Creamy, crunchy, and made with three different kinds of cheeses make this mac and cheese side dish a delicious delight.

Recipe updated: April 3rd, 2024

This one-pot mac and cheese recipe is definitely the ultimate comfort food, in fact, and simply put, I can’t stop eating it. It’s creamy, cheesy, a little bit crunchy, and so delicious! Besides the great taste, you will love that this homemade mac and cheese recipe is so simple to make and uses only one pot on the stove to cook it all in. Our favorites are having mac and cheese as a side dish with pulled pork sandwiches, pepper steak, or meatloaf.

Mac and Cheese in a small bowl.

🧀 Key Ingredients

  • 5 cups milk – whole milk
  • 4 cups of uncooked medium pasta shells
  • 1 teaspoon of table salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 2 cups of extra-sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 1 cup of sharp white cheddar shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese

Optional

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons of plain bread crumbs
Ingredients for mac and cheese recipe.
Ingredients for mac and cheese

👩‍🍳 How to Make Mac and Cheese

These step-by-step instructions are accompanied by detailed photos for enhanced clarity and guidance.

Step 1. Prepare the Pasta Shells

In a large pot, combine 5 cups of cold milk together with 4 cups of uncooked pasta shells, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.

Milk, uncooked macaroni shells, salt, and pepper in a pot on the stove.
Milk, uncooked pasta shells, salt, and pepper in a pot.

Step 2. Cook the Pasta Shells

Then, place the pot on the burner and cook over medium-high heat. Bring the contents to a boil, then boil for 9 minutes. Stir constantly so nothing sticks to the pot, and also, stirring prevents the pasta shells from sticking to each other. If your water is boiling too much, turn the burner down to medium heat.

After 9 minutes of cooking time, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 7 more minutes. All the while, continue to stir the contents as the pasta cooks. After cooking for 7 minutes, the milk will turn into a thick sauce. The pasta should be cooked al dente, which means the pasta is firm but still slightly tender when chewed.

Macaroni shells are cooked on the stove on medium-high heat for nine minutes.
Pasta shells are cooked on the stove on medium-high heat for nine minutes.

Step 3. Add the Cheeses

Add 2 cups of extra sharp cheddar cheese, 1 cup of sharp white shredded cheddar cheese, and 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese together with the thickened milk and cooked pasta shells. Continue to cook on medium-low heat.

Note: This recipe may seem like lots of sharp cheddar cheese is added, but believe me, it’s just the right amount. So good!

Cheddar cheese, white cheddar cheese, and parmesan cheese were added to the cooked pasta shells.
Cheddar cheese, white cheddar cheese, and parmesan cheese were added to the cooked pasta shells.

Step 4. Stir the Cheese and Shells Together

With a wooden spoon, or any spoon will do, stir the cheese together with the pasta shells. Stir until the cheese turns into a creamy cheese sauce.

At this point, you can serve the mac and cheese this way without the optional bread crumbs. Or you can go to the next step below to add the bread crumbs if you prefer to do so.

Mac and cheese cooking on the stove.
Mac and cheese cooking on the stove.

Step 5. Optional – Add the Bread Crumbs

If you want an added crunch to your mac and cheese, sprinkle bread crumbs over the top of it. To do that, first transfer the mac and cheese from the pot to an oven-safe baking dish.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the plain bread crumbs evenly over the top of the mac and cheese. Then, use your favorite cooking spray and lightly spray across the top of the bread crumbs. Place the baking dish in the oven. Turn the broiler on high. Broil the mac and cheese for about five minutes, or until the bread crumbs are browned to your liking.

Important: It is so important to keep an eye on the mac and cheese while it is under the broiler.

A bowl of mac and cheese out of the broiler oven
A bowl of mac and cheese after broiling for about 5 minutes.

🌟 Recipe Variations

  • There are a variety of cheeses you can add to mac and cheese. Some different types of cheese are Monterey Jack, American cheese, Velveeta, or mozzarella cheese with an Asiago cheese blend. If you have a favorite cheese, you can go ahead and add that too. All I know is the more cheese, the merrier. 🙂
  • You can use your favorite uncooked noodles too, such as elbow macaroni, rotini (spiral), farfalle (bow ties), or penne. Just follow the instructions on the back of the package label for the cooking time.
  • If you prefer more seasonings you can add a bit of minced garlic, onion powder, mustard powder, hot sauce, garlic powder, garlic salt, or Worcestershire sauce.
  • Add diced onions or diced ham to the mac and cheese.
Mac and cheese in a bowl.
Mac and cheese in a bowl.

🙋 FAQs

What do I do with Leftover Mac and Cheese?

Store any leftover mac and cheese in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about 3 days. After that, eat it up.

What do I Serve with Macaroni and Cheese?

If you love mac and cheese, you know it can be served with just about anything. Well, you know what I mean. It can even be eaten all by itself. But most of the time we serve it with a ham dinner, or pull pork sandwiches. It is always a treat when we get to eat mac and cheese.

Mac and cheese in a small cup.

💡 Final Thoughts

This creamy mac and cheese is one of the easiest recipes around and has the best flavor with three different kinds of cheese added.

This is a one pot mac and cheese recipe that is prepared with real ingredients, ingredients you can pronounce. Nothing like the boxed version you can buy at the grocery store.

I absolutely and positively love this homemade stove top macaroni and cheese recipe, but I think my granddaughter loves it more. Well, maybe not, I just know when I need to stop eating it. Enjoy!

Mac and cheese pin image.

📄 Recipe Card

Best Mac and Cheese Recipe

One Pot Mac and Cheese

Avatar for FloFlo
Creamy, crunchy, and made with three different kinds of cheeses make this mac and cheese side dish a delicious delight.
5 from 5 votes
Cost $7
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 21 minutes
Total Time 26 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings 5

🫕 Equipment

🧂 Ingredients
  

  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 4 cups medium pasta shells (uncooked)
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded)

Optional

👩‍🍳 Instructions
 

Preparing the Mac and Cheese Pasta Shells

  • In a large pot, add milk, uncooked medium pasta shells, salt, and pepper.
  • Cook over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then cook for 9 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • After 9 minutes, turn the heat to medium-low. Cook for 7 more minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Add the extra sharp cheddar cheese, sharp white cheddar cheese, and Parmesan cheese to the thickened milk and cooked pasta shells.
  • Stir until cheese is melted, and pasta shells are coated with cheese.

Optional – Add the Bread Crumbs

  • Transfer the mac and cheese into an oven-safe baking dish.
  • Sprinkle the plain bread crumbs over the top of the mac and cheese.
  • Spray cooking spray lightly across the top of the bread crumbs.
  • Place in the oven under the broiler (on high heat) for about five minutes until the bread crumbs are browned to your liking.
  • Keep watching the mac and cheese while it is under the broiler.

*️⃣ Recipe Notes

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

💖 More One-Pot Meals You Will Love

  • Hamburger Soup with Cabbage and Potatoes – Lean ground beef with lots of vegetables including cabbage, onions, carrots, potatoes, corn, and green beans. So good and healthy for you too!
  • Sweet and Spicy Chili (Instant Pot) – Lean ground beef with dark red kidney beans, light red kidney beans, black beans, chili beans, petite diced tomatoes, chili-ready tomatoes, chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and light brown sugar. So delicious!
  • Boiled Baby Potatoes – A super simple recipe that tastes fantastic. These baby potatoes are boiled for only 15 minutes, then butter is added, and kosher salt is sprinkled on top. So tasty!

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