Simple Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Sometimes recipes rush their way onto this site because I'm excited about them and just can't wait to share them. Other recipes get posted because they are old favorites that I love and make sure to photograph sometime when I've made them. Then there are recipes like this one - dishes that I'm excited about but just need to tweak a little. And a little more. And a little more. Finally it gets to the point where they are perfect to me and my husband's tastes but I've almost forgotten that I haven't posted them yet. I make them so often that I figure I'll take photos the next time around.

This macaroni and cheese dish started out with a trip to Noodles & Co. My husband loves the mac and cheese there, and when he let me try a bite I realized why. It's deliciously cheesy, but not overly so. You can taste the cheddar and monterey jack cheeses but it doesn't feel greasy at all, and the texture is just thick enough. Halfway through eating his bowl, my husband told me I should figure out how to make mac and cheese just like Noodles.

That was six months ago.

It took a while to get a recipe we both liked. I started out by making mac and cheese recipes from my usual favorite recipes sources, but they just weren't right. One was so cheesy it tasted like you were eating straight cheddar. Another had too many odd flavorings in it. Another tasted like evaporated milk. I tried a copycat recipe that didn't do the job, either. Eventually I started taking out things that didn't seem to belong. Mustard powder? Gone. Cayenne? Out. Hot Sauce? Not sure why you were there in the first place. Finally it came down to seven ingredients and the winning recipe. It was simple, it was cheesy, and it was easy. It was just thick enough, and had just enough cheese flavor. And I could make it in same amount of time that I can make the box version. A win all around.

Simple Stovetop Mac and Cheese

14 oz elbow pasta
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
4 oz shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (I use Cabot extra sharp white cheddar. If you use a mild cheddar you might need to add more to get the same taste.)
Shredded cheddar (optional)


1. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

2. While water is coming to a boil, in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and whisk together. Cook for 1 minute. Slowly (very slowly at first so that you don't get lumps) add milk, whisking well after each addition until the milk is incorporated. Cook and stir mixture until it thickens, about 4-5 minutes. 

3. Remove milk mixture from heat and stir in cheeses until melted.

4. Drain pasta and toss with cheese sauce. Season to taste with additional salt, if needed. Serve with additional cheddar cheese on top. (If desired; Sauce with be slightly thin at first and thicken after standing for a minute or two.)

Recipe Source: HeatOvenTo350

6 Click For Comments:

just a few day ago, i made Mac and Cheese myself (for the first time).
I added chopped onion and chilli to the melting butter. That gave a kick.

(if there are grammar errors, I apologize. I'm a german and I have to rely on GoogleTranslate ^^°)

That sounds delicious! I'm excited to hear from someone in Germany.

Hi...just made it and the sauce is literally a soup. Too much milk and too little flour

I'm sorry to hear that, Jenni. There's nothing more frustrating than to put time and effort into a recipe and not have it turn out for you. I've made this probably 20+ times and that's never happened to me. A couple things might help, and you might have already done them so forgive me. One is to let the sauce get to a boil and thicken after you've added all the milk. Depending how hot your burner is, this might take more than the 4-5 minutes written in the recipe. A second suggestion is to weigh out the cheese so you know you have enough in there. (It's a lot) That said, it is still a stovetop recipe so it won't be thick like a baked mac and cheese. It does thicken a little after sitting for a minute. Sorry again that it was so runny for you.

Thanks for the response nicole. I didn't let the milk mixture boil, so it never got thick. I just followed the directions and let it get hot for 5 minutes. As a result, it took forever for the cheese to melt. Also I used kraft shredded sharp white cheddar instead of the extra sharp, which I couldn't find in a rush at the store...do you think 1/4 cup flour is enough?

You can always add more if you want to try to get it really thick. A 1:1 ratio of butter and flour is pretty standard for thickening but there's no law that you can't put more flour in. Also, the cheese you shred yourself tends to melt better than pre-shredded cheese because there are ingredients in the pre shredded cheese that keep it from clumping, so if your cheese is having trouble melting that could be another reason why.

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