This Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese recipe is made in ONE pot with just SIX ingredients! Ready in 30 minutes or less, this stovetop mac is a family favorite.
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A new month of 6 Ingredient Suppers is here and I am SO excited for what this month has in store!
October is all about 6 ingredient skillet meals, and we’re kicking it off with everyone’s favorite comfort food: easy mac and cheese.
This one pot mac and cheese is made with just a few simple ingredients, and has a rich and creamy cheese sauce.
This Mac and Cheese recipe is perfect for those days when you need something easy and comforting! This year, I feel like we have plenty of those days in store.
You’ll find the detailed recipe down in the recipe card.
- Chicken broth: I always use low sodium chicken broth so that I can control the added salt. If you only have regular chicken broth, you will want to reduce the added salt and adjust as needed.
- Whole milk or cream: High fat milk or cream will not curdle as it cooks, so low fat milk is not a great option.
- Butter: A little butter makes the sauce smoother and keeps the pasta from sticking.
- Salt and black pepper: simple seasonings!
- Dry elbow macaroni: for this macaroni and cheese, the uncooked pasta cooks right in the sauce.
- Sharp cheddar cheese: gives that classic orange color and the best flavor. Avoid using pre-shredded cheese as it has an anti-caking agent added in that will prevent it from melting smoothly. Grab a block of cheese and get shredding your own cheese!
- Gruyere cheese: is the best cheese for an ultra creamy mac and cheese. If you can’t find gruyere or are looking for a more affordable option, try Swiss cheese.
How to make Mac and Cheese in one pot:
There are a few tips and tricks for making a one pot mac and cheese that is different from the traditional way. Here are some pointers for best results!
- Use a combination of broth and whole milk or light cream: this is the best way to get a creamy sauce that is still smooth. Since the sauce will simmer for quite a while, you need a higher fat dairy (whole milk or cream) that won’t curdle. If it does heat too quickly and curdles, just keep cooking and stirring over medium heat and it will smooth out.
- Don’t overcook the pasta: it’s important to stir every few minutes and cook the past just to al dente!
- Be a little flexible with your liquid: different liquids and different pastas will cook differently, so if you find that your liquid has mostly absorbed and your pasta is not cooked through, add a splash of broth of cream! Add it slowly and gradually and you can’t really go wrong. Learn to go with your gut — if you think it needs more, add a bit more.
- Keep in mind that the cheese will thicken the sauce considerably, so you want quite a bit of liquid remaining after the pasta is cooked. If you need to, add a bit more when you add the cheese to make the sauce come together. You can also add a spoonful of sour cream for a tangy, creamy sauce.
Variations on this skillet Mac and Cheese:
This is a great recipe to make your own! Here are a few ideas:
- Add different seasonings: hot sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, cayenne, paprika, cayenne pepper, and Italian seasoning are all popular additions, but feel free to get a little crazy and see what’s in your spice cupboard that would give it that extra little something.
- Salt and pepper to taste: I generally err on the side of less salty if possible, because it’s easy to add salt later. Taste once it’s cooked and adjust as necessary.
- Choose a different pasta: macaroni noodles (elbow pasta) are the classic but any short pasta will work great!
- Use a combination of cheeses: cheddar cheese gives that classic color and flavor, but feel free to experiment with the cheese your family enjoys! Monterey jack, pepper jack, white cheddar, colby jack and havarti cheese are great choices.
- Add in vegetables: if you want them cooked, or slightly cooked, add during the cooking process with the pasta. Vegetables like spinach that will soften quickly can be stirred in with the cheese.
- Add in cooked meats. This recipe is a great side dish or main dish, but you can add in this Shredded Chicken or Instant Pot Chicken Taco meat or saute meat in the same pan before adding the liquid and pasta. This is a great way to add additional protein!
- If you’re looking for a Baked Macaroni recipe, try this one here.
How to make Mac and Cheese ahead:
Pasta can be an easy recipe to prep ahead with a few tips to get it just right!
Store it in the refrigerator:
To make ahead and serve later, ensure that your pasta isn’t overcooked. Err on the side of a little firm rather than too soft, as it will continue to absorb some of the cheesy sauce in the fridge.
Store up to 4 days in the refrigerator, tightly covered.
To reheat, add a big splash of water, milk or broth and place, covered, over low heat on the stove. Stir occasionally. If it is still thick and not saucy and creamy, add in another splash of liquid.
How to freeze Mac and Cheese:
If you know you want to freeze your mac and cheese, make sure that you quit cooking while your pasta is still slightly firm — a couple minutes before you would want to eat it.
Let cool slightly before covering tightly and placing in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To serve, I recommend thawing at room temperature for several hours or in the refrigerator overnight.
Then you can add a big splash of water, broth or milk, and reheat in the oven or on the stove top until heated through. Stir at least a couple times once the pasta starts to warm up.
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Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese
- 2-2.5 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 2-2.5 cups whole milk or light cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cups dry macaroni (I use white with fiber)
- 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese (NOT pre-shredded)
- 1.5 cups shredded gruyere cheese
- In a large skillet, stir together 2 cups chicken broth, 2 cups milk or cream, butter, salt and pepper. Bring to a low simmer over medium heat.
- Stir in macaroni. Cover and cook, stirring every 4-5 minutes until al dente (about 10-12 minutes total), adding more liquid gradually if needed.
- Stir in cheese until melted — if necessary, cover and let rest a few minutes off the heat to melt the cheese and then stir. If sauce is took thick, gradually stir in additional broth or milk until it comes together.
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