When a mac and cheese craving hits, but you don’t want to make a big batch, this single serving macaroni and cheese is here for you. You can make it from scratch in just one pot on the stovetop, for an easy, creamy, and super cheesy pasta situation. It’s a lovely dinner for just one (or two)!

A grey bowl of single serving macaroni and cheese on a wood board next to a beige linen and grey bowl of breadcrumbs on a white counter.

This recipe is kind of hilarious considering the entirety of my blog is dedicated to cooking big batches of food for friends and family. But let’s get honest with ourselves, sometimes we just need a bowl of mac and cheese ok??

Days when you’re feeling sorry for yourself, nights when you have the drunchies but don’t have a box of Kraft in the pantry. Those times when you cook an entire dinner party for your friends, and then you’re not hungry cause you cooked all day, but then at midnight you realize that you actually are hungry, and you don’t have any leftovers.

Just me??

Anyways, the only cure is pasta. Some of my favorite easy pastas are cacio e pepe and bucatini carbonara, but this mac and cheese for one is by far the easiest choice. Let’s make it!

A pasta for any situation

I’ve been making this recipe since I was in culinary school. It served me very well as a single college student stumbling into my kitchen with a wicked mac and cheese craving at 2am after a long night out with friends. Or after a bad break-up (IYKYK). It’s always been here for me and I know it’ll be here for you too!

  • This recipe only requires one pot and it’s made on the stovetop.
  • You can use pretty much whatever cheese and pasta you have around the house.
  • Eat it out of the pan and leave the dishes for later.
  • It’s made-from-scratch, cheesy, and super easy.

All you need is pantry staple ingredients

Grey and white bowls of pasta shells, cheese, milk, salt, spices, and butter on a white counter.
  • Pasta – something with nooks and crannies to soak up all of that delicious cheese sauce. Shells, elbows, cavatappi, and rotini are my go-tos!
  • Unsalted butter – for flavor and to provide the fat that will help thicken the sauce.
  • All-purpose flour – we’ll mix this with the butter to create a roux, which will thicken the cheese sauce!
  • Spices – whatever you like! I personally use garlic powder, paprika, and mustard powder because I like the combo.
  • Milk – if you have whole milk, that’s ideal because it will make for super creamy mac and cheese. But ultimately, any milk will work.
  • Cheese – my favorite combo is sharp cheddar for meltiness and Parmesan for flavor. This also so happens to be the combo I always have on hand. Use whatever you have, so long that it will melt ok. (See recs below!)

Let’s make this recipe!

Six steps to making mac and cheese; in photo 1, a wood spoon is holding cooked pasta over a pot. In photo 2, a hand is whisking roux. In photo 3, a hand is pouring milk into the roux. In photo 4, a hand is whisking bechamel sauce. In photo 5, a hand is pouring cheese into the pot. In photo 6, a hand is mixing pasta into the cheese sauce.
  1. First, cook the pasta until it’s al dente (tender but still a bit firm to the bite!). Drain the pasta and set the pot back on the heat.
  2. Next, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and all the spices and whisk until smooth.
  3. Then, slowly whisk in the milk and stir until the sauce is slightly thickened.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the cheese. Then, whisk until the cheese sauce is nice and smooth.
  5. Lastly, fold in the cooked pasta. Stir everything together until the pasta is covered in gooey sauce. Enjoy straight out of the pot and leave the dishes for later. You deserve it.

No more grainy sauce

To keep the sauce from coming out grainy, first of all, you have to freshly grate the cheese. I know grating cheese is kind of the worst, but like, you just kinda have to, sorry! The preservatives in pre-shredded cheese will automatically make the sauce grainy. Also, make sure to remove the pan from the heat before stirring in the cheese. If the sauce is too hot, it’ll curdle the cheese and make it grainy.

Mac & cheese add-ins

If you want to make mac and cheese for one just a little fancier, try these add ins! It’s an amazing way to use up random leftovers in the fridge.

  • Meat – leftover bacon, ham, chicken, sausage, or ground beef are all great options.
  • Veggies – broccoli, onions, peas, or jalapeños would be delicious!
  • Sauces – try a splash of Sriracha or basil lemon pesto!
  • Toppings – broil breadcrumbs or extra cheese on top for crunch. Or, sprinkle crispy frizzled onions over the mac and cheese!

