White cheddar macaroni and cheese comes together in under 20 minutes on the stovetop. This cheesy side dish is way better than the boxed stuff and just as easy.
Homemade White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
This kid-friendly recipe is super simple to make and uses a lot of ingredients you already have in your fridge or pantry. It's also really versatile!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Pasta - I used elbow macaroni noodles to make this, substitute any noodle you have on hand (rotini, penne, bowties, and shells all work great)
- Milk - 2% milk kept this a little lighter than other options. Any dairy-based milk or cream will work, though.
- White cheddar cheese - Extra sharp white cheddar cheese gives the cheese sauce a deep, cheesy flavor. Swap it out with sharp cheddar, Swiss, parmesan, gruyere, or any combination of these.
How to Make The Cheese Sauce
This cheese sauce is so easy to make! It all starts with a quick roux. What is a roux? Simply a mixture of fat and flour used to thicken sauces.
In a medium sized pan (I used a 4 quart pan), melt two tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melter, sprinkle in two tablespoons of all-purpose flour and whisk the mixture together until it's smooth, or about 60 seconds.
Have your milk ready to pour in as soon as the butter and flour come together. Slowly pour in the milk while stirring with a whisk at the same time to avoid clumping. Next sprinkle in ¼ teaspoon of ground mustard, ½ a teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper, ½ a teaspoon of salt, and ½ a teaspoon of garlic powder.
Whisk the mixture for about 5 minutes or until it becomes thick enough to coat a spoon. Add the cheese to the sauce and continue whisking until it has melted and then about 2 minutes more. Then remove the sauce from the heat.
Let the Macaroni Set Before Serving
While you make the sauce, have the noodles cooking according to the package directions. When you drain the noodles, be sure not to rinse them. The gluten on the noodles will help set the cheese sauce.
The cheese sauce will initially be pretty thin when you add the noodles in. The key is to fully stir to incorporate them, then let it hang out off the heat for 3-5 minutes. The sauce will thicken and grab onto the noodles.
Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container. If the sauce gets too thick, add a tablespoon or so of milk before reheating.
Other Tasty Side Dish Recipes
- Sourdough Apple Sausage Stuffing
- Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- Fresh Summer Orzo Salad
- Oven Roasted Potato Wedges
Stovetop White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
- 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 8 ounces pasta (like rotini, elbow, bowtie, or shells, uncooked)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 ½ cup 2% milk
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground mustard
- 6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese
- PREPARE: Fill a large pot with 10 cups of water. Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and boil for the time specified on the package (the times will vary depending on the type of pasta you are using).
- MAKE THE SAUCE: While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and whisk continuously until fully incorporated. Slowly pour in the milk, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, garlic powder, and ground mustard. Whisk until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the cheese and continue whisking until it has melted and thickened a bit more, about 2 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat.
- ADD THE PASTA TO THE SAUCE: Drain the pasta quickly without rinsing. Pour the noodles into the cheese sauce and fold together. Let the mixture rest for about 5 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken around the noodles before serving.
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