Creamy and cozy stovetop macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food on chilly winter days. Growing up, my mom always whipped up a box of a popular store-bought version for my brother and I, but now I prefer my own homemade version that captures that same level of creaminess, but with an even better taste. Keep it classic using only a good sharp cheddar or switch it up with a mix of your favorite melting cheeses like gruyere or fontina. This comes together quickly, so make sure you have all your ingredients measured out and ready to go when you start making the sauce. No oven required!
- 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
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.2.
Measure out and prepared all of your spices, flour, milk and the cheese you will be using in the sauce before making the white sauce.3.
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.4.
Turn the heat down to low. Add the spices and stir in. Add the cheeses and stir in until completely melted and incorporated. If the sauce seems too thick, add in a few tablespoons of milk and stir in completely to thin out the sauce.5.
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.6.
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.