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This Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe makes the richest, creamiest, smoothest batch of mac and cheese you will ever taste! And it’s so simple! There’s no roux to make, no fancy ingredients, just classic macaroni and cheese made perfectly in one pot! And in less than 30 minutes!
Don’t get me wrong, I love a fancy mac and cheese. Like this spinach artichoke version I’m obsessed with. But! Sometimes you just want a mac and cheese recipe that is so easy and so creamy, it tastes like it came out of the blue box. That is this pasta recipe! The ultimate in homemade mac and cheese!
Ingredients needed for stovetop mac and cheese
- Elbow Macaroni
- Half and Half
- Medium Cheddar Cheese
- Salt and Pepper
That’s it! Seriously! Just a handful of ingredients and you’ll be well on your way to creamy stovetop mac and cheese!
Making macaroni and cheese without a roux
You’ll notice this recipe doesn’t call for any flour, and that’s on purpose.
With this stovetop cooking method and the ratios of ingredients, there is no need to make a roux!
If you didn’t know, a roux is a base made of fat (typically butter) and flour that is whisked together and cooked in a pot before liquids (usually of the dairy variety) are added to it to make a sauce.
It’s very commonly a base in macaroni, but we don’t need that hassle!
How do you make mac and cheese from scratch on the stove?
- Boil the pasta. In heavily salted water. Until just al dente. If the noodles are overdone they’ll end up being mushy and gross at the end.
- Drain the pasta. Reserve a little of the salty pasta water, just in case. DO NOT RINSE THE PASTA. Simply drain it and return it to the pot.
- Add the remaining ingredients. Yep. That’s it. Throw in the half and half, the cheese, and the butter and start stirring. Keep stirring until the pot is full of creamy, melty goodness.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. If necessary, add a splash of the pasta water to get the consistency you’re looking for in the cheese sauce!
The best cheese for mac and cheese
There is a lot of debate about which cheese is best in mac and cheese. I will always say medium cheddar. It isn’t too sharp (otherwise it would be called sharp, duh), and melts beautifully.
This is because as cheddar cheese ages, the enzymes that are used to make the cheese breakdown more of the fat and protein molecules in the dairy.
This is why mild and medium cheddar cheeses slice and melt so easily and why sharp and extra sharp cheddars are more crumbly. There's less moisture!
Just a note, I forbid you from using pre-shredded, bagged cheese. Using pre-shredded cheese in a cheese sauce is a terrible idea!
The shreds of cheese are coated with anti-clumping agents like cornstarch to prevent the shredded cheese from sticking together. (And no, shredded cheese cannot be rinsed off to wash the anti-clumping agents away.)
Buying a block of cheese ensures that the cheese will not only be free from those coatings, but it will also save you money as the block cheese is usually cheaper!
Stovetop Mac and Cheese Recipe
- Large pot
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni
- 4 ounces medium cheddar cheese shredded
- ½ cup half and half
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add in the dry macaroni noodles and cook according to package instructions until al dente. (This means the noodles aren’t totally soft, but still have some firmness when bitten into.)
- Drain the pasta, reserving some of the pasta water, and return the cooked pasta to the pot. DO NOT RINSE THE PASTA.
- Add the shredded cheese, half and half, and butter to the pot. Mix the macaroni and cheese until smooth, adding a splash of the reserved pasta water if necessary, until the mixture is melted and creamy.
- Season with salt and pepper before serving.
- To reheat leftover mac and cheese, I just zap it in the microwave with a splash of half and half to smooth out the cheese sauce once more.