Cauliflower Mac and Cheese {Cheesy & So Easy!}

Creamy, cheesy, and delicious, this cauliflower mac and cheese is everything it should be!

Tender elbow macaroni and cauliflower florets are tossed in a cheesy sauce, topped with more cheese and baked until bubbly. Serve this as a meatless main dish or a side dish!

cauliflower mac and cheese on a plate

Why We Love This Dish

It’s extra saucy and super cheesy.

Adding cauliflower adds great texture to a traditional mac and cheese recipe along with extra and nutrients!

It’s a great way to incorporate leftovers into a meal! Leftover baked cauliflower can be used along with leftover meats like roast chicken for a complete meal.

This dish can be served as a main dish or a side dish.

Fresh or Frozen Cauliflower

As in any recipe, fresh is best, but frozen cauliflower can be used. If it’s frozen, be sure to defrost and drain the cauliflower before using in this recipe.

Frozen cauliflower is already fairly soft and should only be added to the cooking water during the last couple of minutes so it doesn’t overcook.

cauliflower mac and cheese ingredients

How To Make Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 to make this tasty favorite!

  1. Cook macaroni and the cauliflower in salted boiling water just until tender.
  2. While the macaroni is boiling, make the cheese sauce.
  3. Toss it all together and place in a casserole dish, top with more cheese and bake!

cauliflower mac and cheese sauce in a pot

Cheese or Breadcrumbs on Top

While I top this casserole with extra cheese you can add a breadcrumb topping if you’d like. Combine the following and sprinkle over the casserole before baking:

  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (or Panko)
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, salt & pepper to taste

cauliflower mac and cheese ready to bake

Additions & Variations

This is a great recipe for add-ins! Here is a list of great add-ins, but feel free to get creative! Add about 1 cup or so of any of the following combinations:

  • Ham & Broccoli: Leftover diced ham and steamed broccoli are great additions.
  • Bacon & Tomato: Cherry or grape tomatoes, crisp bacon (or bacon bits) and a handful of fresh chopped spinach.
  • Pizza Inspired: Crumbled Italian sausage, pepperoni, sauteed green peppers, onions and black olives with a dash of oregano.
  • Veggie Lovers: Sauteed onions, bell peppers, zucchini & mushrooms.

cauliflower mac and cheese in a pan

How To Reheat Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

This casserole doesn’t freeze well but it will last in the fridge for about 5 days. The best way to reheat cauliflower mac and cheese is to give it a good stir and zap it in the microwave for a few minutes. Add a little milk if the sauce is too thick after reheating.

More Mac & Cheesy Goodness

Did you enjoy this Cauliflower Mac and Cheese? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!

cauliflower mac and cheese on a plate

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Tender elbow macaroni and cauliflower florets are tossed in a cheesy sauce, topped with more cheese and baked until bubbly.
Course Main Course, Pasta, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 697
Author Holly Nilsson

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cauliflower cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni uncooked
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup light cream about 10-12% MF
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar divided
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Cook cauliflower and macaroni in salted water 5-7 minutes or until macaroni is tender. Drain very well.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and seasonings and cook 1 minute.
  • Whisk in cream and milk a little bit at a time whisking until smooth after each addition. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat while stirring.
  • Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese & 3 cups cheddar cheese until melted. Toss with cauliflower and macaroni and spread into a greased 9×13 pan.
  • Top with remaining cheddar cheese and 20-22 minutes or until bubbly. Do not over cook.

Notes

Cook pasta and cauliflower just until al dente, they will cook further in the oven.
Drain the cauliflower and macaroni noodles very well so your sauce doesn't get watery.
Any leftover cooked vegetables (or meats) can be added to this dish.
Breadcrumb Topping (optional)
This can be added in place of cheese on top of the casserole.
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (or Panko)
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, salt & pepper to taste

Nutrition

Calories: 697 | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 42g | Saturated Fat: 27g | Cholesterol: 130mg | Sodium: 919mg | Potassium: 493mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1375IU | Vitamin C: 32mg | Calcium: 756mg | Iron: 2mg
A casserole dish of cauliflower mac and cheese with writing
Cauliflower mac and cheese with text.
A serving of cauliflower mac and cheese with writing
Cauliflower mac and cheese and ingredients with writing

Beef and Macaroni Soup {A Family Favorite!}

Beef and Macaroni Soup in a bowl

Also called “Cowboy Soup,” this beefy macaroni soup is fully loaded with flavor!

This hearty soup can be made with leftover or fresh ground beef, cooked with tender veggies, canned tomatoes, elbow macaroni and a handful of Italian herbs and spices.

A bowl of macaroni soup topped with parsley.

