Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese

by Shawnda on September 26, 2011

in Baby & Toddler Friendly,Lighter & Healthier,Pasta, Rice, and Grains,Vegetarian

Stove Top Mac and Cheese

I’d like to blame the Toddler for this mac & cheese post. But the truth is, I’m the mac & cheese eater of the house. I often joke that my “Emergency Kit” contains a cake mix, a box of shells & cheese, and a bag of Funyuns. If by “joke” I mean that’s exactly what’s in the back corner of the bottom shelf of my pantry. Right this second.

Stove top mac & cheese is as easy as pouring yellow powder and milk over pasta. Or squeezing yellow stuffs out of a foil packet. It’s also as easy as stirring pasta water, yogurt, and grated cheese together. Our favorite stove top macaroni & cheese recipe goes a little something like this:

We use American cheese instead of cheddar for that classic “yellow” mac & cheese. It melts like a dream, which is why it’s the secret behind velvety smooth chile con quesos. Buy it in block form or get extra thick slices from the deli to shred at home but don’t buy it pre-shredded (heavenly melting experience not guaranteed if you do). And really it’s closer to 7 ounces instead of 8 – the Toddler can spot cheese from half a mile away and usually insists on at least one quality assurance sample. If American cheese completely weirds you out (it really is cheese!), try a Cheddar-Fontina split like we use here. And here. You can usually use as much as 5-6 oz cheddar or Monterrey Jack but your sauce won’t be smooth if you go any more than that. American (white or yellow) or Fontina are really good options for the other 2-3 oz.

We make our macaroni & cheese with fat-free Greek yogurt in the cheese sauce. I like that it’s thick, creamy, and loaded with protein and not fat. It makes a super creamy cheese sauce but mostly I like the extra little sharpness it adds to the dish, something otherwise lacking in the absence of cheddar cheese.

We use a “healthy” pasta. Or healthy-ish. Healthier? The brand we use advertises only 5 net grams of carbs. And we all know how much we love our carbs around here :) -

If I’m making mac & cheese, baked or stove top, it’s usually a one dish meal. And that’s where chicken and peas come in. Lots of peas and a cup of leftover shredded chicken if we have any from a previous night.

Stove Top Macaroni & Cheese

A quick and easy creamy mac & cheese that's made with Greek yogurt - pure comfort food and still relatively healthy.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz macaroni pasta
  • 8 oz American cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup fat-free Greek yogurt (I use 0% Fage)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 cup shredded leftover chicken (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cook macaroni pasta for 8-10 minutes in salted water, until al dente.
  2. Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining the pasta.
  3. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  4. Add 1/4 cup pasta water, the yogurt, and 1/3 of the grated cheese and stir until the cheese has melted.
  5. Stir in remaining cheese, one small handful at a time to prevent clumping.
  6. Add additional pasta water as necessary to thin the cheese sauce.
  7. Stir in peas and chicken, if using, and serve warm.
  8. To reheat, microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. If you think it needs it, add a tablespoon or two of skim milk or water. It's usually creamy enough after it's heated thoroughly but it's up to you.

Notes

Yields: 3-4 main servings

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 30 minutes

It was pointed out to me that this mac & cheese recipe is actually pretty Weight Watchers friendly. Using “5 grams of digestible carbs” Dreamfields pasta, the numbers come out to be:
Calories: 327.7
Fat: 12.6
Carbs: 9.6
Fiber: 4.8
Protein: 16.8
Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 5

That’s with peas and chicken. Not too shabby for a nice-sized bowl of pure comfort!

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tracey September 26, 2011 at 9:06 am

Love that pic Shawnda! Boxed mac & cheese is always in our pantry too, but this looks WAY better.

Reply

2 Ammie September 26, 2011 at 9:30 am

I am excited to try this. I love using Greek yogurt as a sub for other creams, and I have 3 huge containers in the refrigerator that my mother-in-law gave me. Oh, and I LOVE macaroni and cheese!

Reply

3 Chelsea September 26, 2011 at 9:54 am

Mmmm mac n cheese! What a wonderful comfort food. I’ve only tried making it not-from-the-box once and it was slightly disastrous. This looks simple and delicious though! I’ll have to give it a try!

