan cheese.
  • Mix up the cheeses to suit your preference. Not a fan of sharp cheddar? Use a mild variety. Want to omit the Parmesan and use all cheddar cheese? Go ahead! Experiment with your favorite combinations to find what you like best.

Please note that I haven’t tried these substitutions and they may slightly affect the final texture of the dish. Let me know in the comments below if you try any of these substitutions – I’d love to hear how it turned out for you!

How to Make Mac and Cheese

  1. Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook it just until al dente, about 11 minutes. Drain the pasta then set it aside.
  2. Warm the milk. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, warm the milk until it is simmering then set it aside.
  3. Make a roux. In a large heavy-bottomed stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it turns light brown in color and has a slightly toasted aroma, about 3 minutes. 
  4. Add the milk. Remove the pot from the heat then slowly whisk the warm milk into the flour mixture. Continue whisking constantly to avoid any lumps. (The mixture will become very thick and then thin out gradually until it is smooth.)
  5. Make it cheesy. Return the pot to the stove over medium-high heat and cook the mixture while whisking constantly until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses until they are melted and the cheese sauce is smooth. 
Thick cheese sauce on the back of a wooden spoon over a large blue stockpot.
  1. Combine the pasta and cheese sauce. Add the pasta, stirring to combine, and cook just until the pasta is warmed throughout. 
Pasta being added to a large stockpot that contains cheese sauce.
  1. Serve and savor the deliciousness!

Kelly’s Note: After stirring in the pasta, feel free to fold in any additional ingredients, including diced ham, chicken and lobster, or blanched veggies, such as broccoli or squash.

Recipe Tips

  • Mind Your Roux: The key to making a roux is to use low to medium heat while whisking continuously. This technique ensures a smooth and evenly toasted mixture without any burning or lumps.
  • Season to Perfection: Taste the sauce and season it with as much salt and pepper as you like. I recommend starting off with ½ to 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  • Be Patient: Take your time and follow the steps carefully. Rushing through the process may result in an uneven sauce or overcooked pasta.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best milk for mac and cheese?

Whole milk is the best option for mac and cheese, providing a richer and creamier sauce due to its higher fat content.

What are the best cheeses to use for macaroni and cheese?

The best cheeses for mac and cheese include sharp cheddar for its tangy flavor and excellent ability to melt, Parmesan for its nutty taste, Gouda for its creamy texture and smoky notes, and Gruyere for added complexity. Combining different cheeses can create a unique and delicious flavor profile in the dish.

Why is my mac and cheese sauce so grainy?

Grainy cheese sauce can result from overheating the cheese or using low-quality cheese. To prevent this, ensure that the heat is low when melting the cheese into the sauce, and use high-quality shredded cheese. If possible, avoid using pre-shredded cheese, as it often contains additives that can affect the sauce’s texture.

Can I use different types of cheese?

Absolutely! Use whatever cheese you prefer to tailor the mac and cheese to your taste preferences and create a version that you and your family will enjoy the most.

More Mac and Cheese Recipes You’ll Love

Find creative twists on this classic comfort food with these fan favorite recipes:

Extra-cheesy macaroni and cheese garnished with shredded Parmesan and cracked black pepper.
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Main Course

Easy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Easy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese will be on your dinner table in 30 minutes or less!
Author: Kelly Senyei
4.84 from 12 votes
A large blue stockpot containing macaroni and cheese.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound uncooked pasta shells

  • 4 cups whole milk

  • 8 Tablespoons

    unsalted butter


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Instructions 

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook it just until al dente, about 11 minutes. Drain the pasta then set it aside.
  • In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, warm the milk until it is simmering then set it aside.
  • In a large heavy-bottomed stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it turns light brown in color and has a slightly toasted aroma, about 3 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the heat then slowly whisk the warm milk into the flour mixture. Continue whisking constantly to avoid any lumps. (The mixture will become very thick and then thin out gradually until it is smooth.)
  • Return the pot to the stove over medium-high heat and cook the mixture while whisking constantly until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses until they are melted and the cheese sauce is smooth. Add the pasta, stirring to combine, and cook just until the pasta is warmed throughout. Serve immediately.

Kelly’s Notes

  • I prefer shell-shaped pasta for macaroni and cheese, but you can use whatever shape you prefer. Elbow macaroni, orecchiette and cavatappi noodles also work well.
  • Mix up the cheeses to suit your preference. Not a fan of sharp cheddar? Use a mild variety. Want to omit the Parmesan and use all cheddar cheese? Go ahead! Experiment with your favorite combinations to find what you like best.
  • After stirring in the pasta, feel free to fold in any additional ingredients, including diced ham, chicken and lobster or blanched veggies, such as broccoli or squash.
  • ★ Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

Nutrition

Calories: 844kcal, Carbohydrates: 73g, Protein: 36g, Fat: 44g, Saturated Fat: 27g, Cholesterol: 127mg, Sodium: 825mg, Potassium: 465mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 1425IU, Calcium: 809mg, Iron: 2mg

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Recipe adapted from Chow.


