Stovetop Macaroni And Cheese

The creamy, comforting pasta is a wonderful dinner on its own, but it also makes for a great side in a grander family meal.

Southern Living Stovetop Mac and Cheese in the pan ready to serve
Photo:

Morgan Hunt Glaze; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely

Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
20 mins
Servings:
6

Mac and cheese is the quintessential comfort food. The all-ages crowd-pleaser comes together easily, perfect for a fast dinner during the week—and it's excellent when reheated as leftovers, too.

While baked macaroni and cheese is always a popular preparation method, this Stovetop Mac And Cheese recipe is perhaps even easier. Serve this dish with green beans for a delightfully colorful plate—and you’re all set for a delicious, unfussy meal any time of year.

Stovetop Mac and Cheese Ingredients


To make stovetop mac and cheese, start with elbow macaroni . From the dairy section, you’ll need whole milk , sharp Cheddar cheese , processed cheese (like Velveeta), and Parmesan cheese .

You’ll also need widely available spices you probably already have in your pantry: kosher salt , black pepper , smoked paprika , garlic powder , and dry mustard .

How To Make Mac and Cheese on the Stovetop

First combine water, salt and milk in a large pot and bring to a simmer.

Next, add the pasta, and stir often so it doesn’t stick.

When the pasta is al dente (that is, cooked but not mushy), don’t drain it; remove it from the heat, and stir in the cheeses as well as the spices until the sauce is melted and smooth. The sauce will continue to thicken as it stands.

What Does Stovetop Mac and Cheese Taste Like?

This simple recipe has depth from the mix of cheeses: The sharp Cheddar is the main flavor, the freshly grated Parmesan cheese adds a salty pop, and the processed cheese adds both delicious creaminess as well as a distinctly nostalgic taste.

The spices and seasonings in this dish are subtle and mild. If you prefer a stronger flavor, you can increase the ingredients as needed.

Stovetop Mac and Cheese Tips

  • The sauce initially looks quite thin, but it thickens substantially as it cools. So do be patient—but then you can add more milk as needed to thicken the sauce.
  • If you’re turned off by the thick, gluey texture of full-fat Velveeta, substitute with 2% Velveeta instead (which also lightens the dish a bit, too).
  • For the Parmesan and Cheddar, be sure to use freshly grated cheeses: The starch on pre-shredded cheese will affect the texture of the sauce.

What Are the Best Cheeses for Macaroni and Cheese?

This recipe calls for freshly grated Parmesan and sharp Cheddar alongside processed cheese. But you can feel free to substitute, using any other flavors that you prefer: Gouda for smokiness, brie for creaminess, Gruyere for an elevated take on the classic.

Editorial contributions by Alesandra Dubin .

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water

  • 2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk , divided

  • 1 ( 16-oz. ) pkg. uncooked elbow macaroni

  • 12 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese (from 2 [8-oz.] blocks), shredded (about 3 cups)

  • 4 oz. processed cheese (such as Velveeta), cubed (from 1 [8-oz.] block)

  • 1 oz. Parmesan cheese , grated (about 1/4 cup)

  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper , plus more for garnish

  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard

Directions

  1. Cook pasta:

    Combine water, salt, and 2 cups of the milk in a Dutch oven or other large pot; bring to a simmer over medium, stirring occasionally.

    Southern Living Stovetop Mac and Cheese milk mixture simmering in pot

    Morgan Hunt Glaze; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely

    Add pasta, and cook, stirring often so pasta doesn't stick to bottom of pot, until pasta is al dente , about 7 minutes. Do not drain pasta.

    Southern Living Stovetop Mac and Cheese adding the pasta to the milk mixture

    Morgan Hunt Glaze; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely

  2. Add cheeses:

    Remove from heat. Stir in Cheddar, processed cheese, Parmesan, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and dry mustard until cheeses are melted and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.

    Southern Living Stovetop Mac and Cheese adding the cheese to the pasta

    Morgan Hunt Glaze; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely

    Sauce will continue to thicken as it stands. If sauce thickens too much, add remaining 1/4 cup milk to thin sauce to desired consistency. Garnish with additional pepper, and serve immediately.

    Southern Living Stovetop Mac and Cheese cheeses melted and smooth

    Morgan Hunt Glaze; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely

Additional reporting by Alesandra Dubin
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