3-Ingredient Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

The Food Lab

Unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science.

3-Ingredient Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

[Photographs and video: J. Kenji López-Alt]

This macaroni and cheese—this pot of creamy, gooey, cheesy, glorious macaroni and cheese—was made with three ingredients in about 10 minutes. Seriously. That's one fewer ingredient than you need to add to the pot to make a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. Not only that, but all three ingredients are staples, with shelf lives of weeks or months, which means that a simple lunch is always on hand.

Ready to see it?

Serious Eats

VIDEOS

Watch More Videos Replay

Why It Works

  • Cooking in a small volume of water concentrates the starch from the pasta, helping the cheese form a creamy emulsion.
  • Some similar recipes call for cooking pasta in milk, which can scorch. Cooking in water and adding evaporated milk toward the end avoids this problem.
  • Evaporated milk contains protein micelles, which help keep an emulsified sauce smooth and creamy.
  • Yield:Serves 2
  • Active time: 8 minutes
  • Total time:8 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces (170g) elbow macaroni
  • Salt
  • 6 ounces (180ml) evaporated milk
  • 6 ounces (170g) grated mild or medium cheddar cheese, or any good melting cheese, such as Fontina, Gruyère, or Jack

Directions

  1. 1.

    Place macaroni in a medium saucepan or skillet and add just enough cold water to cover. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Continue to cook, stirring, until water has been almost completely absorbed and macaroni is just shy of al dente, about 6 minutes.

  2. 2.

    Immediately add evaporated milk and bring to a boil. Add cheese. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring continuously, until cheese is melted and liquid has reduced to a creamy sauce, about 2 minutes longer. Season to taste with more salt and serve immediately.