Perfectly creamy and cheesy mac and cheese that takes only 30 minutes to make on the stovetop. There are three kinds of cheese in this recipe for the best flavor and creaminess. Nothing is more comforting than a bowl of homemade mac and cheese, especially when it’s so easy and only takes about 30 minutes.
The Most Comforting Dish
Mac and cheese is my weakness. Pasta on its own is only okay but combine it with lots of cheese, and it’s perfection.
Luckily, my family agrees and I’ve had many years of practicing the cheese combinations and spices. I have a favorite cheese combination for my macaroni and cheese, so I highly recommend that you try this one. But of course, you can play around with your favorite cheese as well.
When choosing cheese, remember how well it melts, how smooth it melts, and the flavor. If you want sharper, stronger flavors, then choose sharp cheeses. Remember that the harder the cheese, the lower melting point. Parmesan and other hard cheeses don’t melt as well. Hard cheese can be a flavor addition but not the main cheese.
For smoother melted cheese, choose cheeses like cheddar, Monterrey Jack cheese, Colby Jack, and even Mozzarella. These cheeses all melt very well because they are not soft cheeses and not too hard.
My favorite cheese combination for a classic mac and cheese is extra sharp cheddar, Monterrey Jack cheese, and a little cream cheese. Sharp cheddar provides great sharp flavor, Monterrey Jack melts beautifully but also has extra flavor, and cream cheese provides extra creamy texture.
When making mac and cheese, don’t forget to add a little paprika for that special flavor pop.
Make It Gluten Free:
Mac and cheese is very easy to make gluten free with just two easy substitutions. First, use gluten free pasta. If you don’t have a favorite, I prefer the Tinkayada brand of gluten free pasta. Its texture is the least crumbly and tastes the most like regular pasta.
As far as thickeners, you have two options. Option one is substituting flour for gluten free flour, and option two is using cornstarch instead of flour.
If choosing to use gluten free all purpose flour, simply substitute it for regular flour and mix it with melted butter.
When using cornstarch instead of flour, it has to be mixed with cold milk first and then added to the pot to heat through. (1 tablespoon of cornstarch is enough for this recipe.)
Make It Lactose Free:
Did you know that you can easily enjoy mac and cheese even if you a lactose free? Many people who are lactose intolerant are actually not aware that they can still eat cheese. Cheese that is aged 6 months and longer is naturally lactose free through the aging process.
Soft cheeses like blue cheese, Brie, feta, cream cheese, and a few others are not lactose free but cheeses like cheddar, Parmesan, Monterrey Jack cheese and even some Mozzarella are lactose free.
Many brands will put lactose content right on the label, under the nutritional information. Look for words like “contains 0g of lactose per serving.” If the wording is not there, you can look at sugar content. If sugar is 0g, that will indicate there is very low chance for lactose.
Cream cheese can be substituted for vegan cream cheese. I haven’t tried all brands but a few brands that I’ve tried do melt and mix into the sauce well.
Instead of regular milk, use lactose free milk. (Tip: Fairlife brand is not as sweet as Lactaid. I recommend that one in savory dishes.)
Cook macaroni according to the package instructions in salted water, drain, and set aside.
While pasta is cooking, grate cheese and start to prepare the cheese sauce:
Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour and once it’s combined, start pouring in milk while constantly stirring. Keep whisking slowly until all incorporated.
Cut cream cheese into small pieces and add it to the pot. Stir and let cream cheese mix into the sauce. Add cheeses, one handful at a time, while slowly stirring.
Season with paprika, salt, and pepper. Once all cheese is melted and smooth, add pasta. Stir until all completely combined. Let it cook on medium-low for a few minutes and serve.
More Mac and Cheese Recipes You Should Try:
Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- salt salt water for cooking pasta
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 10 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese block, it melts smoother
- 8 oz Monterrey Jack cheese block, it melts smoother
- 3 oz cream cheese
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- fresh cracked black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and season with salt. Cook pasta according to the box instructions. Drain completely once pasta is cooked.
- While pasta is cooking, grate cheese and prepare the cheese sauce.
- Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.
- Whisk in flour and once it’s combined, start pouring in milk while constantly stirring. Keep whisking until all incorporated.
- Cut cream cheese into small pieces and add it to the pot. Stir and let cream cheese mix into the sauce.
- Add cheeses a handful at a time while slowly stirring.
- Season with paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Once all cheese is melted and smooth, add pasta. Stir until all completely combined. Let it cook on medium-low for a few minutes and serve.
Originally published on Will Cook For Smiles on February 1, 2019. Updated November 10, 2022.