Update: Originally shared in 2009, this popular mac & cheese recipe has new step-by-step photos, video and updated technique to satisfy all our hungry readers. Also, try this “healthier” version of Broccoli Mac and Cheese. It’s another reader favorite.
I’m calling for a mac and cheese recipe revolution. For those sweltering Summer days when cranking up the oven means turning our kitchen into a sauna, or for those times when I don’t want to be a dishwasher, but still want to have a satisfying home cooked meal, I need a meal that can be cooked fairly quickly and efficiently. Enter the solution and what I call, my mac and cheese revolution: the One Pot, Stove Top, Creamy Macaroni and Cheese recipe.
Start by boiling small macaroni in water on low simmer
constantly stir so that macaroni doesn’t stick
after macaroni is pre-cooked in water, add milk and simmer on low heat
when macaroni is plump, tender and cooked, add the cheese
optional- add toasted bread crumbs or panko for extra crunch and texture
It’s simple, clear, and considerate of everything we need in order to still eat well and prepare quickly, without compromising on quality and taste.
– One Pot – Yes, you read it correctly. All the raw macaroni is cooked in one pot, without a pre-boil step that most other stove top recipes require. There is no extra pot to pre-boil or wash. One pot means less dishes!
– Stove Stop- Stove top means NO oven. During our hot summer days, that last thing that I want is to turn on my oven and sweat even more just for a bowl of mac and cheese. The stove top method is a wonderful way of cooking the macaroni pasta, quickly and to your desired texture. I can control exactly how soft or al dente I want my macaroni to be.
– Creamy – This mac and cheese recipe is slowly cooked in water, then milk and a little butter. The cheese is added in the end and it’s so creamy and amazing.
– Flavor blasts with creative cheeses- Now that I’ve figured out how to cook it easily and still maintain great texture, now comes the best part—-great flavor! Have fun with this recipe and experiment with flavorful, cheeses that melt well. My favorite is using parmesan and asiago cheese because I can use less cheese and still have bold flavor. Every single bite is delicious.
I’m still a huge fan of oven baked mac and cheese because the warm, comforting, casserole bake can’t be compromised. The cheesy crusts are a show stopper too. But when I’m starving and the weather is scorching hot, the last thing I want to do is to blast that oven to 350 degrees.
happy mac and cheese times to you,
Toasted bread crumbs: I love toasted bread crumbs and it’s so easy to make. Just break up some old bread, heat it up on a skillet. Continue stirring until crumbs start to brown and become fragrant. Remove from heat and top off your macaroni and cheese!
One Pot, Stove Top Macaroni & Cheese Recipe
Yield: Serves 3-4
**Update- Sept. 14, 2015: After intense re-testing, we've updated the recipe to boil the pasta in some water first, which will reduce the gummy/sticky results that some readers are getting. Then the milk is added afterwards to finish boiling/cooking and the results are even better!.
The input and advice from reader comments are extremely valuable. Technique is very vital to making this recipe a success, as well as the type of ingredients, milk, cheese & macaroni that you use.
The key to keeping this recipe creamy is to make sure the flame is low and to consistently stir the pot. We use the smaller size of mac elbows and they need to be cooked slowly in the water, then the milk. Medium to High heat will cause the milk to burn. Don't leave the pot unattended.
Obviously with the stove top, there won't be that cheesy crust that forms on top. But toppings of toasted bread crumbs or bacon should be a nice exchange.
- 1 pound (455g) small elbow macaroni, uncooked
- about 3 cups (710ml) water
- 2 cups low fat Milk (about 16 oz or 475ml), or more if needed
- **if more milk is needed, additional 1/4 cup milk at a time for final cooking. **Macaroni pasta varies so much! have additional milk on hand, or be ready to increase the heat if your macaroni doesn't absorb fast enough.
- 1 tablespoon Butter, for flavor ( I tried this recipe once without the butter and I didn't notice any difference with the recipe. More heart healthy!)
- 1/2 teaspoon Mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon Salt, plus additional for final season later
- generous dash of Nutmeg
- about 8 oz (225g) Grated Cheddar Cheese, any one or combination of (jack, cheddar, swiss, mozzarella, gouda, parmesan*, asiago*, pecorino*) *Hard cheeses are best combined with a secondary, softer, better melting cheese. Cheese varies in flavor and salt level too! The more cheddar cheese you use, the creamier the mac and cheese will be
- additional toppings: bacon bits, bread crumbs, chopped parsley, diced tomatoes (optional)
- black pepper to taste (optional)
- Place raw elbow macaroni in colander and quickly rinse under water. Let drain.
- In medium sauce pot (about 3.5 qt), add water and raw elbow macaroni. Heat the pot on medium heat to bring the mixture to a low simmer and keep the flame consistent to maintain the low simmer.
- Stir the macaroni frequently as it comes up to a simmer. This will separate macaroni and keep them from sticking together. DO NOT LEAVE THE STOVE! The mixture will come to a low boil very quickly and leaving it unattended will leave a big mess on your stove stop.
- Once mixture comes to a simmer, add the milk and bring the mixture back to a low simmer. Then immediately turn down heat to LOW. Macaroni will slowly cook in the milk. Having your heat too high will burn the milk and scorch your pan
- Continue to stir the mixture frequently so that macaroni will cook evenly and absorb milk evenly. If you don't stir your mixture frequently, you will get a big clump of macaroni in the end! Stir, stir stir!
- Cook for about 10 minutes or until macaroni is tender. Make sure there is still some milk in the pot to melt the cheese, which makes the mac and cheese creamy. **If macaroni is not cooked fully, add a little more milk to mixture ( in small amounts) until macaroni is fully cooked.
- When the macaroni is plump and cooked, add the mustard powder, salt, nutmeg and grated cheddar cheese. Stir the cheese mixture evenly into the macaroni. We will add more milk to the pot if needed, then add the cheese to make the mixture more creamy.
- Take a final taste and add additional salt to taste. Before serving, stir one final time to mix everything together. Turn off heat and serve immediately.
- Add bread crumbs for a crunchy bite if you wish.