Simple Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Simple Stovetop Macaroni and CheeseInspired by an innovative macaroni and cheese recipe that calls for adding sodium citrate, an emulsifying salt, to cheese to keep it smooth when heated (instead of adding flour to make a béchamel), we based our sauce on American cheese, which contains a similar ingredient. Because American cheese has plenty of emulsifier but not a lot of flavor, we combined it with more-flavorful extra-sharp cheddar. A bit of mustard and cayenne pepper added piquancy. We cooked the macaroni in a smaller-than-usual amount of water (along with some milk), so we didn’t have to drain it; the liquid that was left after the elbows were hydrated was just enough to form the base of the sauce. Rather than bake the mac and cheese, we sprinkled crunchy, cheesy toasted panko bread crumbs on top. Our simplified mac and cheese recipe takes only about 20 minutes from start to finish.


  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 8 ounces Elbow Macaroni
  • 4 ounces American Cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • Small pinch cayenne pepper
  • 4 ounces Extra-Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese


  1. Bring water and milk to boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Stir in macaroni and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently, until macaroni is soft (slightly past al dente), 6 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add American cheese, mustard, and cayenne and cook, stirring constantly, until cheese is completely melted, about 1 minute.
  3. Off heat, stir in cheddar until evenly distributed but not melted.
  4. Cover saucepan and let stand for 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine panko, oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in 8-inch nonstick skillet until panko is evenly moistened. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until evenly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Off heat, sprinkle Parmesan over panko mixture and stir to combine.
  7. Transfer panko mixture to small bowl.
  8. Stir macaroni until sauce is smooth (sauce may look loose but will thicken as it cools). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Transfer to warm serving dish and sprinkle panko mixture over top.
  10. Serve immediately.

Cook’s Notes

  • Barilla makes our favorite elbow macaroni. Because the macaroni is cooked in a measured amount of liquid, we don’t recommend using different shapes or sizes of pasta.
  • Use a 4-ounce block of American cheese from the deli counter rather than presliced cheese.




Favorite Baked Spaghetti

Favorite Baked Spaghetti

  • 1 package (16 ounces) spaghetti
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 jar (24 ounces) meatless spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) 4% cottage cheese
  • 4 cups (16 ounces) part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.
  3. Stir in spaghetti sauce and seasoned salt; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, Parmesan cheese and butter.
  5. Drain spaghetti; add to egg mixture and toss to coat.
  6. Place half of the spaghetti mixture in a greased 3-qt. baking dish.
  7. Top with half of the cottage cheese, meat sauce and mozzarella cheese.
  8. Repeat layers.
  9. Cover and bake at 350° for 40 minutes.
  10. Uncover; bake 20-25 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

Yield: 10 servings.

Panera Mac & Cheese


  • 1 16-ounce Package package of rigati pasta
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cup milk
  • 6 Slices white American cheese, sliced into thin strips
  • 8 oz extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar, shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce


  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  2. In large saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly.
  3. Gradually whisk in milk; cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat.
  4. Add cheeses, mustard, salt, and hot sauce, stirring until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.
  5. Stir in pasta and cook over medium heat for 1 minute (or until thoroughly heated).
  6. Serve immediately.

Cook’s Notes

  • If you’re serving this as a main dish it serves 4-6. If you’re making this as a side dish it serves 8-10.
  • Some people find the Dijon mustard in the recipe to be a bit overwhelming, so feel free to cut back on it or omit it all together.
  • I find that in order to get optimal results you must use extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar and sliced white American cheese from the deli, not the fake stuff you find in the box.

Linguine with Crab

Linguine with Crab


  • 1 lb linguine
  • 5 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6 Tablespoons  dry white wine
  • 2 cups chopped shelled king crabmeat
  • 3 Tablespoons  chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 fresh red chili peppers, seeded and sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. In large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta for 10 minutes or until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, in large skillet set over medium-high heat, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil; gently sauté garlic for 1 minute.
  3. Add wine; cook until reduced by half.
  4. Add crabmeat, parsley and chilies; cook for 1 minute or until heated through.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Drain pasta; toss with crabmeat mixture.
  7. Serve with remaining olive oil drizzled over top.


