5 Ingredients or Fewer

Melissa Clark’s Stovetop Mac & Cheese

October 10, 2017
20 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 2 or 3
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

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

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • SophieL
  • Naomi
  • Sherry E
    Sherry E
  • Austin Burges
    Austin Burges
  • Laura J Davies
    Laura J Davies
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

40 Reviews

LOIS A. March 22, 2023
Once again, Ms. Clark does not disappoint. I too added a bit of pasta water, as per another reviewers suggestion, and also about 1/3 of the cheese was horseradish, the rest, cheddar. Excellent
Stephen E. September 15, 2021
May seem obvious, but the time could be reduced quite a bit by doing steps 1 and 2 at the same time.
SophieL March 10, 2021
So easy, so fast and so good!
Next time I'll add peas and bacon. And there will be a next time.
Naomi January 14, 2020
Tried it with shelf stable whipping cream and Colby cheese. Used a 12 oz bag of GF pasta, so upped the cream to 1/2 a cup and the cheese to just under 2 cups. Such an easy and lovely side. Thanks!
Sherry E. September 15, 2019
any chance plain yogurt, Greek, would do?
Maryperko May 24, 2019
Tried this as written a number of times for grandchild but cut recipe in half. Turned out great. Also used half and half a few times and added some butter plus added a bit of pasta water as she likes it creamy, Turned out great. She prefers rotini...
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: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/dining/25curi.html
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....