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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    It is so rich and creamy! I ended up adding peas and tuna, which was also good. Saving the rest for lunch tomorrow!

  2. 5 stars
    This is great and so easy! When I change the recipe to x2, the amount of butter shows 16 T., but the quantity still shows one stick.

    1. Thanks, Elena! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the recipe. We’re working on a fix for the sticks of butter issue. Stay tuned!

  3. 5 stars
    This is the BEST RECIPE for Mac and cheese that I have found! My family loves it! We make it all the time. Sometimes we bake it in the oven and sometimes we eat it as is. Either way, it is always cheesy and perfect. Thank you!

  4. 5 stars
    Loved this recipe! Last time I made it, the sauce was in excess so I decided to halve the sauce this time around. Perfect!! Very easy from start to finish and delicious! I left the mustard out and it still tasted great.

  5. I am going to make this recipe tonight to go with our fried rock fish dinner, I hope my son likes it. He is a mac and cheese fanatic. I DON’T like using box mac and cheese, so if i can do a homemade recipe for mac and cheese with out all all the processed stuff in it, I’d so rather do that for my son and husband. I just hope it turns out good!

  6. Hi Kelly.
    I’ve spotted some of your recipes and got to thinking “well That goes together well so I’m going to have a tryout with that!” I do quite a few things that’s been handed down in my family for years and I’ve never really needed to go much further than my little family’s hand down book of favourite’s but as I’m now retired from work I’be got time to to experiment with other things that others make and I’m enjoying the results of the new tastes and ideas that’s out there that others are making which are their family’s favourite’s! Keep Up the good wort you’re ideas work well and have a good spread of tasty treats! Regards. Tony.

  7. 5 stars
    This is my go-to Mac and cheese recipe!! I make it and then put it in a crockpot for picnics!! We love it!!

  8. How do you keep the milk from curdling? I made a different Mac and cheese tonight that is quite similar to this recipe. I followed the directions to the T but the milk curdled which gave the dish a disgusting look and a weird texture. It tasted good but I couldn’t get paste the look and texture. I would appreciate any advice anyone has to offer. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Kristie! Make sure you’re using whole milk, as lower fat milks are more likely to curdle, especially if the sauce is brought to a boil.

      1. See I don’t see any mustard in the recipe. How much dry mustard do you use and when do you add it?

      2. Hi Val! This recipe was updated and the dry mustard was an optional ingredient. Feel free to add 1/2 teaspoon after you whisk in the warm milk.

  9. 3 stars
    Makes quite a lot of sauce.

    Might be better if the the quantity of cheese was given in ounces instead of cups. Of course if you buy your cheese pre-grated in a package of X ounces instead of solid block by the pound then grate it yourself, that would make a difference.

  10. I want to make this recipe but I will need to double it my family loves mac n cheese my question is can I use a medium cheddar and leave out the parm. cheese?

  11. Hi Kelly, I can’t wait to try this mac n cheese recipe! I do have a question for you about the cheese: I’m not a huge huge fan of older cheddars (I find them too strong), so I’m just wondering if the flavour gets toned down at all?

  12. I was able to make this recipe gluten free and it was so so good! My family didn’t even know it was gluten free! Thanks for this great, new, go to recipe!

  13. I made this in a lactose free version (lactose free milk, dairy free butter and cheeses). It was perfect! Creamy and “cheesy” and perfection! I haven’t had mac&cheese in well over a year since I became lactose intolerant, and this recipe was the perfect one to use as my introduction back into the mac&cheese world!

  14. This is my Go-to recipe!!! I’ve made it for everyone who will let me. It’s simple, quick, & makes me look like a hero!! Everyone loves it!!!

  15. I made this according to directions, with the exception of using elbow macaroni and leaving out the dry mustard. Wonderful recipe! My husband even liked it, and he always says he “hate Parmesan cheese.” It made a nice amount, so I had leftovers and tried a little experiment, which for me turned out well. I added real bacon bits plus some Cayenne pepper when I reheated separate servings. I love spicy foods, so this was right up my alley. Loved it! For you guys who like an extra kick, it’s another way to go. Whatever you do, this recipe as written is a keeper!

  16. Hi chef kelly,is it ok if can i add a little bit of boiled water i made from aldente to my bechamel sauce?and please could you tell me how i make tasty my mac n cheese is it salt and pepper only?thank you chef.

  17. hi, i love Mac’n’Cheese and this recipe is a good one to fill up your cravings, i want to try this but just wanna know if it works with the mustard sauce instead of dry mustard. can i do that? please tell me soon.

    1. Hi Tonia – I’ve never tried freezing it so I’m not sure what the resulting consistency would be.

  18. Can I add an egg to this recipe for firmness? If so, at what point would I add the scrambled egg? Thanks! Looking forward to making this recipe soon!

