I grew up eating a lot of mac n’ cheese from the box. Making your own cheese sauce at home is incredibly satisfying, and gives you a bit more flexibility in terms of sauce consistency and flavor of the final product.
You can easily make this fancy, using some higher-end melting cheeses and perhaps a splash of white truffle oil, or simplify it when you’re in a rush and just use whatever shredded cheese you have on hand in your fridge.
They key to success here lies in the use of evaporated milk and Double cream, which have a generally much sweeter taste and thicker consistency that traditional whole milk.
In some grocery stores in Europe, they sell an evaporated milk product that features a picture of pasta carbonara on the container, with a simple recipe for pasta carbonara written on the back. I hadn’t really thought about using evaporated milk with pasta products before, as I just don’t normally buy or use evaporated milk.
I then read about this technique from J. Kenji Lopez Alt, where he has his own super simple recipe for mac and cheese at home. He provided some really useful tips when I tried making a version of this for myself. I ended up adding some thick double cream to mine while I was making it, and enjoyed the way it came out.
It’s interesting to see just how many different recipes and methods there are out there for homemade mac and cheese.
Many people making classic versions of mac and cheese will make a roux with flour and butter, use the roux and add whole milk to create a bechamel sauce, and use the bechamel and add cheese to make a mornay cheese sauce…and while I love this method, it involves a good number of steps.
The recipe and approach outlined below is slightly quicker, especially if you can buy Double cream at the store and not need to reduce the cream down yourself.
Quick, Easy, and Delicious Stove-top Mac n' Cheese
- 4 oz heavy cream (cooked down to 2oz, or 2oz Double cream)
- 8 oz macaroni noodles of choice
- 1 tsp Kosher salt (or more to taste)
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 4 oz mild cheddar cheese (grated)
- 3 oz Gruyere cheese (grated)
- 6 oz evaporated milk
- Cook 4oz heavy cream in a sauce pot down until it has thickened and reduced by 50%.
- Set double cream aside for later.
- Place your macaroni noodles in a large saute pan with just enough water to cover the dry noodles.
- Add the kosher salt and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low and cook until the noodles are al dente, or just before they are fully tender.
- Drain the noodles from the starchy pasta water, saving all the starchy pasta water in a sauce pot.
- Stir in the evaporated milk, double cream, and grated cheeses into the starchy pasta water
- Continue to cook for an additional 3-4 minutes until the cheese has melted and the sauce has thickened to your desired consistency.
- Taste and adjust for salt level.
- Add more grated cheese if desired.
- Add your drained macaroni to your finished cheese sauce
- Continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until the macaroni noodles have been completely incorporated in the sauce.
- Serve hot.