Why We Love This Recipe

It’s crowd pleasin’ – kids and adults both love this tomato-based pasta filled Macaroni Soup

It’s the perfect way to use up leftover ground beef (even leftover taco meat works in this recipe)!

The ingredients are simple and you probably have most of them in the pantry already meaning this easy soup can be made at moments notice!

Best of all, the prep is quick. While the beef is browning, measure the remaining ingredients and it comes together in no time!

Ground beef, tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasoning in a soup pot with remaining ingredients in bowls around it.

Ingredients

Some people refer to this recipe as an American goulash but in our house a goulash is much thicker and doesn’t contain veggies.

GROUND BEEF This soup is perfect for leftover ground beef but can easily be substituted for ground chicken, pork, or even Italian sausage for a little spice. Whatever you have on hand!

PASTA Macaroni is a great addition to this soup but can be substituted for any short pasta you have on hand. Other great kinds of pasta to use are fusilli, shells, or even fun shapes for the kids!

BROTH Made with a handful of savory spices this broth is full of flavor. You can spice it up by adding in some red chili flakes, or complete change the flavor with taco seasoning or chili powder.

VEGGIES Fresh or frozen veggies make a great addition to this soup. To keep it simple I used a frozen mixed vegetable blend but you could add in whatever veggies you have on hand! Leftover roasted veggies work well in this recipe too!

Macaroni and mixed veggies being added to the macaroni soup.

How to Make Macaroni Soup

This easy homemade comfort soup is the perfect ending to a busy day, a chilly day, or any day!

  1. Brown ground beef and onion, drain fat.
  2. Add tomatoes, broth, and seasonings. Bring to a boil and then simmer.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and cook until the macaroni is tender.

Serve hot with a sprinkling parmesan cheese, a side of cheesy garlic breadsticks, and a classic wedge salad.

PERFECT PASTA As this recipe sits, the pasta will soak up the broth.

If you are not going to be eating this all at one sitting, cook the pasta separately and add it to each bowl. If the macaroni is left in the soup overnight, it can become mushy.

Macaroni soup being ladled out of a soup pot.

Delicious Additions

There are lots of additions and toppings that can add flavor to this hearty soup. Really, almost anything goes!

  • Veggies: Corn, peas, carrots, potatoes
  • Beans: black beans, northern beans, or kidney beans
  • Flavorful: black olives, jalapenos, green chiles
  • Toppings: diced avocados, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions

Tried & True Tips

This hearty soup is easy to prepare. But for the best results every time I have a few simple tips!

  • If adding in fresh potatoes or carrots be sure to parboil them first. Or add before the pasta so they have time to cook as they take longer than frozen veggies.
  • When adding additional spices, be sure to start small and add more if necessary. Remember that the flavors will become more potent as the soup simmers.
  • If making this soup to freeze, cook the pasta on the side or leave it out. This will prevent it from going soft when thawing and reheating.

A serving of macaroni soup next to the soup pot.

Leftovers

Beef and macaroni soup makes for great leftovers if there’s any left!

To refrigerate, allow to cool, then cover and keep in the refrigerator. Simply reheat on the stove and add a bit of salt and pepper to brighten up the flavors.

To freeze, ladle it into zippered bags, write the date on the outside and place flat in the freezer. Once frozen, store the bags upright to save freezer space. Macaroni soup will keep in the freezer for about 3 months. The pasta may be a little soft after it’s thawed, but that’s easily solved by adding fresh pasta!

Hearty Ground Beef Soups

Is Beef & Macaroni Soup a family favorite in your house?  Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!

Beef and Macaroni Soup in a bowl
Print

Beef and Macaroni Soup

This hearty soup is a family favorite.
Course Beef, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 359
Author Holly Nilsson

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup onion diced
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 14 oz diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni uncooked
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables

Instructions

  • In a large soup pot brown beef and onion until no pink remains. Drain any fat.
  • Add broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes.
  • Stir in macaroni noodles and vegetables, simmer an additional 8 minutes or until macaroni is tender. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  • Serve with shredded cheese if desired.

Notes

  • If adding fresh potatoes or carrots add before the pasta so they have time to soften. 
  • If you are not going to be eating this all at one sitting, cook the pasta separately and add it to each bowl. If the macaroni is left in the soup overnight, it will soak up the broth and become mushy.
  • Change up the flavor of this soup with seasonings and toppings.
    • Try taco seasoning, with avocados, sliced jalapenos, and a dollop of sour cream on top for a taco soup. 
    • For a meatless option, swap out the ground beef for black beans, pinto beans, or black eyed peas. 
  • For best results when freezing, leave the pasta out and add when reheating.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 359 | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 661mg | Potassium: 1083mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2469IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 3mg
A serving of beef and macaroni Soup with writing
A serving of beef and macaroni Soup with writing
A serving of beef and macaroni Soup with writing
Top image - a serving of macaroni soup. Bottom image - macaroni and veggies being added to the soup.

