There is a several year gap in my life when I didn’t make mac and cheese because the only way I knew how to make it was from a box, and I had thrown away all the boxes because they were contaminated with hydrogenated oils.
Yes, a life without macaroni and cheese is sad. As much as we enjoy other comfort dishes like chicken and spinach enchiladas and homemade donuts, nothing beats a classic homemade mac and cheese recipe.
Could I have bought a box of organic mac and cheese instead of declaring our house to be a mac-and-cheese-free zone? Sure I could, but some boxes of organic macaroni and cheese have organic pasta, and not organic cheese. That defeats the purpose in my opinion, because if anything in the box should be organic, it should be the cheese.
Buying a box of mac and cheese also goes against my own goals of cooking from scratch as often as possible. Why cook from a box when I could make cheesy rice or pasta with my own 5 minute spinach pesto instead? It’s not quite the same, but at least I would know we weren’t eating unnecessary additives and preservatives.
Lastly, I’m not a fan of the way boxed organic mac and cheese tastes! Certainly it makes sense to NOT buy something you don’t like to eat, right?
Could I have made mac and cheese from scratch? Absolutely, but here’s the thing: I thought it was too hard.
Shocking right? Surely I’m not the only one who has never bothered to even try to do something because they THOUGHT it was too hard?
But here’s the kicker – it’s not hard at all! In fact, it’s one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made. So easy that my kids almost know how to make it just by watching me!
It’s a shame that we had to go years without macaroni and cheese, but now that I have a tried-and-true homemade mac and cheese recipe that my family LOVES? Game on!
Three words come to mind when I think of mac and cheese: creamy, cheesy, comforting. Coincidence that they all start with the letter C? Absolutely.
Let’s investigate this mac and cheese recipe a bit and how it meets our 3 C criteria:
What is the Best Pasta for Homemade Mac and Cheese?
Cute wheels and flat egg noodles? No go. Whether you use white or whole wheat pasta is up to you. I’ve used both and no one knew the difference.
What is the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese?
Classic sharp cheddar is the main star for cheesiness, but cream cheese plays a very important supporting role to round out the creamy requirement. Plus cream cheese tends to cost less than cheddar, which means you can get away with using a little less cheddar than in most mac and cheese recipes.
Note that I said SHARP cheddar cheese – it’s another way to save on cheese (and it tastes better).
Butter + Milk for Mac and Cheese Recipe
Mac and cheese without butter and milk is just pasta and cheese. A.K.A. no creaminess whatsoever. You need our friends butter and milk to turn plain cheese into an amazing saucy sauce.
What are the Best Spices for Homemade Mac and Cheese?
Mac and cheese without spice lacks a depth, which is why you often see nutmeg listed in the ingredients. Maybe one day I’ll use whole nutmeg with a microplane, but until then, ground nutmeg will have to do.
I’ve also added a few other players too – garlic, onion and paprika – because they really kick up the comforting factor a few notches. Please don’t skip them, and if you add some chili powder too? Yum…
Are there Breadcrumbs in Stove Top Mac and Cheese?
There are none because this is STOVE TOP mac and cheese, not BAKED mac and cheese. Yes, there is a difference and I don’t like breadcrumbs on my mac and cheese anyway.
The Best Creamy Stove Top Mac and Cheese
I should preface this recipe by saying that this mac and cheese is NOT diet friendly. It’s not carb-friendly or low-fat and doesn’t fall into any other category that agribusiness says is good for you.
This is full-fat, from scratch, home-style cooking you imagine and salivate for when someone says mac and cheese. It’s made with 100% real food ingredients you can feel good about serving your family and oh, by the way, it’s ready in less than 15 minutes.
BONUS: Want to sneak in some veggies? Sub pumpkin puree or mashed sweet potato for the cream cheese! It still tastes amazing PLUS you can feed your picky eater some veggies and they won’t even know!
Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese
The best homemade mac and cheese just like your grandma would make, ready in less than 15 minutes and made from scratch with real food ingredients.
- Prep Time: 1 min
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 16 minutes
- Yield: 4-6 servings 1x
- Category: Sides
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
- 8 oz elbow pasta
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 4 Tbsp flour
- 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature and cubed
- 8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2–2 1/2 cups milk, divided
- 1/4 tsp each: garlic powder, ground nutmeg, onion powder, paprika
- 1/4 tsp chili powder (optional)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- salt, to taste
- Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Strain in a colander and set aside.
- In the same pot, melt butter. Add flour and stir so that it makes a paste with the melted butter. Allow the flour to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of milk while stirring constantly. Stir until the sauce is smooth.
- Add the cream cheese and cheddar cheese and stir often until the cheese is melted.
- Season with the garlic powder, nutmeg, onion powder, paprika, pepper and chili powder, if using.
- Rinse the pasta with water so that the noodles don’t stick together. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and stir well, but gently so that the noodles don’t break. Taste and add additional seasoning as desired. If the sauce is too thick, thin with milk 1/4 cup at a time.