Mac and cheese is considered an old kid-friendly standby. You’ll find it on any restaurant kids menus and for good reason… It’s delicious!. Adult menus have gourmet versions with fancy ingredients like duck fat, truffle oil, or Gorgonzola cheese.

But making mac and cheese at home is surprisingly simple and has endless possibilities. Plus, with this mac and cheese recipe template, you can make it in about the same amount of time it takes to make the good old boxed stuff.

This mac and cheese recipe template is a wonderful recipe to have in your back pocket. It works well as a weeknight dinner. The recipe template is great for using up leftover veggies and protein you have at the end of your shopping week. Using a combination of cheeses also helps you use whatever you have in your fridge.

When figuring out which cheese you’ll use, think about including one that melts well (i.e. cheddar, fontina, Swiss, Gruyere, or Monterey Jack) for at least half of your total cheese. Also, consider grating the cheese fresh from a block. I almost always purchase cheese in block form. That way I can dice it, slice it or grate it depending on my recipe. Additionally, pre-shredded cheese often has an “anti-caking” agent added which can make it harder to melt.

Simple Ingredient Mix

1 pound PASTA
1/4 cup FAT
1/4 cup FLOUR
2 cups MILK
4 cups or 3/4 pound SHREDDED CHEESE
2 cups frozen or cooked VEGETABLES
1 cup cooked ANIMAL PROTEIN (optional)

Ingredient Options

Ingredient Options
1 pound PASTA whole wheat pasta | Gluten-free pasta like quinoa, brown rice, or lentil varieties | elbow macaroni
1/4 cup FAT unsalted butter | olive oil | pork or bacon fat | duck fat
1/4 cup FLOUR whole wheat flour | all-purpose flour | gluten-free flour blend
2 cups MILK cow’s milk (whatever type you have: whole, 2%, 1%, or skim)
4 cups or 3/4 pound SHREDDED CHEESE mild, medium, sharp, or extra-sharp cheddar | Gruyere | Swiss | Fontina | Monterey Jack | pepper Jack | Gouda | Gorgonzola | Romano | parmesan | mix and match cheeses!
2 cups frozen or cooked VEGETABLES broccoli | cauliflower | peas | spinach | kale | Swiss chard | roasted butternut squash | carrots | sweet peppers | hot peppers
1 cup cooked ANIMAL PROTEIN (optional) diced bacon | diced ham | diced chicken | diced turkey | shredded pork | diced salami | sausage
SEASONINGS 1 teaspoon salt + fresh ground pepper
optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg | 1/2 teaspoon chili powder | 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder | 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper | oh so many possibilities here!


Recipe Method

  1. Set a large pot of salted water on high heat on the stove to boil.
  2. Once water is boiling, add the PASTA and cook per the package’s directions. Drain well and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add FAT.
  4. Once fat is melted/heated through, add the FLOUR and cook for a couple of minutes while constantly stirring with a whisk.
  5. Slowly add the MILK to the butter + flour mixture and continue to whisk until all the lumps have been incorporated into the milk. Continue to whisk and cook until milk is warmed through and steaming.
  6. In 3 to 4 batches, add the SHREDDED CHEESE. Stir thoroughly until each batch is fully incorporated before adding the next batch.
  7. Add the vegetables, protein, and seasonings to the cheese mixture stirring well.
  8. Add the cooked pasta and stir well.
  9. Turn off the heat and serve.


  • If starting with uncooked bacon, it first needs to be diced and sautéed in the skillet on medium heat until crispy. Remove to drain on a paper towel lined plate. Reserve 2 tablespoons of rendered bacon fat in the skillet (enough to cover the bottom of the skillet)
  • Broilers cook fast. Once the skillet goes in, set a timer and watch it very closely. Within just a few minutes, it will smell done.

Combination Inspiration

Here are just a few possibilities to get your creative wheels spinning...

Classic Cheddar

Whole wheat macaroni
All-purpose flour
2% milk
Mild cheddar cheese
Frozen broccoli cuts
Chopped bacon
Salt + Pepper


Whole wheat macaroni
Extra-virgin olive oil
All-purpose flour
Skim milk
Fontina + parmesan cheese
Mild Italian sausage
Salt + Pepper


Quinoa pasta
Pork fat
Gluten-free flour blend
2% milk
Monterey + pepper Jack cheese
Diced sweet peppers + diced green chiles
Salt + Pepper
Cayenne pepper

Chicken & Peas

Farfalle (bow tie) pasta
Unsalted butter
Whole wheat flour
1% milk
Gruyere + sharp cheddar cheese
Frozen peas
Diced rotisserie chicken
Salt + Pepper

Recipe Hardware + Recommendations

* Affiliate links below *

Family Size T-Fal Non-Stick Skillet

This light-weight, non-stick, huge skillet comes with a lid making it perfect for so many dishes. It works especially well for mac and cheese as the cheese sauce will not stick to it.

Measuring Spoons

Stainless steel measuring spoons are the way to go. The engraved lettering guarantees the lettering won’t wear away. This is also a great set because it includes the 1/8 teaspoon and the 1/2 tablespoon. While not that commonly used, it’s nice to have them when it comes up.