Classic Macaroni Salad: Creamy & Delicious!

Macaroni Salad is a classic recipe for any gathering, picnic, or barbecue. Tender elbow macaroni, ham, carrots & celery are tossed in a super simple mayonnaise dressing.

Make this ahead of time for the perfect summer side dish!

A serving bowl full of Classic Macaroni Salad

Macaroni Salad is tasty, filling, budget-friendly and goes with everything from baked chicken to a classic hamburger recipe!  With tangy and contrasting flavors and textures, this salad is always welcome at any table.

Make Ahead Side

You can (and should) make macaroni salad ahead of time. It develops a better flavor when it has time to sit in the fridge for a little bit.  Make it at least several hours ahead of time (or even a day ahead of time) to allow the flavors to blend.

It also tastes best served icy cold, straight from the fridge!

Ingredients

Ingredients in macaroni salad are pretty simple (and versatile).

  • MACARONI Use elbows, shells or whatever short pasta you have on hand.
  • CELERY and carrots add color and crunch. Peas add a bit of sweetness.
  • HAM adds a nice salty flavor (bacon is a great substitution too).
  • ONION is great to add zip to this recipe. I like green because it’s mild but red or white work too.

Macaroni salad ingredients in a glass bowl before being combined.

How to Make Macaroni Salad

This foolproof recipe is super easy for even the most inexperienced cooks.

  1. Prepare dressing by mixing all ingredients and set aside.
  2. Boil, drain and cool the macaroni.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Tip: speed prep time by mixing the hot macaroni with the frozen peas for rapid cooling and thawing at the same time.

Favorite Variations

You’ll find lots of room for creativity here. Macaroni salad will accommodate lots of different add ins, such as:

  • Diced hard-boiled eggs – Boiled eggs give macaroni salad even more body and flavor.
  • Diced bell peppers – Juicy, crunchy and colorful bell peppers are fabulous in mac salad.
  • Dill Pickles – Or capers. These briny bits can provide a little extra oomph (and we love them in our dill pickle pasta salad).
  • Cheese – Diced cheddar or mozzarella are great additions.

A serving bowl full of creamy macaroni salad, garnished with green onions.

How Long Does Macaroni Salad Last?

Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days. Mac salad can serve as a quick and simple one-pot lunch or snack.

Sadly, you cannot freeze macaroni salad.

More Summer Sides

Classic Macaroni Salad

This classic macaroni salad combines creamy mayonnaise based dressing with the goodness of pasta and veggies!

  • 1/2 lb elbow macaroni (uncooked (approx. 2 cups dry))
  • 1 cup celery (diced)
  • 1/2 cup carrot (shredded)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas (defrosted)
  • 1 cup ham (diced)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion (or red onion)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sweet relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt & pepper
  1. Cook macaroni according to package instructions and let cool.

  2. Combine pasta with remaining ingredients.

  3. Prepare dressing and stir to combine.

 

Creamy Velveeta Mac & Cheese

Velveeta Mac and Cheese is dreamy, creamy and delicious! This easy mac & cheese recipe starts with a homemade cheese sauce. The addition of Velveeta adds some creamy comfort while a couple of handfuls of real cheddar add a deeper cheese flavor.

This macaroni recipe is hearty and heartwarming perfect as a side dish or as a potluck dish when you want to have a crowd pleaser!

A serving of baked Velveeta Mac and Cheese casserole.

Velveeta is one of those foods that take us back to childhood. It has been around since 1918, gracing everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to cheese sauce. It’s added to casserole recipes and used in rotel dip or drizzled over loaded nachos. It’s even been used as fishing bait! No kidding!

How to Make Velveeta Mac and Cheese

This super easy homemade recipe can be baked or made on the stovetop. It can even be assembled in advance and stored in the fridge until it’s time for the oven!

  1. Cook the first four ingredients in a saucepan. Add milk and whisk gently until smooth.
  2. Add cubed Velveeta and continue to whisk until the cheese is melted and smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheeses and macaroni.
  4. Pour into a casserole dish and sprinkle with topping. Then bake!

This easy casserole dish is a full meal in itself but it delicious served with garlic bread and a caesar salad on the side.

Left image - velveeta being stirred into the milk mixture. Right image - Velveeta mac and cheese being spread into a casserole dish.

Delicious Mac and Cheese Additions

So many add-ins, what a great way to get extra veggies into the kids or to use up leftovers!

  • Meat: bacon bits or ham, ground beef or shredded chicken/turkey
  • Veggies: peas, carrots or broccoli, diced or Rotel style tomatoes, black olives or sliced jalapeños

Close up of Velveeta Mac and Cheese being scooped out of a casserole dish.

