Put that blue box away. This easy one-pot mac and cheese recipe will become your go-to everyday mac and cheese. Entirely on the stovetop and will blow other versions out of the water.
Whether it is the main part of the meal or just a tasty side dish, you can easily do better than a box of mac and cheese. Now you can do a whole lot better. Just follow these simple step-by-step photo instructions. Let's kick it up a few notches.
There must be a million mac and cheese recipes on the internet. Why do you need this one? You want great results without a lot of fuss and mess — an excellent reason.
I had seen this technique/recipe around several places, but the inspiration goes to Stephanie at Plain Chicken with her One Pot Mac and Cheese, which was adapted from whiteonricecouple.com.
The basic idea is to use milk with spices to cook the pasta. When done, mix in the cheese, and you have tasty goodness. Like I said, easy.
It's good, and it's easy.
I believe almost any dry pasta should work except ones that are very quick cooking. You need time for the milk to cook and absorb.
The cooking time can vary due to pasta variations and your definition of simmer.
To Rinse or Not to Rinse the Pasta
The model recipes for this recipe do rinse the pasta. I now consider it useless fuss and have removed it from the process.
🧀The Cheese and Milk
Use the milk or alternative milk of your choice. If it can stand up to boiling, it should work.
The cheese is not even cooked, just melted, so use the cheese of your choice.
✔️One Tip - Stir a lot
This is NOT a mix and come back later recipe. You need to be there to stir frequently.
But by the time you precook the pasta for other recipes, the hands-on time is not much different. I can easily find things to do in the area for the short cooking time.
If in doubt, stir more.
📖Mac and Cheese Recipes
Uncooked Macaroni Crock Pot Mac and Cheese
Creamiest Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Everyday ingredients you probably already have on hand.
Mix in a medium nonstick saucepan 2 cup milk, 1 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon paprika, and ½ teaspoon dry mustard. Add 2 cups (about 8 oz of pasta).
Bring to a light boil over medium-high heat, frequently stirring as soon as it starts to boil. Reduce heat to simmer uncovered.
Continue to stir frequently. The milk will absorb and cook away in about 15-20 minutes. As you approach this point, test pasta for tenderness. It will probably not be done yet. Add ¼ of milk and continue to cook and frequent stirring. You may need to repeat this. I took 25 minutes and a total of 2 ½ cups of milk total to finish the pasta.
When the pasta is tender and the milk mostly absorbed, add 1 cup of cheese (your choice), remove from heat, and cover for minutes.
Give a good stir before serving.
Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- 2 cups pasta
- 2 to 2 ½ cups milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 cup shredded cheese - your choice
- Mix in a medium nonstick saucepan 2 cup milk, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon paprika, and ½ teaspoon dry mustard.
- Add 2 cups (about 8 oz of pasta). Bring to a light boil over medium-high heat stirring frequently. As soon as it starts to boil, reduce heat to simmer uncovered. Continue to stir frequently.
- The milk will absorb and cook away in about 15-20 minutes. As you approach this point, test pasta for tenderness. It will probably not be done yet. Add ¼ of milk and continue to cook and frequent stirring. You may need to repeat this again. It may take up to 25 minutes and a total of 2 ½ cups of milk total to finish the pasta. But your results may differ.
- When the pasta is tender, and the milk mostly absorbed, add 1 cup of cheese (your choice), remove from heat, and cover for minutes.
- Give a good stir before serving.
Your Own Private Notes
- This works with alternative milk products.
- Most dry pasta should also work except for rapid cooking varieties.
- The end point of cooking the pasta is tender but not over done pasta.
- If there is still significant fluid when the pasta is tender, drain most of it.
- If the pasta is not tender and the fluid is mostly gone, add more milk per the instructions.
- Use the cheese of your choice.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Originally Published December 20, 2012. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.
In the instruction number 4, and also the recipe steps before the recipe, it says "When the pasta is tender, and the milk mostly absorbed, add 1 cup of cheese (your choice), remove from heat and cover for minutes."
Would that be a few minutes, 10 minutes, or what? I'm one that follows a new recipe exactly the first time around and would like this missing piece of information.
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog.
A "few minutes" here means 2-3 minutes only until completely melted and able to be combined. I'm not cooking the cheese which I find makes it stay creamier.
Hope that helps.Thanks for asking and the rating.
Thank you Dan - it is a very clear response - I agree, it has to be the milk. I am going to try this recipe one more time with regular milk - the picture of it looks so good!
Hi Dr. Dan,
I have made this recipe twice now and have been disappointed with the results. I think it is because I am using Lactose Free milk - the mac and cheese tastes like it has sugar in it as a result. I am going to try it one more time with regular milk to see how it goes because usually your recipes are great! Just thought I would pass the info on about Lactose Free milk.
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Sorry it didn't work well but it may be the milk.
A brief doctor discussion. All dairy has sugar called lactose. Lactose is what is called a disaccharide which is two molecules of sugar (glucose and galactose) stuck together. Most people have an enzyme called lactase to break the lactose in half so you can absorb it. If not broken up, it will ferment in the intestine and produce gas and diarrhea. So one molecule of lactose becomes two molecules of other sugars. You body detects the sweetness by number of molecules not weight. So lactose from milk has been pretreated with the emzyme lactase doubling the number of sugar molecules and making it sweeter.
I know, clear as mud but I must have explained it a thousand time to people with lactose intolerance.
So if the problem to your taste is sweetness, it probable is the milk. Otherwise maybe a different recipe.