Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese
Have you ever wondered how restaurants make a great creamy rich sauce? Have you ever tried to create mac and cheese on your own only to find the shredded cheese ends up goopey or the sauce grainy? Macaroni and cheese has always been one of my very favorite dishes. In fact I went through a childhood phase where I literally only ordered mac and cheese from every restaurant my family went to. I had to explain over and over to them that my plan was to sample every mac and cheese out there to find the best one. Silly, I know, and eventually I expanded to other sections of the menu but creamy, rich, stovetop mac and cheese has always been a staple of mine.
The sauce is the focus of this post because it starts from a base component called a roux (it’s french so ignore the x and pronounce it as “roo”). Once you have mastered creating a roux the endless doors of cooking opportunity are open to you.
I am not being dramatic here. Roux’s are what make many soups creamy, sauces thick, and pasta dishes that are to die for. The best way I could think to share this skill with you was to make the super easy stovetop mac and cheese. Way better than the stuff in the blue box and fill with all the good stuff like the mountain of cheese in the picture above.
Side note: always use cheese that you buy in a block and shred yourself for recipes where you are melting the cheese into a sauce. Pre shredded cheese it actually coated in a mixture to keep the shreds from sticking together in the bag that creates a weird grainy texture when you try to melt it in sauce.
The first step to making stovetop mac and cheese is to create the roux base.
Basically a roux is just a mixture of flour and a source of fat, most commonly butter. But you could also get crazy and try something like coconut oil, shortening, or bacon grease (but pleeeease for this recipe stick with the butter). I find that rouxs work the best for me when I blend equal parts flour and fat.
For this stovetop mac and cheese I used three tablespoons of butter, melted over the stove then added three tablespoons of flour. You can use whole wheat if you desire, typically in my house I keep whole wheat and general purpose unbleached flour on hand, either works for this recipe.
Also as you can see in the background of the photo above that I have set the noodles on to cook while I make the sauce. I used cavatappi noodles (the curly kind) because I think they are fun and hold sauce well, but you could use elbows, shells, bowties, or whatever shape your pasta loving heart desires.
Important step here:
Mix the melted butter and flour thoroughly and cook for 1-2 minutes stirring continuously. DO NOT LET THE ROUX BURN. But if it does (because we are all human) just throw it out and start again.
Once the flour and butter have cooked its time to add the milk. Go slowly here, mixing a little bit of milk in at a time so that the roux base dissolves into the mixture. I don’t like to add more than a quarter cup of milk at a time. After adding the milk continue to stir over medium heat, you don’t want the milk to come to a strong boil but instead to reduce and thicken.
When you start to notice the milk mixture thickening it’s time to add your mountain of cheese and seasoning. Stir until all the cheese has melted, then add your cooked noodles. There you have it, a delicious and oh so easy stovetop mac and cheese!
Now that you know how to make a roux you can try it out to make your own soups, gravies, and sauces!
Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1/2 cup milk add more or less depending on how thick you want your sauce
- 1/2 lb cavatappi or noodle of choice
- 3/4 cup sharp cheddar
- 3/4 cup gouda
- 3/4 cup white cheddar
- 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
Melt butter on stovetop over medium heat, add flour, stir to combine. Cook mixture for 1-2 minutes stirring the entire time. Boil water and cook noodles per package instructions.
Slowly add milk to the roux, stirring to combine. Continue to cook on medium heat until the sauce thickens.
Add cheese, salt and pepper. Cook until cheese has completely melted, stirring occasionally.
Add noodles to the sauce, stir, and serve.