How to Reheat Mac and Cheese

Velveeta Mac and Cheese is super easy to store, freeze, and reheat, too!

  • To Store: Scoop mac and cheese into a zippered bag or a container with a tightly fitting lid. Keep refrigerated until ready to reheat.
  • To Freeze: Use an airtight container but be sure to label the zippered bag or container with the date. Frozen mac and cheese should keep in the freezer about two months.
  • To Reheat: Pop in the microwave or heat up on the stovetop. Add a little bit of milk to loosen it up and don’t forget to refresh the flavors with a dash of salt and pepper!

More Yummy Mac & Cheese Recipes

Velveeta Mac and Cheese

Velveeta mac and cheese is a hearty and heartwarming meal!

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 pound Velveeta (cubed)
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni (measured dry (approx. 8 ounces))
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar

Topping

  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cook macaroni al dente according to package directions. Drain.
  3. Melt butter, flour, mustard powder, and onion powder in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook 1-2 minutes.

  4. Add milk a little at a time whisking after each addition. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook 2-3 minutes.
  5. Stir in cubed Velveeta and continue stirring until melted and creamy. Remove from heat and add sharp cheddar. Stir in macaroni.
  6. Spread macaroni into a 2qt baking dish. Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle overtop.
  7. Bake 20 minutes or until hot and crumbs are golden.

Easy Cheesy Jalapeño Mac and Cheese Bites

Jalapeño Mac and Cheese Bites  are a party favorite and so easy to make! These mac and cheese bites are deliciously cheesy with a little spice from jalapenos. We top them with a bacon bread crumb mixture and bake until golden.

This fun take on a traditional Jalapeno Popper Dip is a party favorite everyone will love!

Close up of jalapeno mac & cheese bites.

I’m so excited to partner with Bob Evans to bring you this fun game day snack!

Mac and cheese is the perfect comfort food, paired with spicy jalapeños, crispy bacon, and served in bite-size portions it is hard to resist. It’s perfect for a party, a potluck and of course game day! Bob Evans Macaroni and Cheese makes this snack a breeze to make and because it’s made with real cheddar cheese it’s packed with great flavor!

Overview of Mac and Cheese bites ingredients.

How to Make Mac and Cheese Bites

This recipe is fun and easy to put together, you’ll wonder why you didn’t discover it before!

  1. Mix together shredded cheese, flour and bread crumbs (per recipe below).
  2. Stir in the macaroni, cheese, and jalapeños (more or less – depends on how spicy you like it)! Add the eggs and mix well.

Two images showing the steps to prepare jalapeno mac and cheese bites.

  1. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Combine bacon bits, melted butter, and the rest of the bread crumbs in a bowl and sprinkle over the mac and cheese bites.
  2. Bake until the tops are golden brown and serve warm!

Two images showing the mac and cheese bites prepared in a mini muffin tin before and after being baked.

These tasty, mini-cheesy treats are made with bacon bits for a more savory, crunchy flavor, or maybe add some chopped up ham or broccoli for extra color and flavor! 

What to Serve with Mac and Cheese Bites?

Jalapeño mac and cheese bites can be a meal on their own and make for a great snack. Serve them with a side of celery and carrot sticks with some ranch dressing for a perfect game-day spread.

For game-day try making a whole appetizer spread serving alongside crispy baked onion rings, bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers, and some delicious gooey cheese sticks.

Can You Freeze Them?

You sure can! Jalapeño mac and cheese bites are great to make in batches and freeze for a quick snack.

  • Freeze by placing in a zippered bag with the date on it and placing in the freezer.
  • Thaw this appetizer in the microwave or let them thaw on their own in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat by covering them with foil and baking in the oven at 350°F for about 20 minutes. This will make the breadcrumb topping crispy again, unlike the microwave. Add some breadcrumbs mixed with butter before baking and they will be good as new in minutes!

Jalapeno Mac and Cheese Bites

These easy spicy bite size appetizers are always a hit!

  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup jalapenos (drained and chopped)
  • 1 package Bob Evans Mac and Cheese
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs (divided)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 2 tablespoons bacon bits (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Combine cheddar, flour, and 1/2 cup bread crumbs in a medium bowl.

  3. Gently stir in macaroni and jalapenos. Add eggs and fold until combined.

  4. Spoon into greased mini muffin tins.
  5. In a small bowl, combine remaining bread crumbs, melted butter, and bacon bits. Sprinkle over bites.
  6. Bake 18-20 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm.

More Mac & Cheese Fun

Close up of jalapeno mac and cheese bites.
Close up of jalapeno mac and cheese bites.
Top image - jalapeno mac and cheese bites. Bottom image - jalapeno mac and cheese bites topped with jalapenos.

