Make this quick, simple, and easy stovetop mac and cheese for dinner! It requires only a few ingredients and can be made in under 30 minutes. It’s the perfect no-bake mac and cheese recipe for an easy weeknight meal!
Sometimes I crave a fancy mac and cheese. But honestly, most of the time, I just want a basic, quick, and simple mac and cheese. This easy stovetop mac and cheese is my go-to recipe for busy weeknights! It’s so smooth, cheesy, cheddar-y (yes, I made up that word), and absolutely delicious. And the best part? It takes less than 30 minutes to make.
What’s in the Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese?
- elbow macaroni or cavatappi pasta
- shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- unsalted butter
- all-purpose flour
- whole milk
- seasonings (garlic powder, salt, and pepper)
If you want to make the best stovetop mac and cheese, here are the keys: a good bechamel sauce and flavorful cheese.
What Is Bechamel Sauce?
Bechamel sauce is made of butter, flour, and milk. It serves as a base for other sauces, and it’s also considered one of the mother sauces in French cuisine. Oh yes, it’s that big of a deal!
To make bechamel sauce, first melt some butter in a saucepan or dutch oven and add equal parts of flour. Then, you need to whisk whisk whisk. Whisking or stirring consistently for about 3-4 minutes prevents lumps in the sauce and cooks the raw flour. This is called a roux. Then you whisk in milk, simmer for another 3-4 minutes stirring often, and you’ll see how the sauce starts to thicken up. And, just like that, you’ve got bechamel sauce!
What Cheese Should I Use?
First of all, if you can grate your cheese, please do so! I find that pre-grated bagged cheese takes longer to melt, AND it’s less flavorful and drier. To grate cheese, you can use a box grater or a food processor (much faster!).
Alright, so what types of cheese should you use? Basically anything that melts well and has a strong flavor. Here are some suggestions:
- Sharp cheddar
- White cheddar
- Sharp cheddar + gruyere
Bonus: this easy mac and cheese reheats well, so you’ll have plenty of leftovers! Enjoy! 🙂
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- Grate your own cheese with a box grater or a food processor. The cheese sauce will be creamier and more flavorful.
- Cheese is usually somewhat salty, so be conservative when adding final seasonings.
- If possible, use whole milk for creaminess.
Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- ¾ pounds elbow macaroni or cavatappi
- 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk - plus more as needed
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan or dutch oven, melt butter over medium low heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk for about 3 minutes, until thickened. This is called a roux.
- Gradually, add the milk, stirring. Bring to a boil (turn up the heat a little) and then simmer for about 3-4 minutes in medium-low heat, stirring often until thickened. If you want, add more milk little by little until desired consistency, stirring.
- Stir in the cheese and mix well until melted and warm.
- Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir until well combined. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Enjoy!