Cajun Shrimp Pasta


  • 1 1/2 lb. jumbo shrimp (21 to 25 per lb.), peeled, deveined, and patted dry
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil; more as needed
  • 1 Tablespoons Cajun spice mix
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 12 oz. orzo
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tablespoons sliced scallions (white and light-green parts) Hot sauce, for serving


  1. Add this quick and tasty recipe to your stable of go-to weeknight meals.
  2. Toss the shrimp with 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium bowl and the Cajun spice mix, making sure that the shrimp is evenly coated.
  3. Heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  4. Add half of the shrimp and cook until they start to turn bright pink, about 1 minute.
  5. Turn and cook on the other side for another 30 seconds, or until just cooked through.
  6. Transfer the shrimp to a plate and repeat with the remaining shrimp, adding more oil if necessary.
  7. Transfer the second batch of shrimp to the plate and reserve.
  8. Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil to the skillet over medium heat.
  9. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
  10. Add the wine and cook until the pan is dry, about 5 minutes.
  11. Add the tomatoes and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 more minutes.
  12. Add the shrimp and the cream to the sauce and heat through, being careful not to allow the sauce to boil.
  13. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the orzo according to package directions until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
  14. Toss the shrimp sauce with the orzo and transfer to a large shallow bowl.
  15. Add a little of the cooking water to loosen, if necessary.
  16. Top with the scallions and serve with hot sauce.

Learn About 188 Pasta Shapes and How to Cook Them

So why are there so many pastas, anyway? Turns out, it’s all about the sauce.

The varying sizes, shapes, and textures of pasta all indicate what kind of sauce is best served with it. Should you go with a lighter sauce or a heavier sauce? Smooth or chunky? What if you add vegetables to it? (And the answers to all that are: Smooth pastas are best suited for lighter sauces. Ridged pastas hold heavier sauces. Pastas with holes and tubes are perfect for chunky sauces and sauces that contain small bits of vegetables, as the openings will catch and hold on to those pieces.)

Aside from the sauce factor, certain types of pasta work better for boiling or baking, while others should be used for soups or pasta salads.

Each pasta shape is illustrated under its respective category with its ideal applications, making for easy reference. Once you know the intricacies of pasta, you may look at a simple spaghetti dinner in a whole new way.

One Skillet Shrimp and Pasta Scampi


  • 11 Large Garlic Cloves, Minced – DIVIDED
  • Olive Oil – DIVIDED
  • 3 Tablespoons Parsely, Minced
  • 3 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Zest
  • 1 Pound Shrimp, Large or Extra Large
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 Cup White Wine
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 2 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 12 Ounces or 4 1/2 Cups Dried Campanelle Pasta

One Skillet Shrimp and Pasta Scampi


  1. In a small bowl combine 2 cloves of finely minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, parsley, lemon juice and lemon zest. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl add the shrimp, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and sugar and toss to evenly coat.
  3. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add the shrimp in a single layer. Allow shrimp to brown without stirring for about 1 minute. Stir and continue to cook until the shrimp are pink and the center is opaque. Remove shrimp to a bowl, cover and set aside.
  4. Cool skillet for about a minute. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 9 cloves of minced garlic and red pepper flakes and cook on low for a few minutes, stirring often. Stir in wine and increase the heat to medium high and simmer for a few minutes until most of the wine has evaporated.
  5. Stir in water, chicken broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the pasta and increase the heat to high, cooking at a vigorous simmer, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente and the liquid has thickened, approximately 15 minutes. Add the shrimp back to the skillet with any juices that have accumulated and heat until the shrimp are just warmed through. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the reserved garlic, lemon juice and olive oil mixture. Adjust seasonings and serve.