Creamy Pesto Mac and Cheese

Pesto Mac and Cheese takes your mac and cheese game to the next level! This fun twist on a traditional mac and cheese recipe is made with creamy havarti and a couple of spoonfuls of pesto for a great flavor boost! 

Get creative and add in your favorites; chicken, bacon, broccoli or any mix-ins you have in the fridge or pantry! Think of the ‘pasta-bilities!’

Pesto mac and cheese in a serving bowl with a serving spoon, garnished with basil.

A New Favorite

I’m so excited to be sharing this recipe with you today because it’s one of many recipes I’ve fallen in love with from my newest gem in my cookbook collection!

This bowl of love is from The Two Peas & Their Pod Cookbook written by my good friend Maria who blogs over at Two Peas and Their Pod.

I’ve waited so long to get my hands on a copy and it was well worth the wait! This book is filled with amazing fresh recipes that are not only easy to make, they’re family friendly! I love that most of the ingredients are things you likely have on hand (just like this mac and cheese, which is crazy easy and insanely delish)!

Two Peas & Their Pod Cookbook has easy to follow recipes with gorgeous photos that your entire family is going to love! I’ve got a big ol’ list of recipes dog eared in this book already!

Two peas & their pod cookbook with pesto mac and cheese ingredients around it.

What is Pesto?

Most people think of basil pesto but, pesto is a style of sauce, and can be made with nearly any herb or vegetable. Spinach and basil are the most common kinds of pesto, but it can also be made with sundried tomatoes, bell peppers, and even mushrooms!

How to Make Pesto Mac and Cheese

This easy pasta dish is so creamy and it’s a quick and delicious family meal.

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Combine butter and flour in a stockpot to make a roux (see recipe below). Whisk in milk and cook until thickened.
  3. Stir in shredded cheese until sauce is smooth and creamy.
  4. Gently fold in the pasta and enjoy!

Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. This mac and cheese dish is delicious served with a slice of homemade garlic bread or cheesy garlic breadstick to soak up every drop of that yummy sauce.

Two images showing the steps to create the pesto mac and cheese sauce.

My Favorite Add-Ins

This recipe is super flavorful made as written but Maria also has lots of great add-in suggestions; it’s will be like a new recipe every time!

Close up of pesto mac and cheese being scooped out of serving dish.

How To Store Mac and Cheese

Pesto mac and cheese is easily stored in the fridge in a zippered bag or airtight container.

  • Freeze it the same way, use a zippered bag or airtight container. Be sure to write the date on the outside of the bag or container.
  • Thaw in the fridge overnight. Pesto mac and cheese might not be as firm because the freezing process breaks down the pasta, but it can still be refreshed by draining any liquid that may have accumulated.
  • Reheat by putting the mac and cheese in a pot and heating gently. Refresh the flavors by adding a little salt and pepper or some new add-ins and it’s a whole new recipe!

Mac and Cheese Lover Recipes

Pesto Mac and Cheese

This stovetop mac and cheese is super creamy, cheesy, and full of flavor! It is easy to make but tastes gourmet! 

  • 12 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk (at room temperature)
  • 2 cups Havarti ( or mozzarella cheese, shredded)
  • 3 Tablespoons pesto (or store bought basil pesto)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the flour to create a paste.

  3. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and continue whisking until the sauce starts to thicken, about 2 minutes.

  4. Stir in the shredded cheese and continue stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Fold in the pesto.

  5. Add the pasta, stirring to combine, and cook just until the pasta is warmed through.

  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Recipe published with permission from Two Peas & Their Pod Cookbook.

Pesto Mac and Cheese in a white bowl.
Pesto Mac and Cheese in a white bowl.
Top photo - Pesto Mac and Cheese in a white bowl. Bottom photo - Pesto sauce being made in a saucepan.

Chili Mac Skillet (One Pan Meal)

Supper never fails to satisfy when you serve this Chili Mac Skillet. This cheesy, meaty meal combines ground beef, macaroni, and cheddar cheese in a thick tomato sauce enriched with beef broth.

Make this your go-to recipe when you need to stretch your food budget and still put a smile on everyone’s face! Serve this hearty meal with a light tomato cucumber salad and a slice of garlic bread to soak up every last drop!

Chli Mac in a skillet topped with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese

What is Chili Mac?

Chili Mac is a fresh take on an American Goulash recipe, with a flavorful Tex-Mex flair, thanks to the addition of chili powder and herbs. Make it on the stovetop in a pot for an easy meal that’s a breeze to prep!

