Quick Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

A few months ago I prepared macaroni and cheese this way for some young friends in a sly attempt to broaden their Mac-Cheese horizons away from Kraft. At first the girls were tentative, but as there was no other lunch apparently forthcoming, they each tried a nibble on one piece of cheese-covered elbow macaroni. Aldie, who can take 30 minutes to eat a slice of apple, wolfed hers down in 2 minutes flat and asked for seconds. The other girls devoured theirs as well.

Quick Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 3-4 adults or 4-6 kids.


  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 lb cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 cups, packed)
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cup milk, heated until steamy, but not simmering
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup ham, chopped into 1/4 inch cubes
  • Freshly grated black pepper


1 In a medium sized bowl, mix corn starch into the grated cheese, so that the cheese is coated, set aside. This will help the cheese from getting too stringy.

2 Bring 2 quarts of water with the tablespoon of salt to a boil in thick-bottomed saucepan. Add the elbow macaroni and follow the cooking time instructions on the package, minus about 2 minutes. (If your macaroni doesn't come with instructions, start checking at 7 minutes). Cook until al dente - cooked through, but still slightly firm. Drain the water from the cooking pan.

3 While the macaroni is cooking, prepare the sauce. Melt the butter in a large saucepan on medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Slowly dribble in the milk, while whisking (to avoid clumping) until the sauce is smooth. Slowly add the grated cheese, while whisking, until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice. Add the cooked, drained macaroni and ham. Do not over-mix. Sprinkle in some freshly grated black pepper.

Serve immediately.

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Note: homemade mac and cheese can be notoriously stringy. To keep the cheese from getting too stringy, it helps to coat the grated cheese lightly with some flour or corn starch. Adding some water to the sauce helps, as well as some lemon juice. Stirring encourages stringiness so keep the stirring to a minimum.


Herby Macaroni and Cheese from Stephen of Stephen Cooks

Showing 4 of 57 Comments

  • Miriam

    My toddler wants macaroni and cheese EVERY DAY! I try to make it healthier with whole wheat pasta and low-fat cheese. https://israelisalad.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/healthier-mac-and-cheese-2-methods/

  • Janet

    This is the best Macaroni and cheese I’ve made. Great recipe.. Easy, creamy and very tasty. I have a similar recipe that adds peas and Canadian bacon. I think the trick is the lemon juice.

  • Lynn

    My suggestion is for the leftovers. For a second meal, cut the leftover mac and cheese into serving size squares and fry on both sides in melted butter. It gets real brown and crispy and truly tasty. Enjoy.

  • melissa

    can you subsitute all purpose flour instead of cornstarch

  • Tracie

    Easy and oh so good! It was also easy to cut the recipe in half for two. The sauce did turn gritty once it cooled a bit. Any recommendations on how to avoid that?

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