When I first moved to New York and was in grad school, I spent a lot of time on student film sets. It didn’t take long for me to get bored with that situation because it turns out that I find the repetitive hurry-up-and-wait of being on set to be utterly dull. I like screenwriting and production design, but with the way the course (and life) worked, I couldn’t be in charge of those things on every shoot.Unfortunately though, I’m not gifted with much else in that realm. I’m not confident enough to direct. I like to act, but was/am too timid to pursue it in any real way. My hearing is terrible, so sound is out. My arms aren’t strong enough to hold the boom mic for very long. Editing is just a “no.” The list of disqualifications goes on and on, save for one notable exception: I can cook. And so it was that the majority of my production course credits came from being craft services, a.k.a. the on-set caterer.Now, being “crafty” for a student film isn’t the same as what you see when you spot film shoots on the streets of New York. Not even close. I didn’t have a truck or a crew; there was no oven or microwave. I was limited to what I could make in my Upper West Side apartment and transport in a cooler and what I could prepare on-set on a single electric burner. Oh, and it had to be cheap. Options were extremely limited—there were a lot of prepared salads and sandwiches—but my 15 Minute Stovetop Mac & Cheese was always a crowd pleaser.I mean, what’s not to love? This macaroni & cheese has all the cheesy flavor and creamy texture you want, but is less than half the work of most traditional recipes. Where those often require a pot, a pan, a roux, making a mornay sauce, and probably an oven, this recipe requires almost none of that…but it still delivers big-time.It also requires just six ingredients (seven, if you want to garnish with parsley) and two of them are salt and pepper. Whaaaaat. Since 15 Minute Stovetop Mac & Cheese is a from-scratch recipe, it will cost a few dollars more than the stuff in the blue box, but it’s also infinitely tastier. I’ll take real melted cheese over reconstituted powdered cheese any day. It’s not even a contest.This recipe really does comes together in fifteen minutes, so it’s ideal for busy weeknights or filling a craving or feeding a bunch of student filmmakers on the fly.
- Set a pot of water to boil.
- Grate the cheddar and cut the cream cheese into pieces.
- Boil and strain the macaroni. Return it to the pot.
- Stir in the cheeses, a touch of dijon mustard, and salt & pepper. Loosen the sauce up with a little pasta water if you like.
That’s literally it. The entire recipe. Boom. Done. Finito.Right now, you’re just one pot, four steps, six ingredients, and fifteen minutes away from diving fork-first into a bowl of creamy, cheesy magic. What are you waiting for?!
15 Minute Stovetop Mac & Cheese
makes 6-8 servings
16 ounces (1 pound or 4 cups) dry elbow macaroni noodles
12 ounces freshly grated cheese of choice (I like extra sharp cheddar)
6 ounces (3/4 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon prepared dijon mustard
1/2-1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1/4-1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
parsley, to garnish (optional)
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Season well with salt. Prepare elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the starchy cooking liquid.
Return cooked macaroni to the pot. Fold in grated cheese. Add cream cheese, stirring until melted. Add splashes of reserved starchy pasta cooking liquid until desired consistency is reached. Stir in dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning. Garnish with parsley, if desired, and serve.
Mac & Cheese is best fresh, but leftovers may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.