Stovetop Mac and Cheese is the perfect recipe for a quick and tasty weeknight dinner! With a creamy and flavorful cheese sauce and a delicious bread crumb topping, this recipe is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters. Skip the boxed mac and cheese this week and try this homemade mac and cheese for yourself!
👩🏻🍳 Why You'll Love This Recipe
Mac and cheese is one of those dishes that never fails me. Even though those boxed mac and cheeses are convenient, I've always felt they leave something to be desired. That's where this stovetop mac and cheese saves the day!
Aside from cooking the pasta, this entire recipe is made in the same skillet, which makes it streamlined and simple, and cleanup is a breeze. Not only that, but this dish is so tasty and blows boxed mac and cheese out of the water!
Serve this as a side or mix in some veggies or protein to create a fantastic entree. Either way, this mac and cheese will be a hit every time! And if you really love mac and cheese, you might also enjoy this recipe for the Best Homemade Mac and Cheese, which relies on the flavors of jalapeno and artichoke for a flavorful and unique mac and cheese recipe!
🥘 Ingredients Needed
- elbow macaroni - the perfect type of pasta for mac and cheese!
- flour - helps the sauce thicken up.
- whipping cream - gives your cheese sauce a heartiness.
- milk - ensures that the sauce doesn't get so thick that you can't eat it.
- cream cheese - makes your mac and cheese so creamy and delicious!
- ground mustard - adds some yellow color and a bit of warm flavor.
- cheddar cheese, queso fresco - a delicious combo of cheeses that make for a flavorful and perfectly cheesy sauce.
- Parmesan cheese - and optional topping for a cheesy crust.
- Panko bread crumbs - these are an optional ingredient for the top of the mac and cheese.
- Heat some olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, then add the flour and cook for 2 minutes or so.
- Add milk, whipping cream, cream cheese, and mustard powder, then stir until combined. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, until thickened.
- Stir in the cheddar and queso fresco, ensuring that they're fully melted. If the sauce is too thick, stir in some leftover pasta water from cooking the macaroni.
- Add the cooked macaroni and mix until evenly coated.
- If using, top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan.
- Broil for 2-3 minutes until toasted. Serve and enjoy!
When it comes to flavor, there aren't a whole lot of differences, especially if you use similar ingredients for either variety. The main difference is that stovetop mac and cheese is much faster to make than baked, and aside from cooking the pasta, it can all be made in the same skillet.
Cheddar is a classic answer; the orange-yellow color and sharpness play well with the pasta and the other ingredients in the sauce, and it melts well. Another option is mozzarella, or queso fresco, which is a similar cheese. These are both mild in flavor but are easy to melt and make for a great sauce. A combination of the two is delicious!
The cream cheese and heavy cream in this recipe do a lot of work when it comes to a smooth, creamy sauce. Another thing to try if that isn't enough for you would be to cook your noodles in milk instead of water, but because you have to drain them this method also wastes a lot of milk.
💭 Other Helpful Tips
- Leftover mac and cheese stores well, which makes it a great recipe to make ahead of time or in large batches. Pop it in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to a week.
- For cooking your pasta, be sure to add some salt to the water for extra flavor. Adding after it boils is the easiest way to ensure it dissolves.
- Give your pasta a good stir every couple of minutes while it's cooking. This will prevent sticking.
- When you're broiling your mac and cheese, be sure to pay attention so the bread crumbs don't burn, as this can happen fairly quickly.
Homemade mac and cheese is a simple and quick dish that's guaranteed to be a hit with the kids! It cooks in 20 minutes, which means you have dinner on the table in no time!
- If you want to add other cheeses, try white cheddar, Gruyère, mozzarella, Monterey Jack, or Colby.
- Stir some black pepper into your mac and cheese for another layer of flavor.
- Feel free to use whatever variety of pasta you like; this cheese sauce will be delicious no matter what!
- For an even richer sauce, cook the flour in butter instead of olive oil.
- Stir in some cooked chicken for extra protein.
- Broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower also make great mix-ins for a healthier dish!
🥗 Suggested Side Dishes
This homemade mac and cheese makes a great main course, but it's important to pair it with a side that has a lot of nutrition! This Garlic Butter Microwave Broccoli is a great option, since your microwave will be free. You could also serve your mac with a Cucumber Salad or a classic Kale Caesar Salad.
🧀 More Mac and Cheese Recipes
- Instant Pot Chicken Mac and Cheese - Fast to make in the instant pot and full of protein from the chicken.
- Slow Cooker Cauliflower Mac and Cheese - An even healthier take on mac and cheese that doesn't sacrifice flavor.
- Macarrones Con Queso - This Mexican-style mac and cheese is dairy free and different than and mac you've had!
Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipe
Love this recipe? Awesome! Please give it a 5 star ⭐ rating below! And if you make this, snap a photo and tag me on Instagram. You can find me at DizzyBusyandHungry or #dizzybusyandhungry!
📋 Recipe Card
Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- Cast Iron Skillet
- Cook the macaroni according to package instructions, except cook for about 1 minute less. Drain but save about 1/4 cup pasta water.16 ounces elbow macaroni
- In the meantime, heat the cast iron skillet over medium heat, then add the olive oil to the skillet. Whisk the flour into the olive oil and cook for about 2 minutes, whisking until there are no clumps.1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup flour
- Slowly add the milk, heavy whipping cream, cream cheese, and ground mustard, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer for about 3-5 minutes, until it starts to thicken, and then reduce the heat to low.1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 cups milk, 4 ounces cream cheese, 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- Begin to add the cheddar cheese and queso fresco, stirring to make sure they fully melt. If the sauce seems too thick, add some of the ¼ cup of pasta water that was saved from draining the pasta.12 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, 4 ounces queso fresco
- Stir in the cooked pasta.
- Optional: Top with the Parmesan cheese and Panko breadcrumbs, then broil for 2-3 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are toasted.4 ounces Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
- Store your leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
- Add salt to your water after it boils but before adding the pasta.
- Be sure to stir your pasta as it cooks to prevent sticking.
- If you broil the mac and cheese, be sure to pay attention so the bread crumbs don't burn.
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