Reply

4 Jessica September 26, 2011 at 10:06 am

I think I could try a new mac and cheese recipe every week, and this one looks like a winner for this week!!

Reply

5 doodles September 26, 2011 at 10:13 am

When I read awhile back that you use and many others use American cheese for chile con queso I was………..I was shocked. But it does make sense………for that I thank you.

Reply

6 ErinsFoodFiles September 26, 2011 at 10:30 am

I love the idea of using nonfat greek yogurt! I might have to give this a try, it seems so “homey”. In a good way of course!

Reply

7 Nikki (Pennies on a Platter) September 26, 2011 at 10:52 am

This looks SO good and I’m very tempted to make it for lunch today! I also would like to blame my toddler for our love of stove-top mac ‘n cheese in this house, but…not only is it me, but it’s the hubs, too! :)

Reply

8 mis-cakes September 26, 2011 at 10:58 am

My bf won’t touch boxed mac and cheese he prefers this concoction with canned soup and I’m not a fan of the canned soup so this may just be the perfect mac and cheese!! Greek Yogurt – GENIUS. Seriously.

Reply

9 Angela @ The Dancer Bakes September 26, 2011 at 11:00 am

Mmmmm…mac and cheese…

Reply

10 Michelle Perry September 26, 2011 at 11:08 am

I can’t wait to try this with some leftover chicken we have in the fridge….oh and my toddler can spot cheese from a mile away also. He will stand at the fridge and say “eese, eese, eese.” Of course we make him say please, before we oblige. :)

Reply

11 Laura September 26, 2011 at 11:43 am

Yum! Love the addition of yogurt. Esp with the rich creaminess of the American. Bookmarking this one!

Reply

12 Joanne September 26, 2011 at 11:49 am

My mom always made the best mac and cheese and it was essentially milk and American cheese mixed together on the stove. Never baked, never a roux…just those. I know I’d love it even more with greek yogurt…SO making this!

Reply

13 Emma September 26, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I’ve never thought to make it this way exactly, but I am a HUGE fan of dumping peas in boxed mac n cheese. I usually add tuna and hot sauce while I’m at it too, but now I want to try chicken and yogurt!

Reply

14 Erin September 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I prefer stove top mac and cheese over baked. It is always cheesier!

Reply

15 Krissy@DaintyChef September 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Your pictures just keep getting better and better! I want to dive right into that bowl.

Reply

16 foodiebride September 26, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Thanks, Krissy! You’re too kind!

Reply

17 Katherine Martinelli September 26, 2011 at 3:54 pm

I cannot get enough mac and cheese!! Love your version here with chicken, peas, and yogurt – all things I’ve never added to mac and cheese, and which I’m going to from now on :-)

Reply

18 Lisa @ The Cooking Bride September 26, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Oh my gosh, I am with you on the Funyuns. Those are my favorite!

Reply

19 Dark Lion September 26, 2011 at 10:25 pm

so awesome to see that I’m not the only one who dumps peas into their mac and cheese!!!

Reply

20 Katrina September 27, 2011 at 4:28 am

Love this! Great, quick, meal :)

Reply

21 BistroBess September 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm

This looks great! And so quick…and relatively healthy? I have everything in my pantry or fridge…this will be made tonight!

Reply

22 Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchen September 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm

This looks so good! I love that you made it healthier. I’m definitely known to give into the temptation of Velveeta shells and cheese, so I will have to keep this in mind instead the next time a craving strikes!

Reply

23 Chrissy September 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I almost never make mac-n-cheese because it dirties too many pots for someone without a dishwasher, so this one-pot version is right up my alley :)

Reply

24 Pam September 27, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Sorry. Have to leave those peas out. I’m a purist when it comes to mac & cheese, though willing to include the chicken. This recipe sounds quite delicious and easy to make as well. Thanks. I am a huge fan of mac & cheese.

Reply

25 Annie September 28, 2011 at 10:35 am

I love this photo so much I can hardly stand it. Almost as much as I love boxed shells and cheese :)

Reply

26 foodiebride September 28, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Me, too :) Thanks, Annie!

Reply

27 Stephanie September 28, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I would have never thought to put yogurt in my mac and cheese, but I bet it’s delightful! Thanks for sharing!

