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Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Food All Stars

Chef notes

Creamy and cozy stovetop macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food on chilly winter days. But when we say “stovetop mac,” you’re probably picturing whipping up a box of a popular store-bought version that comes in a blue box — yes, you know the one. We prefer this homemade version from chef Alejandra Ramos that captures that same level of creaminess, but with an even better taste and no preservatives. And we promise it’s nearly as easy as the store bought kind. No oven required! 

This recipe comes together so quickly, make sure you have all your ingredients measured out and ready to go when you start making the sauce. After cooking and draining the pasta, melt the butter in a large pot until foamy. Add the flour to the butter and stir until fully incorporated, before slowly pouring in the milk while stirring continuously. As the sauce thickens, add the spices and the cheeses and stir in until completely melted and incorporated. Once the sauce is the right consistency, remove it from the heat and stir in the cooked pasta until completely coated. Dinner’s served! 

Swap Option: Keep it classic using only a good quality sharp cheddar or switch it up with a mix of your favorite super meltable  cheeses like Gruyère or fontina. 

Technique Tip: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for up to six months. To get the best leftover experience, reheat the pasta on the stovetop with additional milk to thin and refresh the sauce.


  • 1 (1-pound) box small dry pasta (such as orecchiette, shells, elbow macaroni, penne, or gemelli)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or a hot sauce such as Tabasco (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder or wet yellow mustard (optional)
  • 1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
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Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt generously, then cook pasta according to box directions for "al dente." Drain pasta and set aside.


Place a large pot over medium-high heat and melt the butter until foamy. Add the flour and stir in for 1 minute until fully incorporated with the butter. Slowly pour in the milk while stirring continuously until the sauce thickens and coats the back of the spoon.


Turn the heat down to low. Add the spices and stir to combine. Add the cheeses and stir until melted. If the sauce seems too thick, add in a few tablespoons of milk and stir to thin out the sauce. 


Remove sauce from heat. Add the cooked pasta and stir in until completely coated. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt, pepper or other spices, as desired.


Serve immediately. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for up to six months. For best results, reheat pasta on the stove with additional milk to thin the sauce.