All-Natural, Healthy Creamy Mac & Cheese in 25 Minutes
This super-creamy stovetop mac & cheese is loaded with veggies plus gets an extra boost of fiber from whole-wheat pasta.
I'm not gonna lie to you-I have boxed mac & cheese at home. There are two boxes of shells and cheese sitting in my cupboard just pining to be my next dinner. Boxed mac & cheese has its place. But nine times out of ten I just want the real deal. I want real extra-sharp Cheddar (just enough to make it taste great) and I want to be able to pronounce what goes onto my dinner plate.
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That's why I love this no-fail recipe for stovetop mac & cheese developed by the EatingWell Test Kitchen. Not only is this ultra-creamy version of mac & cheese nearly as fast as the boxed variety (you make it on the stovetop), but your family will be able to pronounce every ingredient. It's healthier too: skipping the boxed mac & cheese and upgrading to whole-wheat pasta boosts fiber. Cooking your favorite veg with the pasta adds a stealth serving of vegetables to boost nutrients. Here's how to cook up the best homemade mac & cheese on your stovetop in under 30 minutes:
Basic Stovetop Mac & Cheese Recipe
Pictured Recipe: Quick Stovetop Mac & Cheese with Peas
Active Time: 25 minutes | Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves 4: 1 1/2 cups each
8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles
2-4 cups Vegetables (see below)
1 3/4 cups reduced-fat milk, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Flavor Boost (see below)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/3 cups shredded or crumbled Cheese (see below)
2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
1/4 cup Topper (see below)
Step 1. Add Veggies
Pictured Recipe: Quick Stovetop Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
Veggies love cheese sauce, so add them to your mac & cheese for a one-and-done meal. Cook Vegetables and 8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles according to package directions in a large saucepan of boiling water. (If using peas, add them during the last 2 minutes of cooking time.) Drain.
- 4 cups chopped dark leafy greens
- 2 cups diced beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, kohlrabi, winter squash (1/2-inch)
- 2 cups peas, fresh or frozen
Step 2. Amp the Flavor
Pictured Recipe: Quick Stovetop Mac & Cheese with Broccoli Rabe
A flavor boost in the cheese sauce gives it extra oomph. Whisk 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon Flavor Boost and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper with ¼ cup reduced-fat milk.
- Mashed roasted garlic
- Dried herbs, such as rosemary
- Lemon zest
- Dijon mustard
- Tomato paste
- Minced capers
Step 3. Make Your Sauce
Pictured Recipe: Quick Stovetop Mac & Cheese with Kohlrabi
A bit of cream cheese makes the sauce luscious. Heat 1½ cups reduced-fat milk in the saucepan over medium-high heat until just simmering. Add the flour mixture and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 1⅓ cups shredded or crumbled cheese, 2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese and 2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar until the cream cheese is melted. Stir the pasta and vegetables into the sauce.
- Crumbled goat cheese
- Shredded Cheddar, fontina, Gouda or Gruyère
Step 4. Top It Off
Pictured Recipe: Quick Stovetop Mac & Cheese with Beets
Sprinkle with ¼ cup Topper for a final touch.
- Diced salami
- Chopped fresh herbs
- Toasted breadcrumbs or nuts