7 Easy Steps to Homemade Mac and Cheese

Come on, admit it: You make mac and cheese from a box, right? I get it, I really do. It’s easy. Insanely easy. It’s basically “Mac and Cheese For Dummies.” But have you actually tasted that stuff? I mean, calling it “mac and cheese” is a bit of a stretch. I should know. I spent a good portion of my college years surviving on it.

But did you know that for only about 10 minutes of extra prep you can skip the powdered mix and whip up the real deal? It’s true. You can have homemade mac and cheese that’s infinitely better than the boxed stuff in about 20 minutes.

Here’s how to make it + step-by-step instructions (with photos!):

Stovetop Mac and Cheese Recipe

Serves 6 to 8

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound cellentani pasta, or other tube shape

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 tablespoons all purpose flour

4 cups whole milk, warmed

12 ounces melting cheese, such as cheddar, gruyere, and/or monterey jack, grated, plus more for serving

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

kosher salt

ground black pepper

How to do it, step-by-step:

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First, add 1 pound of pasta to a big pot of boiling salted water. Cook the noodles according to package instructions. I’m using a shape called cellentani, but any short tube shaped noodle will work. I also like using penne, campanelle or shells. Of course, elbows noodles are always classic.

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While the pasta cooks, melt 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Then whisk in 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture smells nutty (seriously), about 1 minute.

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This is called roux, a sauce thickener.

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Now whisk in 4 cups of warmed milk. You can just warm it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. It doesn’t have to be boiling hot, warm is fine.

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Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, whisking often, until the sauce is smooth and thick. It should coat the back of a spoon. By the way, this is called a béchamel sauce. It’s one of the classic French mother sauces (sauces that can be transformed into other sauces).

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Now it’s time to add the grated cheese. You can use any kind of melting cheese that you like. You need about 12 ounces. I’m using a mixture of cheddar, gruyere, and monterey jack, because thats what I happened to have lying around in my cheese drawer. Don’t you love it when already have the ingredients on hand?

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Stir the cheese into the sauce over very low heat until just melted. Cooking the cheese at high heat can cause your sauce to become grainy. Remove the cheese sauce from the heat and season to taste with Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.

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Once the pasta is cooked (always al dente!) drain it and add it back to the big pot along with the cheese sauce. Stir until the noodles are completely coated.

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Serve topped with a little extra grated cheese and VOILA! Real deal mac and cheese that’s warm and comforting—not mention fast and easy. You’re welcome!

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