The Best Stovetop Mac and Cheese

bowl of mac and cheese on a round marble platter with a fork digging into the dish

This Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe is loaded with large orecchiette pasta, filled with pockets of gooey cheese and ultra creamy! You’ll never make boxed mac and cheese after this! It’s the BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese!

This recipe was originally posted in August 2018 – I’ve since updated the photos and content. Enjoy!

Mac and cheese is probably my forever favorite comfort food. There’s just something about it. The creaminess, all of the cheese, the slightly chewy al dente noodles.

extreme close up of the creamy mac and cheese in the pot with a wooden spoon

But then there are people like my husband, Ben, who like to ruin all things good in the world by putting KETCHUP. ON MAC AND CHEESE. What kind of monster even does that?! How could you ever ruin something as amazingly cheesy as this? Thankfully, he never puts ketchup on this goodness!

Why this dish is truly the BEST: 

Listen y’all, there are times when you’re getting home from a long day and the last thing you want is some fancy dinner that’s going to take one hour to make. You want the 15 minute condensed version. And I’m totally there with you!

Listen, I’m ALL about boxed mac and cheese. My favorite is Annie’s White Cheddar Shells. They’re delicious and they have pretty good ingredients for what it is.

But, even if you may be saving time by using boxed, you’re never going to achieve those large delicious shells filled with melty gooey cheese that this stovetop mac and cheese can produce. Like, borderline Velveeta goodness but with like, real food ingredients. It’s pretty phenomenal.

close up of the finished dish garnished with pepper in a white bowl

This mac and cheese is a time saver AND delicious! It’s absolutely velvety smooth and extra delicious. It’s loaded with 2 different types of cheese and gets melty and creamy and buttery and the cheesy sauce coats the noodles entirely and WOW. 

The noodles are a little bit al dente so they have the perfect firmness to them that stands up to the creamy texture of the rest of the dish. 

It’s insanely simple as well – I’ll share some of my favorite tips below, but first let’s talk about what you’ll need. Thankfully it’s mostly pantry/fridge staples!

What You’ll Need:

  • Orichette pasta (or you can use any type of shells)
  • Salted butter
  • all purpose flour
  • Shredded cheese (i used two different kinds – sharp cheddar and gruyere)
  • Whole milk (yes, whole. makes it extra creamy!)
  • Splash of heavy cream (optional but makes it extra delicious!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

So yeah, 7 ingredients. Pretty easy huh?

Best Tips for Making Extra Creamy Mac and Cheese

Begin by making your noodles! Make sure your pasta water is SALTY in order to give the noodles flavor. Cook according to the package directions – my noodles took about 10-12 minutes depending on if you like them al dente or not (which I would recommend!)

pasta drained in a silver colander

In order to achieve the creamiest mac, you’re going to have to make a roux. I promise that’s a word that sounds super fancy but in fact it’s super simple. 

What is a roux? Basically it’s where you combine melted butter with all purpose flour in order to help thicken a sauce! 

melted butter in pot on top of a green linen

So, get a pot warm on medium heat and melt salted butter – which yes, I definitely recommend salted.

whisking in flour to the melted butter in the pot, making a roux

Let it melt fully in the pot and then add in the all purpose flour with a whisk and immediately whisk the flour into the butter to help it cook. Once the two are combined and are a sauce, begin to add the whole milk a little at a time. 

Continue stirring with the whisk. It should thicken pretty quickly. Add in the remaining milk a little bit at a time – continually whisking to thicken the sauce. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: You never want to bring this mixture to a boil, just a simmer. If you boil it, you could scald the milk. 

Continue to stir with a whisk or rubber spatula for about 5-7 minutes. When it is pretty thickened, add in your cheese with a wooden spoon and mix to combine until your cheese is fully melted.

finished creamy cheesy sauce in pot

It didn’t take long for me! You just have to make sure you incorporate it really well until it’s a fully combined creamy thick sauce. Take it off the heat.

At this point, your noodles should probably be done. Drain those quickly and add them directly into the cheese sauce. Stir to combine and watch the beauty of extremely cheesy mac and cheese come to life.

finished mac and cheese in pot with a wooden spoon

If you’d like, stir in a tablespoon of heavy cream for EXTRA GOODNESS. Totally optional, though. Once it’s all stirred together, add a heavy dose of salt and pepper. Red pepper flakes are optional.

Consume immediately while hot. It’s so good and wow the cheese is extra melty and the noodles are extra tender with a slight al-dente bite and it’s all so thick and velvety.

Reheating This Stovetop Mac and Cheese:

Reheating this worked so well! All I did was store the leftovers in a sealed glass tupperware. I popped it in the microwave for about a minute or a minute and a half. Then when I took it out, I stirred in a splash of milk to get that creaminess back into the texture.

side view bowl of finished mac and cheese on a green linen with a small wooden bowl of salt in the background

I really hope you guys love this version of Stovetop Mac and Cheese as much as I do! Try it out instead of a box next time. I promise you won’t regret it!

Did you enjoy this recipe? Here are a few more you might like:

Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

Cheesy Pesto Spaghetti Pie 

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta 

Thank you so much for following along here, friends! Want to see more? Be sure to follow ourbalancedbowl on Instagram and tag me with your photo if you end up making a recipe! You can also post a photo of your recipe to the Our Balanced Bowl Facebook page! Like a recipe that you saw? Follow me on Pinterest here! I always love to see your re-creations! If you do make a recipe, it would make my whole day if you were to rate and comment so I can get your feedback! Lots of love! – Haylie

5 from 3 votes
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The Best Stovetop Mac and Cheese

This Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe is loaded with large orecchiette pasta, filled with pockets of gooey cheese and ultra creamy! You’ll never make boxed mac and cheese after this! It’s the BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese!

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword creamy mac and cheese, easy homemade mac and cheese, stovetop mac and cheese
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 498 kcal
Author Haylie

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. orecchiette pasta
  • 5 tbsp salted butter
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese (or your favorite cheese!)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream (optional)

Instructions

  1. Begin to cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. Don't forget to salt your pasta water generously!

  2. While your pasta is cooking, melt better in a large pot on medium heat. Add in your flour and using a whisk, quickly to make a roux until the two are combined. Let cook for 1 minute or so and then add 1/2 cup of whole milk and begin stirring. It should thicken up pretty quickly. 

  3. Add in remaining 1 and 1/2 cups of milk a little at a time, continually stirring as you go. Do not let this mixture begin to boil! Continue to stir for about 5-7 minutes, until thickened.

  4. Once creamy, using a wooden spoon, add in your cheese and mix to combine until the cheese is fully melted and it is one thick, creamy cheesy sauce. Take it off the heat. 

  5. At this point, your noodles should be done. Drain them and add them directly into the cheese sauce. Stir gently to combine. Add in a heavy amount of salt and pepper for seasoning and a tbsp of heavy cream for extra richness if desired. 

  6. Eat while hot and melty! Enjoy! 

Recipe Notes

To re-heat pasta: Simply store leftovers in well-sealed tupperware. Microwave for a minute or two. Add a splash of milk and mix well. 

 

8 comments / Add your comment below

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious!! I love the orecchiette, and the gruyere added such a great flavor. It was easy and quick enough to make and eat during the break between a church staff meeting and choir practice – plus, it reheated well for a post-rehearsal snack and for lunch the next day!

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