Ingredients for Chili Mac

Not only is the shopping, prepping and cooking for this homemade one pot meal super easy, but cleanup is a breeze too. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  •  Base: ground beef, beef broth, elbow macaroni
  • Toppings: cheddar cheese
  • Veggies: crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, garlic cloves
  • Sugar & Spice: parsley, basil, oregano, chili powder, beef bouillon cube, sugar

Substitutions

If you prefer, substitute ground turkey or chicken for the beef and use chicken broth and bouillon. Penne pasta, rotini or shells will also serve in place of the macaroni. Add canned black beans, bell peppers or corn to stretch this recipe even more.

For maximum flavor and bite, use extra sharp cheddar. Pepper jack or Colby also work well in this recipe. Consider giving chili mac more of a Mexican vibe by getting creative with cumin powder, jalapenos, or chopped cilantro.

Ingredients to make Chili Mac in a large skillet

To Make this One Pan Skillet Meal

Follow these simple steps and you’ll have dinner on the table in a flash:

  1. Brown the ground beef with onion and garlic and drain off any fat.
  2. Add all the ingredients to the same pan (per recipe below) expect the cheese.
  3. Cover and cook until the macaroni is tender, stirring occasionally.

Once cooked, adjust seasoning, top with shredded cheddar, a sprinkle of green onion or cilantro and serve.

An overhead image of chili mac ready to serve

Don’t Forget the Sides!

The beauty of one pot meals like this is that you don’t have to fuss too much with sides. Serve chili mac with tortilla chips or tangy panzanella salad for a welcome crunch.

Baked corn on the cob or tomato avocado salad are also tasty and light sides that will complement the stick-to-your-ribs heartiness of chili mac.

How to Reheat It

This is a terrific meal to make in advance to allow the flavors to deepen and develop. Chili mac will keep in the fridge for up to four days, or in the freezer for up to four months.

To reheat, thaw and then pop into the microwave until steaming hot. Or you can take it straight from the freezer to the oven and bake until bubbling hot throughout.

Macaroni Madness

Chili Mac Skillet

Creamy tex-mex infused pasta skillet!

  • 1/2 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 3/4 pound dry macaroni noodles
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried parsley, basil and oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
  1. Finely dice the onion (or grate with a cheese grater). Add onion, beef and garlic to a pan over medium heat. Cook until no pink remains. Drain any fat.

  2. Add remaining ingredients except cheese. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and cover.

  3. Stirring occasionally, let cook 13-17 minutes or until macaroni is cooked through (add a little bit of water if needed).

  4. Season with salt & pepper to taste and serve warm topped with cheese.

 

Chili Mac Skillet served in a white bowl and garnished with shredded cheddar and fresh parsley.
Chili Mac Skillet served in a white bowl and garnished with shredded cheddar and fresh parsley.
Top photo - Chili Mac Skillet served in a white bowl and garnished with shredded cheddar and fresh parsley. Bottom photo - Chili Mac cooked and ready in the skillet.

Tuna Pasta Salad – a fun creamy side

Creamy Tuna Pasta Salad  is one of our favorite versions of classic tuna salad! When you add in a handful of veggies and some pasta, this becomes an entire meal in no time at all! 

This pasta salad recipe is a warm weather go-to for quick meals or even potlucks!

Pasta with tuna, cheese, peas and celery all tossed with a creamy dressing, in a clear bowl

What’s In Tuna Pasta Salad?

Just like most tuna recipes (think tuna casserole or tuna melts) this pasta salad is simple and delicious. With two main ingredients, tuna and pasta this dish is no-fuss and great as a quick dinner or an easy lunch.

This pasta salad uses sweet pickle relish in the dressing but of course you swap it with chopped dill pickles (but you may want to add a pinch of sugar to the dressing if you do).

  • Tuna: Choose good quality tuna that is packed in water so it doesn’t make the rest of the salad oily. Be sure to drain it well.
  • Pasta: A medium shape pasta works well for this recipe like rotini or shells, the ridges grab the dressing well adding lots of flavor!

Pasta, peas, cheddar cheese, celery and tuna in a clear bowl, with the dressing assembled on the side in another glass bowl

How to Make Tuna Pasta Salad

Making a pasta salad isn’t hard! With a little prep work and three easy steps, you can have this salad ready in 30 mins!

  1. Boil a large pot of water and cook the pasta. Drain, set aside to cool.
  2. Drain tuna and add in vegetables.
  3. Gently fold in the mayonnaise and add diced cheddar cheese (cheese is optional).

Whether making in advance or making fresh to eat, keep it chilled until you are ready to serve. Add in a little salt and pepper to taste and watch the flavors pop when served cold!

Pasta salad with tuna tossed with a creamy dressing, ready to serve.

Here’s How to Store It

Keep your tuna pasta salad in a sealed container so it doesn’t absorb the flavors of the other things in the refrigerator. And if taking to a potluck, put ice packs in a cooler around it to keep it chilled!

