One Pot Mac And Cheese (Stovetop or Instant Pot)
This one-pot mac and cheese is a quick and easy one-pot pasta recipe. It uses sharp cheddar cheese, a bit of cream, salt, water, butter, flour, pasta, and a few spices.
This recipe is the second in a short series of one-pot pasta recipes. If you like one pot pasta recipe like this and want to check out the others, you can find them here. One-pot pasta recipes like this are awesome, easy dinner recipes for a quick meal after a long day. My favorite part about these recipes is that since they dirty fewer dishes, there is much less work to clean up afterward.
How Is Macaroni & Cheese Traditionally Made?
Macaroni and cheese is traditionally made using a pot, a pan, and a casserole dish. The cheese sauce is made of a creamy bechamel sauce using butter, flour, milk, and cheddar cheese. This mixture is made on the stove in a pan while the pasta is boiling in salted water in a separate pot. After the pasta is done boiling, the noodles are added to the cheese sauce, this mixture is then topped with more cheese or breadcrumbs, and then it is baked in a casserole dish.
For this easy one-pot macaroni and cheese recipe, you won’t be making a bechamel sauce in the traditional sense. The recipe starts with a roux that is cooked from flour and butter, which is set aside. The pasta is cooked in salted water. Afterward, the roux is added back to the pot with heavy cream and spices. This mixture is then heated until it thickens. Cheese is melted in, it’s topped with more, and then it’s broiled for five to seven minutes. If you prefer, you can top this macaroni and cheese with breadcrumbs instead of cheese.
Okay, I said a few culinary terms in those paragraphs. To clarify, a roux is a cooked mixture of equal parts of flour and fat, typically butter. It’s often used as a thickener for soups or sauces. Heated milk can then be added to a roux and this mixture whisked until smooth, which is when it becomes a creamy and smooth béchamel sauce.
What Noodles Are Best For Mac And Cheese?
The most common noodles used to make mac and cheese are elbow macaroni or medium shells. However, just because this is the most common, doesn’t make this choice the best for macaroni and cheese. Arguably, the best noodles for mac and cheese are cellentani or cavatappi noodles. They’re very much like a macaroni but are in a long spiral shape like a fusilli.
This classic spiral shape makes this one-pot mac and cheese much more fun to eat. Cellentani and cavatappi pasta also have ridges, which are better for collecting sauce than your standard elbow macaroni.
What Cheeses Make The Best Mac & Cheese?
The most classic cheese that is used to make mac and cheese is sharp cheddar cheese. Parmesan is also often used to add a more sophisticated flavor. That doesn’t mean those are the only cheeses you can use. Many different types of cheese can be added to macaroni and cheese in order to add different flavors or to give the sauce a cheesier texture, like Monterey Jack or even raclette. Ultimately, the best cheese to use to make macaroni and cheese are the cheeses that you like most.
You Can Also Add:
- Smoked Gouda
Is It OK To Use Pre-Shredded Cheese For Mac And Cheese?
You can use pre-shredded cheese to make mac and cheese. Will it be as good as shredding cheese yourself from a block of cheese? No, but if it’s the only thing you have and you still want to make macaroni and cheese, using pre-shredded cheese will make an okay macaroni and cheese. The reason you might choose to shred a block of cheese instead of buying pre-shredded cheese is that shredded cheese in a bag contains added fillers like vegetable cellulose or anti-caking agents that slightly alter the finished product. It could potentially alter how melty cheese is, or add a grittiness to the sauce. Shredding cheese yourself always makes the taste and texture of a recipe better.
If you’re a little lazy like me and you like the idea of shredding cheese but dislike the extra work it is to shred it, you can buy a cheese grater with a crank and hopper. You feed a block of cheese into the hopper, then shreds come out of the front when the crank is turned. It makes it a lot easier to shred cheese. It’s nice for vegetables too.
How Much Does It Cost To Make?
