4-Ingredient Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Story by Holly
Four ingredient stovetop mac and cheese topped with black pepper in a bowl
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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.

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 4

Ingredients

1 lb dried elbow macaroni or cavatappi (corkscrew) noodles
1 cup heavy cream
6 oz cheddar cheese, shredded (roughly 2 cups)
3/4 cup good quality parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp salt, optional
1/2 tsp pepper, optional
sriracha sauce, optional

Method

  1. In a large pot bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Season water with 2 tsp salt. Cook pasta in boiling water according to package instructions.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat cream in a heavy saucepan or cast iron skillet over medium heat until cream begins to bubble. Add in the cheeses along with ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper. Stir cheese sauce until bubbly and the cheese has melted, 5-7 minutes stirring often.
  3. Once the noodles are cooked, add drained pasta to the cheese sauce and stir until combined.
  4. If desired, top with a heavy dose of sriracha sauce. Enjoy!