Melissa Clark’s Stovetop Mac & Cheese

October 10, 2017

Author Notes: In, oh, about 15 minutes—you could be staring at a big pot full of mac & cheese, with all the ease of cracking open a box and shaking out the foil packet. But instead of noodles in a slurry of cheese-ish dressing, these will be hugged by a truly gooey, molten cheddar sauce that tastes like real, sharp, salty cheese. Cheese cheese. Recipe adapted very slightly from Dinner: Changing the Game (Clarkson Potter, 2017). To get the full story, head here.Genius Recipes

Serves: 2 or 3
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 10 min


  • 1 dash Kosher salt, as needed
  • 8 ounces regular or whole-wheat elbow macaroni
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cups 1 1/4 cups grated cheddar cheese (5 ounces)
  • 1 dash Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • 1 pinch Freshly ground black pepper to taste
In This Recipe


  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until it is al dente, about 1 minute less than the package directions. Drain.
  2. Return the empty pot to medium-high heat. Add the cream, and cook until it is thick, bubbling, and reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cheese, whisking until it has melted. Then stir in the pasta and cook until well combined. Season to taste with nutmeg and pepper, add more salt if needed, and serve immediately.

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Reviews (33) Questions (0)

33 Reviews

Grace January 20, 2019
This was so fast, easy, and delicious! I’ll definitely make it again
Austin B. October 26, 2018
My sauce broke, but it was still delicious anyways.
Madeline S. May 19, 2018
This is a delicious recipe that became and instant hit with my husband and our friends. Definitely has to be made with the cream though. I tried the whole milk route tonight and my sauce broke right before I added the pasta. So bummed! For now, its one giant cheese lump for dinner! Next time I'll buy cream.
Ayesha S. January 22, 2018
Made this tonight and my husband and I loved it! So quick and yummy. Considering making some for my 1 year olds birthday coming up (thinking little pots of mac at the snack table- something appreciated by both kiddos and adults!). But wondering if it would reheat well? Has anyone tried?
cooking97 January 8, 2018
Was browsing the cookbook and made this tonight! I loved it, as did one of my kids. I think the other one prefers a "looser" (e.g. closer to the box) type of sauce. And would love to experiment with it to find something as easy to achieve. Regardless, will make again....and might try freezing small portions for lunches or other (kids with baby sitter etc). This is a GREAT recipe.
catecr January 19, 2018
Did it freeze okay? Curious about this use!
Lois S. January 5, 2018
I don't normally have cream in the house. Could I nuke some butter and whisk it into 1% milk? Please advise...
Laura J. December 3, 2017
Great recipe! I didn't have nutmeg so put in a smidge of mustard. Makes a very easy and very delicious dinner from the ingredients on hand.
Bluerroses November 26, 2017
Quick, easy and delicious. While cheesy, not as heavy as most macaroni and cheese recipes. Btw, you can reduce the time it takes to boil water for pasta by using less water. Try experimenting with 1 quart of water for 1/2 lb. of pasta. Some cooks even start the pasta in cold water. Here's a NY Times article that explains:
Barb October 30, 2017
I made this tonight, as written, and it was phenomonal! After reducing the cream it looked like a pathetic little bit, but the cheese melted into it perfectly.
Jen B. October 14, 2017
So, I'm not an experienced cook like some of you are, but this came out pretty stringy for me. I'm wondering if any of you have a good guess as to where I went wrong... my best guess from Google is over-stirring but I'd love other ideas if anyone has them. :)
Kristen M. October 14, 2017
Hi Jen, I'm sorry to hear it—do you mean stringy and greasy, not creamy? If so, it sounds like maybe the sauce broke, which is more likely to happen the more you keep cooking it, or if there's less fat (if you use milk or a lower-fat cheese, for example). I could see how stirring it a lot could have the same effect. I'd recommend stirring in the noodles just as soon as the cheese is melted in smooth, and eating it right away. Since this is a lazy, quick version, it doesn't hold its creaminess as long as if it was made using a bechamel or more processed cheeses (but while it's smooth, it's pretty phenomenal).
Jen B. October 15, 2017
I think you're right that the sauce broke. I changed the cheese to cream ratio so that it was more of a 1:1 ratio. I also added the cheese in three short bursts after taking the pan off the heat. It was perfect! Thanks for the notes and suggestions. I'm glad I persevered.
Mary C. October 13, 2017
We made this tonight, it is fast, but I like more sauce. My mother always make it with a good béchamel so that's how I like it.
Virginia October 12, 2017
If you double the recipe can you use 1/3 cup heavy cream and some other type of milk for the 2nd third? 2/3 is a lot of cream????
Kristen M. October 14, 2017
Hi Virginia, I wouldn't recommend it, for the reasons I described above to Jen
Barlev—the fat helps keep the sauce smooth, so it's more likely to break if there's less of it.
Susanna January 5, 2018
If you don’t want to use cream, you can substitute evaporated milk as in Kensington Lopez-Alt’s recipe reference below. I’ve made both versions and find them equally delicious.
Susanna January 5, 2018
Not Kensington. Kenji! Autocorrect!
Southpaw11 October 11, 2017
This is very close to the recipe i grew up on. My mom used far less cream (couple tbsp), a couple tbsp of butter, more cheese and sprinkled it with black pepper, paprika and cayenne pepper. Total comfort food!
John K. October 25, 2017
Adding a cup of thawed frozen peas adds visual and nutritional value!
Gregg February 26, 2018
Sounds gross, peas in Mac and cheese
asbrink October 11, 2017
Basically the same as Kenji's recipe, but heavy cream instead of evap milk....
Mindy S. October 11, 2017
I was skeptical it was THIS simple to make. I was wrong! I used Organic Valley sharp cheddar cheese, raw cream from my local raw dairy, beautiful 2.00 lb Italian pasta spirals from Italy, Hymalayan salt, fresh ground pepper & fresh grated nutmeg. THE BOMB! simple to make and quick. Why would anyone ever eat mac & cheese from a box after making this?
Mindy S. October 11, 2017
woops..spell check Himalayan salt
Rachael R. October 11, 2017
Just made this for lunch and while it was quick, it wasn't as tasty as my version which includes mustard, evap milk and butter. :) Kids liked it, but didn't LOVE it.
jp October 11, 2017
Looks great, but I have way more people to feed than 2-3...can I assume it is easily doubled/tripled?
Kristen M. October 11, 2017
Yes! Absolutely scalable.
Allison R. October 11, 2017
What brand of cheese is your go to?? I haven't found the right one yet. It totally makes or breaks a mac & cheese.
Kristen M. October 11, 2017
I made it last night with Cabot's Vermont Sharp, and it was perfect. I bet a good melty Gruyere would also be delicious.
Susanna October 11, 2017
Ooh I'm about to make it with that Cabot sharp! I was thinking of combining that with gruyere, but I guess that will wait until next time.
Regine October 11, 2017
For me, amount of cheese is enough but I guess it is a matter of preference. Looking forward to making it.
Sam October 11, 2017
While I'm sure this is good, it's too skimpy with the cheese. I like (at least) a 1:1 ratio of pasta to cheese. And what's mac & cheese without dry mustard?
Kristen M. October 11, 2017
I like your style.