Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese
This Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese is the best kind of classic comfort food, made with just 5 ingredients! The ultra-creamy cheese sauce for this homemade mac and cheese comes together in minutes in one pot.
You won’t want to miss my recipe for creamy, no-boil Crock Pot Mac and Cheese, too!
Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese on the Stovetop
Skip your boxed macaroni and cheese, because this homemade version is going to knock your socks off! Firstly, this recipe is SO easy. As in, you can count the ingredients on one hand, and make it in a single pot. Secondly, this might be the creamiest mac and cheese you’ll ever taste, made from tender pasta noodles folded into a rich and creamy stovetop cheese sauce. AND it only takes a few minutes to make!
Ok, I’ll admit, this is actually shells and cheese if we’re getting technical. But just look how that silky homemade cheese sauce perfectly coats every curve and crevice of this shell pasta. Macaroni, who?
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
I mean, what’s not to love? This stovetop mac and cheese recipe is:
- Made with 5 ingredients. All you need is a handful of basic ingredients to make this delicious stovetop mac and cheese. You probably have them in your pantry already!
- Quick and easy. Between boiling the pasta and melting the cheese sauce, this recipe comes together in minutes on the stove.
- Super creamy. Who can resist a bowlful of pasta smothered in copious amounts of rich and creamy melted cheese? Not me. Get in my BELLY.
What You’ll Need
The ingredients list is short but mighty. Below is a quick overview of what you’ll need to make this easy mac and cheese, with the full details available in the recipe card.
- Pasta: I use shell pasta in this recipe, but you can absolutely use whichever type of pasta tickles your fancy. Penne works too, or kick it old school with elbow macaroni.
- Cheddar Cheese: I highly recommend using a combination of mild and sharp grated cheddar to make your mac and cheese. Cheddar melts well on the stovetop and the sharpness gives the silky sauce a nice bite. See below for more details.
- Evaporated Milk: Also called unsweetened condensed milk, this is an easy shortcut that adds loads of richness to your cheese sauce for mac and cheese. Make sure you’re using the unsweetened kind, and not sweetened condensed milk, which contains sugar.
- Eggs: Similar to a carbonara, eggs also contribute extra richness to the sauce in this recipe. They’ll cook just enough to be safe to eat while emulsifying the other ingredients to make the texture super creamy.
What’s the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese?
The best cheeses to use in mac and cheese are meltable ones, like the two types of cheddar in this recipe. Other good options are Gouda, Monterey Jack, Fontina, Parmesan cheese, or even Velveeta. You can also give your mac n’ cheese a more mature vibe by grating in Gruyere or Brie (just remember to remove the rind beforehand). Any combination of these cheeses will work for a sauce that’s smooth and evenly melted.
How to Make Stovetop Mac and Cheese
Making perfect mac and cheese in one pot on your stovetop has never been easier. This classic pasta comes together in just a few simple steps:
- Cook the Pasta: First, get your pasta boiling according to the directions on the package.
- Prepare the Cheese Sauce: Meanwhile, melt both cheddars together in a large pot along with evaporated milk, eggs, and salt. Whisk the mixture frequently until the cheese is completely melted.
- Combine: Drain the cooked pasta, reserving one cup of the pasta water (you’ll use this to thin out the sauce). Next, add the pasta to the pot with the melted cheese, stirring to coat. Spoon in a bit of the reserved pasta water at a time to get the sauce to the right consistency.
- Serve: Dish up right away and dig in. See my serving suggestions below for easy ways to turn your homemade mac and cheese into a cozy weeknight dinner.
Tips for Success
What’s the secret to the best mac and cheese? Here are some additional tips and tricks:
- Use freshly grated cheese. It can be tempting to buy a bag of pre-grated cheese. For the creamiest mac and cheese possible, however, grate your cheddar fresh from the block. Pre-grated packaged cheeses often have a waxy additive, and this prevents the cheese from melting down as smoothly.
- Salt the water you use to boil the pasta. Seasoned pasta water = more flavorful pasta! Go ahead and throw in a tablespoon of sea salt while the pasta boils. Or two, don’t be shy.
- Save the pasta water. Ask any Italian, and they’ll tell you: the secret to ultra-creamy pasta is starchy pasta water. Using leftover pasta water to thin out the cheese sauce not only adds flavor, but the extra starch enhances the creaminess.
- Don’t overcook. Cook your pasta al dente according to the package directions (soft on the outside with a slight chew in the center), being mindful to not overcook the noodles before adding them to the cheese. Overcooked pasta is the number one culprit for mushy mac n’ cheese.
Looking to spruce up your cheesy mac? Try these easy variations:
- Bacon: Cooked and diced crispy bacon makes a delicious addition to homemade mac and cheese.
- Pesto: Stir a few spoonfuls of pesto into the final product. Or, try my recipe for Pesto Mac and Cheese.
- Philly Cheesesteak: Make my Philly Cheesesteak Mac and Cheese for a version of this recipe inspired by the famous sandwich.
- Seafood: Stir in chunks of cooked lobster meat for lobster mac and cheese, or take inspiration from my One Pot Shrimp Pasta and add in cooked shrimp.
- Crock Pot Mac and Cheese: For a hands-free version, try my Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese.
How to Serve Creamy Mac and Cheese
Serve your mac and cheese as is, or top it with toasted seasoned bread crumbs for a nice bit of flavor and crunch. When it comes to turning this stovetop mac and cheese into a meal, here are some equally easy side dish ideas we love:
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
Once your mac and cheese cools to room temperature, transfer leftovers to an airtight container to store in the fridge. It will keep for up to 4 days.
Reheat leftover mac and cheese either on the stovetop again, or in the microwave, stirring along the way until it’s warmed through. You can add a couple of spoonfuls of milk to revive the sauce if needed.
For a fun appetizer, turn mac and cheese leftovers into Air Fryer Mac and Cheese Balls!
Can I Freeze Macaroni and Cheese?
Yes! Freezing mac and cheese is a great way to have homecooked meals ready to reheat throughout the week. Let your stovetop mac and cheese cool to room temperature, then freeze it in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months.
Defrost the mac and cheese overnight in the refrigerator and reheat as usual, with a bit of milk added to loosen the sauce.
This Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese is classic comfort food, made in one pot with just 5 ingredients!
- 1 pound shell pasta
- 2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese
- 1 cup sharp grated cheddar cheese
- 1 1/4 cups evaporated milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Boil the pasta according to the package directions.
- While the pasta is boiling, whisk both cheeses, evaporated milk, eggs, and salt together in a large sauce pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Continue cooking and stirring until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth.
- When the pasta is done cooking, reserve one cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
- Add the drained pasta to the cheese mixture and stir to coat the pasta completely. Add in pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the consistency you desire. I usually end up using 3- 4 tablespoons of pasta water.
- Serve immediately.
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