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4-Ingredient Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  5 min
  • Cook Time:  15 min
  • Calories: 216
Four ingredient stovetop mac and cheese topped with black pepper in a bowl

Can creamy, cheesy stovetop mac and cheese perfection be achieved with just four ingredients? You bet your buttons—and this easy macaroni and cheese recipe proves it.

Homemade Mac and Cheese with Just 4-Ingredients?

Yes! We swear, the best mac and cheese recipe is just four, super simple ingredients away. Cooked pasta—you can use any kind you love, we‘re partial to cavatappi—heavy cream, shredded cheddar cheese and grated parmesan. That's it. You can add seasoning to taste, but the parmesan is pretty salty and it’s a good idea to heavily salt the pasta water, so save the seasoning until last to see if it is truly necessary.

grated cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, whole milk and raw pasta in bowls to make stovetop mac and cheese

Cheddar is the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese and Here’s Why:

The key to achieving a creamy mac and cheese from scratch is using a great melting cheese to anchor the mac and cheese sauce. And the best melting cheese for mac and cheese is—in our humble opinion—cheddar! It’s got that classic milky sharpness and straw-colored hue that we expect our mac and cheese to have, and there’s just nothing else quite like it. Once you master this stovetop mac and cheese recipe, though, you could certainly play around with other cheeses.

We wanted to share a truly simple mac and cheese recipe—one that’s almost as easy as that little blue box—but you can look at it as a great jumping off point for experimentation. If you want to get fancy, try subbing some shredded Gruyére or raclette for half (or all) of the cheddar.

stovetop mac and cheese topped with freshly cracked black pepper

Stovetop Mac and Cheese vs. Baked Mac and Cheese.

Anyway you slice it, a homemade macaroni and cheese recipe is a good thing to have memorized. There’s no faster way to let your kids / spouse know that you love them than whipping up a batch. Or make it for yourself and call it self-care! Quick, comforting and delicious, this four-ingredient stovetop wonder is hands down the best mac and cheese we’ve ever eaten.

Now, we’re not saying that we can’t appreciate a baked macaroni and cheese recipe—the way the top cheese crust gets all bubbly is so enticing—but stovetop macaroni and cheese is way faster oven-baked, and it reminds us of our childhood love affair with a certain little blue box. For a satisfyingly quick mac and cheese fix, it’s all about this easy mac and cheese recipe.

milk, parmesan and cheddar cheese in a sauce pan for stovetop mac and cheese
melted cheese sauce in a sauce pan for stovetop mac and cheese
cheese sauce and cooked pasta in a saucepan
four ingredient stovetop mac and cheese in a white enamel saucepan

How to Make Mac and Cheese

Easy homemade mac and cheese is just ten minutes (and four ingredients!) away. So what are you waiting for?! Here’s how to make macaroni and cheese on the stovetop:

  • Get your pasta water boiling. Add plenty of salt! Once you’ve added the pasta, start on the cheese sauce.
  • How to make mac and cheese sauce: combine the shredded cheese and heavy cream in a saucepan, and gently warm them until the cheese sauce gets a little bubbly and the cheese has fully melted.
  • The cheese sauce should be ready right around the time you drain the macaroni (isn’t it nice how that works?).
  • Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked noodles, and stir to coat every last little macaroni elbow with that luscious cheddar cheese sauce.
  • Gobble immediately! Repeat as necessary.
white enamel pot filled with stovetop mac and cheese

Tools You’ll Need:

Even More Quick & Easy Comfort:

This easy mac and cheese recipe is one of our top five go-to ready-in-a-flash comfort foods. Here are the other four:

4 Ingredients Away From Bliss:

Snap a photo of your 4-ingredient stovetop mac and cheese and maybe even a video of the beautiful people you feed it to, and then tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so we can celebrate your deliciousness. Happy eating!

four ingredient stovetop mac and cheese in a bowl topped with Sriracha

4-Ingredient Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  5 min
  • Cook Time:  15 min
  • Calories: 216

Ingredients

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2½ teaspoons sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • sriracha, for serving (optional)

Method

  1. Fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and add 2 teaspoons of the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions.

  2. Meanwhile, heat the cream in a heavy saucepan or cast iron skillet over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Stir in the cheddar and parmesan and season with remaining ½ teaspoon salt and pepper; cook, stirring often, until the cheese has melted, 5-7 minutes.

  3. Drain the pasta, then add it to the sauce and stir until combined.

  4. Top with Sriracha if using. Enjoy!

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories216
  • Protein10 g
  • Carbohydrates25 g
  • Total Fat9 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol25 mg
  • sodium443 mg
  • Total Sugars0 g

4-Ingredient Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

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  • Lauren

    Can you reheat this and if so, what's the best method?

    Sure! Microwave or oven would work fine. It won't be the same as freshly made, macaroni and cheese never is but still great left over!

  • Merissa Isler

    We have vegans in the house - best plant-based option to get desired thickness/cheesiness for the heavy cream substitution?

    Silk makes a dairy-free heavy cream replacement or full fat coconut milk. Hope you enjoy!

  • Jessica Garner

    Why did mine come out very gritty?

    Oh no! So sorry to hear that Jessica. The only thing we can think of that would have it come out gritty is that perhaps you cooked the sauce at too high of a temperature and the cream curdled a bit. Every stove top is a bit different and if you cooked it on medium it's possible your stove top runs a bit hot. Try cooking it on med-low next time and that should hopefully solve the problem. Hope this helps!

  • Jess G

    can i use mozzarella instead of cheddar

    Mozzarella is a lot more stringy and won't break down into a sauce as well as cheddar, but you can try! I've never tested it in this recipe. Let us know how it turns out.

  • Lynne Darsow

    Substitute half and half for cream?

    That should still work!

  • Vanessa Valadez

    It was amazing! I’ve never made a home made macaroni before and I was surprised how easy this recipe was. Everyone loved it! Thank you

    Thank you Vanessa, we are so glad it was a hit. Once you go homemade you just can't go back to the boxed stuff, we LOVE IT!

  • Valerie

    Quick and delicious!! Thank you!

    You're so welcome! Glad you liked it Valerie!

  • Melissa

    This was super easy to make. Creamy and delicious! Loved it…

    Thanks Melissa! Surprisingly easy, right!?