  19. I made this for my parents and I. We really liked it. I used mild cheddar instead of sharp, but next time I’ll use sharp. The recipe made a ton, so next time I’ll just make half.

  20. I made this for the first time last night. It was AMAZING! Since it’s been cold, we’ve been eating carbs like crazy. We served it with garlic bread. I wanted to curl up in the fetal position after eating two bowls, but it was SO WORTH IT. This will be my go-to recipe for mac and cheese for the rest of my freaking life! The whole family loved it. THANK YOU!

  21. Delicious! Doubled the pasta based on some of the comments and added some ground Italian sausage…perfect! The flavors were amazing.

  22. This is great! I used whole-wheat rotini, since it was all that I had on hand. I also used 4 cups of shredded cheddar, instead of cheddar and parmesan. When people say that this type of mac is “gritty”, I think that is usually from the flour in the roux. I really had to be careful about constantly whisking the sauce as it cooked. Very good recipe- thanks!

  23. I prefer a coating of cheese sauce more than drenched in cheese sauce as well. When making this, I’ll be sure to half the cheese sauce recipe. Too rich for me!

  24. I know you previously mentioned this recipe was not suppose to result in a grainy texture but mine came out as such. I used cheddar and white cheddar so is it the white cheddar or do you think I didn’t let the cheese melt for long enough?

    1. Hi there! Yes, it’s likely because the cheese didn’t melt enough, or various brands of cheese sometimes have waxy coatings on them (if you buy pre-shredded cheese), which makes them have a waxier consistency when melted.

  25. I plan to make this for a family pot luck and have a relative with a flour/gluten allergy. I have a gluten free pasta picked out but need some advice on the flour for the sauce.

  26. I agree! I just made it for a sick husband in between nursing a sick baby. It was easy to manage – however wayyy too much cheese and thickness to the sauce. Would recommend adjusting down. Also, be sure to add some extras (diced tomatoes, bell peppers, etc) to the Mac to liven it up a bit.

  27. I made this pasta for myself, because I was getting sick of the boxed. (I am 15) then I ate half of it (i halted the recipe, so i ate a quarter :) ) and then I said to my brother you want some? he said sure. he tasted it and he was like BLAAAHHHH. I was like Whats wrong!? he’s like WAAAAAAAAAYYYYY too much cheese!!!! I laughed so hard, since i love cheese. I love this recipe and will make it more often!

  28. Just made this for a friend who is about to have a new baby and might want some comfort food to easily heat up. Planning to freeze it before giving it to her. For my taste, there is too much cheese sauce. Will definitely make it again but will either add more pasta or cut back on the sauce… easier to just add more pasta (and that makes even more yummy Mac n cheese!).

  29. This was delicious, but the amount of cheese sauce was too much for our liking. Next time I’ll adjust the proportions accordingly. Thanks for the recipe!

  30. I’m a law student gearing up for a busy week of midterms, and mac and cheese is my favorite comfort food. I was psyched to find this recipe, but I’m wondering if it can be made ahead and frozen/refrigerated? Or if it would be better made in small, single-serve batches?

    1. Hi Victoria! You can definitely refrigerate it because it reheats really well. I do that all of the time :)

  31. Hi! I have a sister named Kelly and I just love the name. I made this tonight. I used the shells. Oh my goodness…it was soooo yummy. Thank you for posting the recipe and the video.
    Best regards,
    Kim

  32. I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect Mac n Cheese recipe for months, and then I stumbled upon this. Seriously, the best. I added red pepper flakes, shredded carrots, broccoli and chicken. To die for. This is it, if you’ve been lookin for the ultimate Mac n cheese you found it here.

  33. Hello! Do you know if this recipe has any sort of gritty texture? The last time I made something like this it turned out gritty. And I didn’t use high heat or anything. Any advice?

    Thanks, Brittaney

    1. Hi Brittaney! It’s not gritty at all. That often has to do with the type of cheese used (if it doesn’t melt well), but this recipe results in a really creamy and smooth cheese sauce :)

    1. Hi Melanie! Not a silly question at all. You can taste the sauce and season it with as much salt and pepper as you like. (Try starting off with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.) Enjoy!

  34. I was invited to an boyscout function by my brother who is the cubmaster. He informed me that I had to bring a side dish as it was a potluck dinner. I wasn’t sure what to bring because I am usually a dessert person. I found this recipe and thought “There are very few foods that boys like better than macaroni and cheese.” This was a hit. I had no leftovers to bring home. I actually should have made a double batch. This recipe was very easy to make and my bechemel sauce came out perfect.

  35. This is an easiest macaroni and cheese dish I’ve seen around here.
    Love how simple this home food is.
    Plan to do this with adding some chicken and veggies.

  36. I’m totally with you – sometimes, you just want a straight up stovetop mac. This one looks AWESOME! Can’t wait to try :D

  37. Love how simple this recipe is! That sauce looks so creamy and delicious! Never making the boxed kind again!