When serving it outdoors where everyone is helping themselves, put the salad in a bowl and try to position it on a small tray or plate of ice to keep it cold. Stir frequently to keep it all the same temperature!

More Delicious Pasta Salads

Creamy Tuna Pasta Salad

This creamy salad combines pasta & tuna to create the perfect light lunch or side to supper! With the addition of pickles, cheese, and peas it is sure to be a hit!

  • 3 cups rotini pasta (measured dry)
  • 6 ounces canned tuna (drained)
  • 1/2 cup celery (diced)
  • 3 green onions (sliced)
  • 3/4 cup baby peas (defrosted and drained)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese (diced (optional))

Dressing

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  1. Combine all dressing ingredients and set aside.

  2. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Rinse under cold water to stop cooking.

  3. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
  4. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Nutrition Information does not include optional ingredients.

I love this creamy tuna pasta salad recipe! Whether taking it to a potluck or enjoying at a barbecue it's fresh and light flavors are always a hit. With pickles, cheese, pea and of course tuna & pasta, it's the best summer side dish I've made! #spendwithpennies #tunapastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #summer #sidedish #30minmeal
I love this creamy tuna pasta salad recipe! Whether taking it to a potluck or enjoying at a barbecue it's fresh and light flavors are always a hit. With pickles, cheese, pea and of course tuna & pasta, it's the best summer side dish I've made! #spendwithpennies #tunapastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #summer #sidedish #30minmeal
I love this creamy tuna pasta salad recipe! Whether taking it to a potluck or enjoying at a barbecue it's fresh and light flavors are always a hit. With pickles, cheese, pea and of course tuna & pasta, it's the best summer side dish I've made! #spendwithpennies #tunapastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #summer #sidedish #30minmeal

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese (Boiled in Milk)

homemade macaroni and cheese in bowl

Stovetop Mac and Cheese is the creamiest, dreamiest version of an all-American favorite! No one can resist a savory combination of a creamy cheddar cheese base blended with macaroni noodles, and it couldn’t be easier made on the stovetop.

Serve this creamy homemade mac and cheese with a fresh tossed salad, some garlic bread, and roasted broccoli for the perfect rounded meal!

Creamy stovetop macaroni and cheese in a cooking dish with a wooden spoon.

How to Make Stove Top Mac and Cheese

This stovetop mac and cheese is the creamiest version! The secret to this recipe is that the pasta is boiled in milk (which means only one pot for easy clean up). It’s as easy as 1,2,3!

  1. Combine milk, garlic powder, butter and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Add in the macaroni noodles and reduce the heat to low (adding liquid as needed). Cook until the noodles are tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Once the pasta is fully cooked, add the rest of the ingredients and stir until melted.

The final result is a smooth and hearty easy family entrée that everyone will love and want seconds of!

Troubleshooting

This recipe is really easy to make but here are a few to tips to make sure it comes out creamy.

When the macaroni is done cooking in the milk, you do not want it dry.  You may need to add more milk/water to the pot while it is cooking. The macaroni noodles should be as moist as the photo on the top right below BEFORE you add in the cheese.  Once you add the cheese, remove it from the stove and stir until the cheese has melted.

Keep in mind, pre-shredded cheese often has additives to keep it from clumping. These additives can cause it to be grainy instead of creamy.

Process shots of stovetop macaroni and cheese being made from the pasta being cooked to the cheese being added.

What Goes with Mac and Cheese?

Everything goes with stovetop mac and cheese! A salad with a bright balsamic vinaigrette, or a crusty loaf with Homemade Garlic Butter can round out this meal.

Fresh fruit salad or a tangy gelatin dessert go well for with this rich macaroni. When you serve this creamy stovetop mac and cheese, almost anything goes.

Add ins: You can get creative with this recipe. Add in bacon, jalapenos, canned tuna, peas, even topping mac and cheese with fresh pico de gallo!

Cheese being stirred into stovetop macaroni and cheese with a wooden spoon.

Got Leftovers?

Mac and Cheese leftovers can last 4-5 days in the fridge. Reheat on low on the stove top (or in them microwave) and add a splash of milk to keep it creamy.

Can You Freeze Mac and Cheese? The best creamy mac and cheese recipes are served just as they’re made, including this one. This recipe doesn’t freeze well.

More Mac and Cheese Love

Extra Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

If you love rich and creamy Macaroni and Cheese then this homemade stovetop recipe is for you!!

  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni noodles
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  1. In a saucepan combine a pinch of salt, milk, garlic powder, onion powder, butter and water. Bring to a boil.

  2. Add in macaroni noodles, reduce heat to low.
  3. Continue to simmer stirring frequently until noodles are cooked (about 20 minutes).