Reply

28 Olga October 25, 2011 at 6:21 am

Thanks so much for this recipe! I made it and we loved it! I posted about it:

http://happykitchentreats.blogspot.com/2011/10/very-mac-cheese.html

But please, PLEASE forgive the horrible cellphone camera photos!

Reply

29 Nikki November 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Made this tonight and we both loved it! Wish I could say Judah loved it, too, but he was in a mood tonight and wouldn’t eat anything but chicken nuggets. Grrrr. But, believe me when I say that Ben and I both think this is the best mac ‘n cheese EVER. :)

Reply

30 liz February 5, 2012 at 4:38 pm

This looks delicious and I’m excited to try the recipe. I am wondering why you use the pasta water in the cheese sauce. Is there some benefit over using plain hot water?

Reply

31 foodiebride February 5, 2012 at 7:49 pm

The pasta water has starch in it, which generally improves consistency of sauces. The other plus is efficiency: it’s already wicked hot.

Reply

32 Erin February 28, 2012 at 9:25 am

Made this last night for dinner with extra peas and some leftover chicken – it was fantastic! Excited to eat more for lunch today!

Reply

33 KAM March 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Not sure what I’m doing wrong, but when I put the ingredients into my WW Recipe builder to have it on hand, I am getting 9 pts per serving for 6 servings?

Thanks
KAM

Reply

34 foodiebride March 5, 2012 at 2:22 pm

KAM – Make sure you’re using the right kind of pasta. I calculated the points based on the type of pasta that I use – Dreamfields. It only has 5 grams of digestible carbs per serving and that lowers your point count vs “regular” white flour-based pasta.

Reply

35 Jessica August 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Thank you! Wanted to make mac ‘n’ cheese for lunch, but was out of milk so I googled to see if I could do something with yogurt instead. you rock!

Reply

36 Jennifer September 15, 2012 at 8:16 am

This is how I make our stovetop mac and cheese, but feel free to use whole milk greek, babies and growing kids NEED fat for brain development. This is a good healthy fat vs. the McDonalds cheeseburger kind. I also use cheddar… it doesn’t melt as pretty but I have never been a big fan of American cheese… unless it is queso! If you haven’t tried Quinoa noodles check them out… they taste way better than whole wheat and once loaded with creamy cheese indistinguishable from ordinary noodles. Bonus is that they are loaded with protein!

Reply

37 Liz September 27, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Just made this for the second time! YUMMM!!! The first time I made it, I had it in my menu plan for the week so I made sure I had all the ingredients on hand (only one I don’t keep on hand ALL the time is plain greek yogurt). So, I made it exactly as written and boy was it good!!! My kids loved it and I did too. Tonight, however, I decided to make this on a whim. I didn’t have the greek yogurt. I subbed lite sour cream and wow AMAZING!!!! Not as healthy as greek yogurt but not bad I guess. :) I didn’t add the chicken or peas either, just because I wanted something a little more basic. We gobbled it up!!! I don’t think my kids could tell a difference between the box and what I made tonight. The first go ’round they could tell it wasn’t the same but they enjoyed it nonetheless. This time, they asked for seconds!

Reply

38 foodiebride September 28, 2012 at 9:36 am

Oh, lite sour cream is a great substitution suggestion!

Reply

39 Meg February 7, 2013 at 11:37 am

I tried this today using white cheddar and fettucini noodles and it was a healthier fettucini alfredo! Thanks for the great recipe. My husband didn’t even realize it was healthy for him :)

Reply

40 D February 24, 2013 at 9:05 pm

made this tonight. didn’t add the peas or chicken. will do that next time. delicious! definitely making it again!!

Reply

41 Renee Mayer March 5, 2013 at 1:12 pm

What name brand of cheese did you use?

Reply

42 foodiebride March 5, 2013 at 1:54 pm

HEB (store-brand).

Reply

43 melissa November 18, 2013 at 3:18 am

this sounds delicious…but i must ask you, where on earth you are finding american cheese that isn’t already in slices behind the deli counter?

Reply

44 Shawnda November 18, 2013 at 10:59 am

I get it from the deli service counter, it’s with the other slice-to-order meats & cheeses.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: