This stovetop macaroni-and-cheese recipe takes just 15 minutes and has only five ingredients, including salt and pepper! (Plus, it's way tastier than the boxed version.) 

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Simple Stovetop Mac
Credit: Joseph De Leo

If your go-to mac and cheese comes from a box, this recipe just might change your life. Not only is it as quick to make as the boxed stuff, it’s also about a thousand times tastier, and adults like it as much as kids do.

The trick here is to whisk the cheeses into the heavy cream, which instantly turns into the most velvety, luscious cheese sauce you can imagine. Don’t fear the cream! Although we’ve been trained to think that heavy cream is a fatty devil, it’s not inherently bad for you as long as you don’t chug it straight from the carton (though I have been known to take tiny sips here and there). Plus, if you can find cream from 100 percent grass-fed cows, the omega 3-rich fat is actually beneficial. And, if you think about the fact that most mac and cheese recipes rely on butter-and-flour-rich béchamels, heavy cream is both lighter—it’s only a couple of tablespoons per serving—and a whole lot simpler. It really does make for a delicious sauce. (Pro-cream rant over.)

I started making this for my daughter, Dahlia, as soon as she turned 1, using whole-wheat pasta. Now, as much as she’d like me to buy the mac and cheese with the bunny on the box out of allegiance to small and furry creatures, she greatly prefers my version. It’s a small victory over processed foods, but I’ll take it.

Stovetop Mac & Cheese



Kosher salt, as needed

8 ounces regular or whole-wheat elbow macaroni

⅓ cup heavy cream

1¼ cups grated cheddar cheese (5 ounces)

Freshly grated nutmeg to taste (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until it is al dente, about 1 minute less than the package directions. Drain.

2. Return the empty pot to medium-high heat. Add the cream, and cook until it is thick, bubbling, and reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cheese, whisking until it has melted. Then stir in the pasta and cook until well combined. Season to taste with nutmeg and pepper, add more salt if needed, and serve.

Dinner the Cookbook by Melissa Clark

Reprinted from Dinner. Copyright © 2017 by Melissa Clark. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Eric Wolfinger. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.