Mac and Cheese To Eat Out of a Pot in Your Underwear

Welcome to the sapphic table, a series of (hopefully!) unfussy seasonal recipes for your farmers market, your CSA bounty — or your grocery store. Today we’re making a single serving stovetop mac-and-cheese perfect for eating out of its pot in your underwear. Technically it’s not seasonal, but hey you could always pair it with a salad.


A close up of a photo of easy stovetop macaroni and cheese, made in 20 minutes, with bowtie pasta

I know that Mac and Cheese seems more like a fall recipe, but hear me out. You know those muggy nights that seem to only be capable of happening in the summer; the kind of nights when sheets of rain pour against your windows, and all you want to do is strip down to your underwear and empty out everything from our head??

Ok great, then you know the only thing that can be reliably called upon, the only way to achieve that immortal bliss, is to immediately pour a glass of white wine, take off all of your clothes and stand in the middle of your kitchen while eating a pot of creamy, delicious — if ever so slightly salty — melted cheese, luxuriously dressed over pasta in exactly 15 minutes or less from when you first had the idea.

If it’s just me and you have never not once in your life had such an urge, don’t tell me.

bowtie pasta spilling out of bag

For the rest of us, this is a Mac and Cheese recipe built for impulsiveness, cravings, and comfort.

It’s not the decadent, bronze, smooth, perfectly baked Mac and Cheese that takes over an hour to make and is 100% best served once the leaves have changed and you need a blanket to stay warm. No, this is rushed and unpolished (though I find elegance in its messiness) — a beautiful meeting of those nostalgic blue Kraft boxes from after school specials and the trendy adult cacio e pepes that have overtaken the menus of fancy Italian restaurants everywhere. It’s for when you need cheesy pasta RIGHT NOW and nothing else will do.

When I started this column, I imagined sticking to “seasonal” recipes that used up my love of farmer’s markets, vegetables, and fruit. And yes, technically speaking, stovetop Mac and Cheese is not that. However, I can tell you, from personal experience, that if you pair this Mac and Cheese with some freshly sliced sweet summer tomatoes on the side and a nice chunk of crusty bread, your eyes will roll back in your head and you will reconsider everything you once knew in life. Just a little tip from me to you.

a pile of yellow grated cheese and a cheese grater.

Like all things that come with being perpetually single but loving to cook, it’s actually difficult to find an appropriately pared down Mac and Cheese recipe for just one person. Deb Perelman’s comes the closest to my needs, though I’ve taken a few liberties. I’ve swapped out her parmesan for a sharp cheddar because I don’t see any reason to mess with a Mac and Cheese classic (though I keep Deb’s heavy hand for pepper, to give it that aforementioned cacio e pepe edge). I use slightly more butter, because who are really we fooling here? And finally, I sub some of the flour for cornstarch. Years of trial and error have taught me that a little cornstarch will keep your cheese sauce extra creamy, even as it cools.

Mac and Cheese To Eat Out of a Pot in Your Underwear

Serves one

Ingredients for Single Serving Mac and Cheese

4 ounces short, chunky, and twisty pasta of your choice (I used bowtie/farfalle, and have you ever noticed how hard it is to measure out dry pasta when you don’t have a scale? I find this visual guide from The Kitchn to be really helpful!)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch (see *note for alternative)
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
Many grinds of black pepper
Salt
1/2 cup (1 ounce or 30 grams) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

*Note: Don’t have cornstarch hanging around?  You can substitute the 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch for an additional 1/2 teaspoon of flour, bringing the total amount of flour to two teaspoons total.

Directions for Single Serving Mac and Cheese

Bring a small/medium pot of water to a boil. Add your pasta and cook according to package instructions for al dente, then drain.

Return the pot (now warmed) to your stove. Melt butter in the bottom of the pot over medium heat. Using a fork or whisk, add flour and cornstarch. Mix until they disappear and no remaining dry parts remain.

Add milk, going a solid — but careful! — splash at a time, stirring constantly with fork or whisk so that no lumps form. Don’t forget to scrap down the corners of the pot while you’re at it! Once everything is smooth, season with a good pinch of salt and many grinds of black pepper. Bring sauce to a simmer.

Cook at a simmer, stirring, for one minute. Remove from heat. Stir in grated cheese until melted and combined. (If you find the cheese won’t seamlessly melt into the sauce, put the pot back on low heat while stirring until the cheese melts and everything combines, then take it back off heat.)

Is your drained pasta still warm? Great! Then add it to the pot, and stir evenly to coat. (If your pasta got cold while you made sauce, pause here! The sauce will seize up if you try to mix in cold noodles. Re-warm it by quickly rinsing it throughly with hot water and drain it again. Once completely drained, add rewarmed pasta to pot, stir to evenly coat.)

Your Mac and Cheese is ready! Give another grind of black pepper on top, for aesthetics.

Grab a fork. Use your phone to put on a podcast. Dig in.

A close up of a photo of easy stovetop macaroni and cheese, made in 20 minutes, with bowtie pasta

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Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 700 articles for us.

19 Comments

  1. Mac N Cheese is a year long staple for me. I loved the baked version, but stovetop cooking is easy, foolproof because you can adjust as you go. Admittedly, I am not one to break out measuring cups, etc. Hence the stove top method prevents certain calamity. You can see when everything is cooked, needs more cheese, etc.

  2. think vegans could swap mylk-of-your-choice for dairy milk, and brewer’s yeast for the cheese, maybe add a little turmeric, and also have a comfort meal in your underoo dining enjoyment. not sure about proportions, though…

    also, the bowties are fancy.

    • I disagree on the brewer’s yeast as a substitute for the gooey cheese. There must be a vegan equivalent of cheddar cheese if there is almond milk based ricotta.

      To be fair, I have never consumed brewer’s yeast, but the consistency appears to be more akin to Parmesan.

      • there are tons of cheezes out there, but often have crazy ingredients trying to approximate consistency and texture, and i’d rather skip.

        though, it’s been long enough since i’ve eaten cheese that there’s not really a pull to match it. the yeast is just a savory flavor that would be nice with the pasta, but i did forget about fat – it would need a binder, and just now i’m blanking on what would be good…

        • Thank you msanon for clarifying. I forgot about how over-processed vegan can be. Also thanks for describing the lure of Brewer’s yeast.

          I have not tried the following, but I am guessing some sort of nut or oatmilk if it’s not too sweet might bind the flavors and make it creamy without impacting the flavor profile of the mac too much. I like the flavor of olive oil, so I would use that.

          Whipped avocado would give a nice buttery texture, BUT the flavor would be too strong for me in this dish.

          • strong flavor is not a problem over here. i am currently thinking a little peanut butter, diluted with a light oil (maybe avocado :) or veggie broth, and mix the brewer’s yeast in. then add some coco aminos if it needs it. pasta’s kinda sweet (if you don’t eat processed food) so i think that would balance it out.

            loved your suggestions, thanks!

      • I hope you find it; I would love to read your next post be on Vegan mac and cheese. One recipe a link to the aforementioned yeast version and one with you experimenting with a gooey version that is not overly processed.

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