One Pot Macaroni and Cheese: Creamy, comforting mac and cheese comes together in one pot–no pre-boiling noodles necessary. This ultimate comfort dish gets a speedy and healthy make-over!
Those of you who know my daughter know she loves cheese. Adores cheese. She claims to be a cheese-atarian, which according to her means she can live on cheese alone.
On the rare occasion we eat out, she always checks to be sure that there is Mac and Cheese, Grilled Cheese, or Cheese Pizza on the menu. Honesty, the girl loves her fruit and veggies too and even requests for me to “hide” veggies in her cheese quesadillas and bean burritos– so I am okay with her passion for cheese.
In my quest to please my little girl and feed her wholesome meals, I have developed a fail-proof homemade mac and cheese.
One Pot Mac and Cheese
Seriously guys, this creamy mac and cheese is EASIER than boxed Mac and Cheese–no draining pasta or orange powdered mixes. And tastes a heck of a lot better.
In fact, my daughter even claims it tastes like Panera’s Mac and Cheese.
Incredibly creamy, incredibly cheesy, made in less than 30 minutes all with one pan–I know, sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?
It’s not. One Pot Mac and Cheese is a simple 30 minute meal, that when paired with a salad made with homemade ranch dressing, is actually a more wholesome meal than any mac and cheese you have at restaurants.
How to Make Macaroni and Cheese in One Pot
- You start with uncooked whole wheat pasta, veggie stock (or water), salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and butter.
- Once the pasta has absorbed about half of the stock and is just al dente (still has a chew to it), stir in the milk, freshly grated nutmeg, and cheese. I use a mix of shredded sharp white cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan, but any good melting variety of cheese work here.
- After you stir in the cheese and milk, it is as simple as cooking on low until the milk is absorbed and the cheese is melted.
I am telling you this mac and cheese dinner is a dream come true for cheese lovers, pasta lovers, and people who just want a quick bowl of comfort food.
So is this HEALTHY Mac and Cheese?
Well, that depends on your definition of healthy. I did make some healthy swaps.
- whole wheat pasta in place of white pasta
- only one tablespoon in entire recipe verses 4-8 tablespoons in traditional mac and cheese recipes
So in my book, I’d say this Mac and Cheese is on the wholesome side–full of calcium and whole grains. But when paired with a salad and some steamed veggies, even better!
What Cheese is Best for Mac and Cheese?
Because this mac and cheese uses less cheese than most recipes, you want to make sure you use cheese that is really flavorful. I recommend sharp white cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan cheeses for their assertive flavors and their melting ability. However, colby, cheddar, or gruyere, fontina, and provolone all make great choices as well.
I would avoid mozzarella, because of it’s mild flavor. Also avoid cheeses made with goat’s milk, as they do not melt well. You can read more about the cheeses that melt best here.
One very important thing to remember when making homemade mac and cheese is to freshly grate your cheese. If you use pre-shredded bagged cheese, it is coated in anti-caking powder, therefore decreasing the cheeses ability to melt smoothly—and no one wants curdled cheese sauce.
Tips for making White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
- Unfortunately, I have not had success making this mac and cheese with gluten-free pasta, as gluten-free pasta tends to release a lot of starchy liquid that leaves a film in the sauce. If you have success making this mac and cheese gluten-free, please share which brand of pasta you used in the comments.
- Freshly grated nutmeg adds a hint of depth to the cream sauce–but do not use ground nutmeg. Skip it altogether if you you aren’t grating the nutmeg fresh.
- You can use chicken or vegetable broth in this recipe. Water can be used in place of stock, but it won’t be as flavorful.
- Because the Parmesan is salty and the stock is already salted, I go light on the salt. Adjust seasonings based on your preference.
- If you want this mac and cheese to taste just like Panera’s Macaroni and cheese, use half and half in place of milk and follow the rest of the recipe as stated. It creates a recipe that is a copycat version of Panera Mac and Cheese.
One Pot Macaroni and Cheese
Creamy, comforting mac and cheese comes together in one pot--no pre-boiling noodles necessary. This ultimate comfort dish gets a speedy and healthy make-over!
- 16 ounces whole wheat elbow pasta
- 3 cups vegetable stock or water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 cups milk any variety, even half and half will work
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg optional
- 1 cup sharp white cheddar
- 3/4 cup Swiss cheese
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Bring pasta, stock, seasonings and butter to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until pasta has absorbed most of the stock and is very al dente--about 7 minutes.
Add in milk, nutmeg, and cheese and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until pasta has absorbed milk and cheese has melted, about 5 minutes.