Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

I loved my baked macaroni and cheese casserole, but it takes a bit of time to make, and my kids always look at it and think that’s not the kraft macaroni and cheese that they were expecting when I said I was making mac n cheese for dinner.   But when I found this recipe for stove top mac n cheese in a Cooks Illustrated Magazine that would take almost the same amount of time to make that kraft mac n cheese does, I decided I better give it a try.  In conclusion, I like my baked casserole mac n cheese better, but this was good too and way faster.  Plus, it’s gotta be better than the Kraft stuff for you right?


  • 1 1/2 C water
  • 1 C milk
  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 4 oz/1 C American cheese, shredded (buy a block from the deli counter–NOT KRAFT SINGLES)
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • small pinch cayenne pepper
  • 4 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 C)
  • 1/3 C panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Bring water and milk to boil in medium saucepan over hight heat.  Stir in macaroni and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook, stirring frequently, until macaroni is soft, 6-8 minutes.  Add American cheese, mustard, and cayenne and cook, stirring constantly, until cheese is completely melted, about 1 minute.  Off heat, stir in cheddar until evenly distributed but not melted.  Cover saucepan and let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine panko, oil, 1/8 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper in 8-inch nonstick skillet until panko is evenly moistened.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until evenly  browned, 3-4 minutes.  Off heat, sprinkle Parmesan over panko mixture and stir to combine.  Transfer panko mixture to small bowl.
  3. Stir macaroni until sauce is smooth (sauce may look loose but will thicken as it cools).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to warm serving dish and sprinkle panko mixture over top.  Serve immediately.

* For more Grown-up Mac N Cheese:  Increase water to 1 3/4 C.  Substitute 3/4 C shredded Gruyere cheese and 2 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese for cheddar.  (I would personally love this version, but no one else in my family would eat it–so give me a shout out if you want some grown up mac and cheese and I’m whip some up for us).


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