A few helpful tips

  • Avoid overcooking the pasta! It should still have a bit of a bite (a.k.a. al dente). This will keep the mac from being mushy!
  • To make this mac and cheese extra fancy, try baking it! Just spoon the pasta into a greased, heatproof dish and top it with cheese and breadcrumbs if you want. Broil on high for 2-3 minutes until the top of the mac and cheese is browned and melty.
  • Mix up the cheeses. Try a combo of different cheeses for more interesting flavor and texture.
  • Season, season, season! Since different cheeses have different salt levels, give the sauce a taste. Then, add a pinch or two of salt if necessary before adding the pasta.
  • To make an easy mac and cheese for two, just double the ingredients. I do this all the time for me and my husband as a quick, easy Sunday dinner!
A grey bowl of single serving mac and cheese on a wood board next to white wine, a white bowl of breadcrumbs, and a white plate on a white counter.

What cheese is best?

You can use all kinds of cheese in this recipe. My personal favorite combo is sharp cheddar and Parmesan cause it’s super delicious and I always have both in my fridge. Here are a few other ideas though!

  • Cheddar – this is the cheese I literally always use in macaroni and cheese. It’s the perfect mix of melty and flavorful. Whenever possible, always use cheddar.
  • Parmesan – I always use Parm cause it adds so much salty, umami flavor. A dream.
  • Gruyère – this is a classic. It melts so nicely and adds a lovely nutty flavor.
  • Gouda – this will make for a super creamy mac. Try smoked for extra flavor!
  • Fontina – this is another buttery, nutty cheese that will be great in one serving of mac and cheese.

Freshly-shredded cheese

Trust me, you need to use freshly grated cheese. If you use pre-shredded, the sauce will be flavorless and have an odd, gritty texture. For the best results, just grate some cheese real quick. It only takes a minute!

Can I store leftovers?

Not going to lie, this one serving mac and cheese is honestly best right out of the pot. But if you do have leftovers and want to store them, it’s not the end of the world. Here’s how!

  • To store the leftover mac and cheese, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3-4 days.
  • To reheat the mac and cheese, microwave it for about 1 minute until warmed through. You can also add a small splash of milk to keep it from getting grainy and drying out!
  • I do not recommend freezing leftovers. The texture doesn’t hold up quite as well when you freeze this recipe. Since this mac and cheese is so easy, it’s best to just make it fresh!
A grey bowl of single serving mac and cheese on a wood board next to a glass of white wine and beige linen on a white table.

If you make this recipe, I would love it if you left a star rating and review! I read every single comment and love hearing what you think about my recipes. Thank you for supporting Sunday Table!


5 from 3 votes

Single Serving Macaroni and Cheese

Yield: 1 serving
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Make this single serving mac and cheese next time a craving hits! It's perfect when you need one bowl but don't want to make a big batch. Made in just one pot on the stovetop, this macaroni and cheese is easy, creamy, made from scratch, and perfect for one (or two)!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pasta, with nooks & crannies (shells, elbows, etc.)
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated cheese (I like sharp cheddar and Parmesan)
  • Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • Breadcrumbs, bacon, broccoli, onions, etc., if desired

Equipment

  • Medium saucepan

Instructions 

  • Fill a medium saucepan with water and add a few generous pinches of salt. Bring to a boil. Then, boil the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and return the pot back to the stove.
  • Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat. Add the flour and spices and whisk to make a thick roux.
  • Next, slowly whisk the milk into the roux. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cheese. Stir until smooth. Taste and add salt, pepper, and more spices if needed.
  • Fold the pasta into the cheese sauce. At this point, you can add any mix-ins such as cooked bacon, broccoli, etc. and eat straight from the pan.
  • To make baked mac and cheese, spoon the pasta into a greased, heatproof dish. Sprinkle more cheese and breadcrumbs over the top and broil on high for 3-4 minutes until the cheese is melty and golden-brown.

Notes

You can use any spices you like in this recipe. The above garlic powder/paprika/ground mustard is my go-to, but cayenne, onion powder, smoked paprika, and nutmeg are other classics.
Use freshly-grated cheese to avoid grainy sauce.
Double this recipe to make mac and cheese for two – so easy!
Make sure to taste the cheese sauce before adding the pasta. Since different cheeses have different salt levels, you might need to add a pinch or two of Kosher salt.
Cuisine: American
Course: Main Course
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 459kcal, Carbohydrates: 39.4g, Protein: 16.7g, Fat: 25.7g, Saturated Fat: 15.5g, Cholesterol: 72mg, Sodium: 305mg, Potassium: 296mg, Fiber: 1.7g, Sugar: 8.1g, Calcium: 347mg, Iron: 1mg
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XO Sara Lynn

Song of the Day – Dandelion Wine by Gregory Alan Isakov

Originally posted on March 31, 2023.