Spices aside, this recipe only costs about $3.88 in ingredients to make. Since there are four servings in this recipe, the cost is only about $.97 cents per serving.
If you appreciate recipes like these that are cheap to make that can help to stretch your budget a little further, you might be interested in my Black Bean, Rice, & Cheese Burritos recipe. With that recipe, you can fill your freezer with burritos which only cost around $.53 cents each.
At A Minimum, You’ll Need:
An Instant pot, Ninja Foodi, multi-function pressure cooker, or a 10″ nonstick pan.
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, in my opinion, they are worth their weight in gold. I wrote up a short article about them if you’d like to learn more about all the things they can do. It can cook this pasta in just two minutes after it reaches pressure.
A set of utensils to measure and stir the food. This set is actually really nice for the price, you get pretty much everything you could need and it comes in a bunch of different colors.
How To Make One Pot Mac And Cheese
You should always start every recipe by gathering your ingredients. This is called “mise en place,” which is a French culinary phrase for having everything in its place and ready for when you start to cook. If you don’t have your ingredients ready, you end up running around the kitchen wild trying to measure or chop ingredients before your recipe burns. If you have everything ready, you can add ingredients as you need them because they’re already prepared.
Start by melting butter over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk, cooking until the mixture turns a nice golden brown color. This happens pretty quickly, continue stirring so the flour doesn’t burn.
As soon as the color changes, use a silicone spatula or similar to scrape it out of the pot or pan and set it aside for later.
This is called a roux and will be the thickener for the macaroni and cheese. Doing this also nicely butters the pan, so the noodles won’t stick as they cook.
For the Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or multi-function pressure cooker: Add the water, salt, and noodles to the pan and stir to dissolve the salt. Close the lid and pressure cook on high for 2 minutes, doing a manual release of pressure when the time is up.
For the stovetop:
Dissolve the salt in the water and bring it to a boil. Add the noodles then cover with a lid and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for the length of time it says on the box or until the noodles are cooked to your preference.
When the noodles are done, proceed to the next step. Do not drain the liquid.
Pour in the roux, heavy cream, and spices; stirring until the mixture thickens.
Add the cheeses, then stir it to melt the cheese into the sauce.
Top with more cheese, then broil it until the macaroni and cheese has nice golden brown spots on top.
Allow a few minutes to cool, then serve and enjoy!
Easy One-Pot Macaroni & Cheese Recipe
- 3 cups of water
- 8 ounces cellentani or cavatappi pasta
- 1 1/2 + 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 tsp white pepper
- 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
Using the Saute function on your pressure cooker or over a medium flame using a pan on the stove, melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk until this mixture is a light golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside for later.
For The Stovetop: Dissolve the salt in the water and bring it to a boil. Add the noodles and cover with a lid, then cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for the length of time it says on the box or until the noodles are cooked to your preference. Do not drain the leftover water, it will be used for the cheese sauce.
For The Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or multi-function pressure cooker: Add the water, salt, and noodles to the pan and stir to dissolve the salt. Close the lid and pressure cook on high for 2 minutes, doing a manual release of pressure when the time is up. Switch to the Sauté function on medium heat. Do not drain the leftover water, it will be used for the cheese sauce.
Pour in the cooked flour and butter mixture, heavy cream, and spices; stirring until the sauce thickens.
Add 1 and 1/2 cups of the cheddar cheese and 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese and stir to melt it into the sauce.
For The Stovetop: If your pan isn’t broiler safe, transfer the mixture to a broiler-safe serving dish, then top with 1/2 cup more cheese. Place it under your oven’s broiler on high flame for 2 minutes, or until the cheese starts to develop nice golden brown spots.
For The Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or multi-function pressure cooker: Top with 1/2 cup more cheddar cheese, then switch to the broil function and broil on high for 5-7 minutes.
Allow a few minutes to cool, then serve and enjoy!
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Tried it and like it? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments below, or tweet me at @SpicedPalate! I’d love to hear from you.