  4. Watch to make sure the liquid doesn’t completely evaporate. You can add extra milk 1/4 cup at a time if the liquid is low.
  5. Once the pasta is cooked, ensure the noodles are not dry. They should be as moist as the photo above before adding cheese. Stir in cream cheese until melted.

  6. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese. Cover for 3 minutes.

Recipe slightly adapted from Plain Chicken.

REPIN this Easy Stovetop Recipe

This one pot stovetop mac and cheese is seriously good. Homemade mac and cheese is always better, and making this cheesy comfort food couldn't be easier thanks to the stove top! #spendwithpennies #macandcheese #stovetopmacandcheese #macaroniandcheese #macaroni #cheese #stovetop
This one pot stovetop mac and cheese is seriously good. Homemade mac and cheese is always better, and making this cheesy comfort food couldn't be easier thanks to the stove top! #spendwithpennies #macandcheese #stovetopmacandcheese #macaroniandcheese #macaroni #cheese #stovetop

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Stovetop Mac and Cheese is the creamiest, dreamiest version of an all-American favorite! No one can resist a savory combination of a creamy cheddar cheese base blended with macaroni noodles, and it couldn’t be easier made on the stovetop.

Serve this creamy homemade mac and cheese with a fresh tossed salad, some garlic bread, and roasted broccoli for the perfect rounded meal!

Creamy stovetop macaroni and cheese in a cooking dish with a wooden spoon.

How to Make Stove Top Mac and Cheese

This stovetop mac and cheese is the creamiest version! The secret to this recipe is that the pasta is boiled in milk (which means only one pot for easy clean up). It’s as easy as 1,2,3!

  1. Combine milk, garlic powder, butter and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Add in the macaroni noodles and reduce the heat to low (adding liquid as needed). Cook until the noodles are tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Once the pasta is fully cooked, add the rest of the ingredients and stir until melted.

The final result is a smooth and hearty easy family entrée that everyone will love and want seconds of!

Troubleshooting

This recipe is really easy to make but here are a few to tips to make sure it comes out creamy.

When the macaroni is done cooking in the milk, you do not want it dry.  You may need to add more milk/water to the pot while it is cooking. The macaroni noodles should be as moist as the photo on the top right below BEFORE you add in the cheese.  Once you add the cheese, remove it from the stove and stir until the cheese has melted.

Keep in mind, pre-shredded cheese often has additives to keep it from clumping. These additives can cause it to be grainy instead of creamy.

Process shots of stovetop macaroni and cheese being made from the pasta being cooked to the cheese being added.

What Goes with Mac and Cheese?

Everything goes with stovetop mac and cheese! A salad with a bright balsamic vinaigrette, or a crusty loaf with Homemade Garlic Butter can round out this meal.

Fresh fruit salad or a tangy gelatin dessert go well for with this rich macaroni. When you serve this creamy stovetop mac and cheese, almost anything goes.

Add ins: You can get creative with this recipe. Add in bacon, jalapenos, canned tuna, peas, even topping mac and cheese with fresh pico de gallo!

Cheese being stirred into stovetop macaroni and cheese with a wooden spoon.

Got Leftovers?

Mac and Cheese leftovers can last 4-5 days in the fridge. Reheat on low on the stove top (or in them microwave) and add a splash of milk to keep it creamy.

Can You Freeze Mac and Cheese? The best creamy mac and cheese recipes are served just as they’re made, including this one. This recipe doesn’t freeze well.

More Mac and Cheese Love

Extra Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

If you love rich and creamy Macaroni and Cheese then this homemade stovetop recipe is for you!!

  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni noodles
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  1. In a saucepan combine a pinch of salt, milk, garlic powder, onion powder, butter and water. Bring to a boil.

  2. Add in macaroni noodles, reduce heat to low.
  3. Continue to simmer stirring frequently until noodles are cooked (about 20 minutes).

  4. Watch to make sure the liquid doesn’t completely evaporate. You can add extra milk 1/4 cup at a time if the liquid is low.
  5. Once the pasta is cooked, ensure the noodles are not dry. They should be as moist as the photo above before adding cheese. Stir in cream cheese until melted.

  6. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese. Cover for 3 minutes.

Recipe slightly adapted from Plain Chicken.

REPIN this Easy Stovetop Recipe

This one pot stovetop mac and cheese is seriously good. Homemade mac and cheese is always better, and making this cheesy comfort food couldn't be easier thanks to the stove top! #spendwithpennies #macandcheese #stovetopmacandcheese #macaroniandcheese #macaroni #cheese #stovetop
This one pot stovetop mac and cheese is seriously good. Homemade mac and cheese is always better, and making this cheesy comfort food couldn't be easier thanks to the stove top! #spendwithpennies #macandcheese #stovetopmacandcheese #macaroniandcheese #macaroni #cheese #stovetop