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mac in white casserole dish

Easy Southern Mac and Cheese

Everybody loves macaroni and cheese!  This recipe is the best because there are only 4 simple ingredients.  Elbow macaroni, shredded cheese, milk, and butter.  Sometimes, the simplest recipes are the best!
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 357kcal
Author Anne Clark


  • 2-¼ cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature (slightly softened) Let the butter sit on your countertop for about 15 minutes before using it.
  • ¾ cup whole milk (or half and half, or evaporated milk) Measure the milk then let it sit on the countertop for about 15 minutes before using it.
  • 3 cups freshly grated sharp shredded cheddar cheese (divided) one 8-oz block of sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ tablespoon sea salt for boiling the pasta, if desired
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt for flavoring the mac and cheese, if desired
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh black pepper, if desired


  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • In a large pot (at least a 3-quart pot), filled one-half to three-fourths full with water, add ½ tablespoon of sea salt. Cook the macaroni al dente according to the package directions. Drain the pasta in a colander, turn off the stove, and return the cooked pasta to the pot.
  • Add the butter to the hot pasta and stir until butter is melted. Then add the milk.
  • Add ½ teaspoon of sea salt, the black pepper, and 1-½ cups of the freshly grated cheddar cheese to the pasta mixture. Lightly toss to combine the pasta, cheese, and seasonings (do not overmix!). Taste test for flavor. Add more seasoning if desired.
  • Pour the mac and cheese into a 2-quart casserole dish, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese (do not stir). Bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and gently stir the mac and cheese.


While the pasta is boiling, grate the cheese and cut the butter into 4 pieces.
This recipe can easily be doubled and baked in a 9x13-inch casserole dish. 
To reheat cold mac and cheese, if the mac and cheese seems too thick, add about ¼ cup of milk, stir, then warm in the microwave.
How to Avoid Grainy Mac and Cheese:
The best way to avoid grainy mac and cheese is to not use pre-shredded cheese. Buy a block of quality cheddar cheese and get yourself a cheese grater!
Cook the macaroni al dente.
Let the measured amount of milk and butter come to room temperature before using it in the recipe. This really helps make for the creamiest mac and cheese!
Store any leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Serving: 4.8oz | Calories: 357kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 431mg | Potassium: 124mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 849IU | Calcium: 447mg | Iron: 1mg