And one of those is the noodles!
Mac and Cheese
Credit: Getty / bhofack2

My love of mac and cheese is well documented. I am an equal opportunity mac lover, and I have different macs that satisfy different needs. When I am in need of some old school nostalgic yums? I lean hard into classic blue box Kraft, albeit made my special way and not according to package directions. When I am feeling blah, Stouffer's frozen always perks me up. For small dinner parties, I do an elegant smoked Gouda version, and for large barbecues a decadent baked version topped with a layer of bronzed melted cheese.

But if I want something that is a little bit special, but not extra fussy to prepare? Just for myself? I go hard on my stovetop three-ingredient mac. And yes, one of those ingredients is the pasta. So what do the other two ingredients make? The world's most delicious sauce!

This simple sauce is not for the faint of heart, or the cholesterol phobic. It is a true indulgence and should absolutely be offset by a day or two of salads, because the two ingredients that are not noodles are cheese and heavy whipping cream. Follow these steps to mac and cheese heaven.

1. Pick the right cheese

There are some rules. First, the cheese. It's got to be a processed style. We're talking:

  • Yellow or white brick American
  • Velveeta
  • Gooey melters like Provel
  • Grocery store-sliced Gouda (not the nice wax-rind or aged stuff)

You can always ask your deli folks at the grocery store which of the cheeses is processed, and the good news is that they will be the ones that are the lowest price. I beg of you, do NOT try this with good quality cheese. It will get greasy and gritty and will NOT be delicious. If you want an easy cheese sauce with fancy cheese, grab some sodium citrate and go the molecular route.

2. Get your cheese-to-cream ratio right

Now it's just all about ratios, and this is easy to remember. Your ratio for this sauce is 1:2 cheese to cream in ounces. So, for one person, a good serving is 2 ounces of cheese to 4 of cream, but if you want to make for a crowd, say using 2 pounds of dried pasta? Go for 1 pound of cheese to 1 quart of cream. PRO TIP: Weigh your cheese first and then grate. And do not use pre-shredded or grated cheese as the anti-clumping agents make them prone to grittiness.

3. Make the sauce!

To make the sauce, heat the cream in a medium saucepan over medium high heat until simmering (you should just see tiny bubbles and movement around the edges of the pot).  Stir in your grated cheese and keep stirring until you get the texture of melted Velveeta (which will be really easy you are using Velveeta!). Keep stirring and reduce the sauce slightly, being careful not to burn or scorch it.

Taste for seasoning: You may want the barest pinch of salt depending on the cheese you've used. It's your choice on pepper; I prefer mine without but go with what you love. Hold the sauce over very low heat or in a slow cooker set on warm until your pasta is done. Cook your pasta to al dente in well-salted water. Drain the pasta and combine with the cheese sauce.  Serve hot.

You can make this cheese sauce ahead, and just reheat in a pan over low heat, adding a splash more cream if it has tightened up too much. Made ahead, it will last up to 5 days in the fridge.