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Quick and Easy Mac and Cheese

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Quick and Easy Mac and Cheese is ready in under an hour and made with five simple ingredients (plus seasonings). This is kid and adult approved, and should be on your table soon!

Overhead shot of a square white casserole filled with just baked easy Mac and cheese.

As the mother of two boys, I can’t count the number of times I’ve made good ole mac and cheese. I’ve made numerous homemade versions plus “that boxed powdery mix” that my boys often preferred. They often chose to eat mac and cheese for breakfast, which I often do as well because what’s a better way to start your day? A good stick-to-your-ribs bowl of pasta is always a good thing.

Everyone needs a basic Mac and Cheese recipe, regardless if you occasionally make that box mix. (Hey, I do too!) THIS one requires only 5 ingredients (plus seasonings) and is creamy, cheesy, buttery, and everything you’ll need for a delicious pasta side dish. You can also change it up to your liking.

Variations to the ingredients:

  • Use different pasta. While I love orecchiette, classic mac and cheese often uses elbow pasta or shells. Use whatever feels good to you. (Mouth feel is huge!)
  • Try other types of cheese. Sharp cheddar is perfect, but I often mix it with some gruyere or even pepper jack (because I love spicy). But go ahead and play around with different types of cheese.
  • Go with other dairy. 2% makes a perfectly good sauce. But you could go with whole milk, half and half, or heavy cream. I don’t recommend using skim EVER.
  • Try other seasonings. Ground mustard is pretty classic, but you could change up the taste by using other seasonings. ALWAYS use salt and pepper!
A hand using a wooden spoon to scoop our some quick and easy Mac and cheese.

Ingredients needed for Quick and Easy Mac and Cheese:

  • Pasta – Use any pasta you prefer. I happen to love the orecchiette pasta for Mac and Cheese!
  • Butter – You’ll of course need a fair amount of butter for this.
  • Flour – The flour helps form the roux, which makes a nice creamy sauce. SO good.
  • Milk – I used 2% milk, but you could go for even more richness with whole milk or half and half.
  • Cheese – Using a sharp cheddar cheese gives the perfect flavor. Make sure you shred the cheese yourself to ensure it actually melts. (That pre-shredded stuff doesn’t always melt well, speaking from experience.)
  • Seasonings – Just a simple mixture of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and ground mustard. I also finished it with some smoked paprika on top, as well as a smidgeon of cayenne pepper for a little heat. Feel free to experiment with other spices.
Collage of 1) some orecchiette pasta in a colander and 2) some freshly grated cheddar cheese on a board.
A closeup of the creamy cheese sauce, with a spatula.

How to make the BEST Mac and Cheese:

  1. Cook pasta. In a stock pot, cook pasta in some salty water. The salt adds FLAVOR! When the pasta is al dente, remove and strain.
  2. Make cheese sauce. Melt butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add flour and stir for a couple of minutes. Then add the slightly warmed milk (warm milk will help the sauce thicken faster) and stir until the mixture thickens, approximately 5 minutes. Then add the shredded cheese and seasonings. Stir until the cheese is completely melted.
  3. Add pasta. Remove the pot from the heat and add the orecchiette pasta. Stir until well combined. Pour the mixture into an 8×8 casserole dish, and top with some smoked paprika. I also added a bit of cayenne for some heat.
  4. Bake. Bake the Mac and cheese for 30 minutes or so, or until hot and bubbly.
Overhead shot of a square casserole dish of the Mac and cheese before baking, sprinkled with paprika.

Options for baking vs not baking:

  1. Baking. Baking the Mac and Cheese allows for you to make it ahead of time and popping it into the oven to get it hot and bubbly right before serving. You can also make it a day ahead of time and store in the refrigerator, which is nice if you are serving it at a busy holiday meal.
  2. NOT baking. As you can see from the picture below, you could definitely serve this Mac and cheese without baking. It’s extra creamy this way and oh so delish.
A blue stock pot filled with just made creamy Mac and cheese.

Other delicious pasta dishes you should try:

Side shot of a dish of Mac and cheese, with a portion removed.

Kitchen Tools used for this recipe: (Affiliate Links)

Make this simple pasta recipe next: Classic Lasagna Roll Ups

Please let know if you try this recipe. Be sure to comment and leave a review on the blog so I can see what you think. You can also like my Facebook Page, follow me on Pinterest, and catch me on Instagram.

xoxo ~Sue

Overhead shot of a square white casserole filled with just baked easy Mac and cheese.

Quick and Easy Mac and Cheese

Quick and Easy Mac and Cheese is ready in under an hour and made with five simple ingredients (plus seasonings). This is kid and adult approved, and should be on your table soon!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: baked mac and cheese, quick and easy mac and cheese
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 470kcal
Author: Sue Ringsdorf

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. orecchietti pasta – or other type of pasta
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups 2% milk
  • 12 oz. cheddar cheese (or four cups, after grating) – freshly grated
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper – to taste
  • smoked paprika – optional

Instructions

  • Cook pasta in a pot of salty water until al dente (soft but has some bite). Strain in a colander.
  • Meanwhile, make cheese sauce. Melt butter in a medium stock pot over medium heat. Add flour and stir well for a minute or two. Add slightly warmed milk and stir until the mixture thickens. this will take five minutes or so. Then add the shredded cheese, ground mustard, salt, and pepper. Stir until cheese melts completely.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. Pour into an 8×8 casserole dish, and sprinkle with smoked paprika (optional).
  • Bake mac and cheese for 30 minutes or until it's hot and bubbly. If you are baking after refrigerating, you'll need to bake for slightly longer.

Notes

Baking vs not baking:
  1. Baking. Baking the Mac and Cheese allows for you to make it ahead of time and popping it into the oven to get it hot and bubbly right before serving. You can also make it a day ahead of time and store in the refrigerator, which is nice if you are serving it at a busy holiday meal.
  2. NOT baking. ou could definitely serve this Mac and cheese without baking. It’s extra creamy this way and oh so delish.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 470kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 74mg | Sodium: 310mg | Potassium: 266mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 779IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 424mg | Iron: 1mg

2 Comments

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      So glad you like it! 🙂

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