Single Serving Baked Mac and Cheese (5 ingredients!)

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This super creamy single serving baked mac and cheese has a deliciously crunchy topping that bakes up perfectly in the oven. Make the macaroni on the stove or in the microwave for a quick 15 minute dinner.

I’ve been having so much fun testing this single serving baked mac and cheese recipe. The sauce breaks in many cheddar cheese mac and cheese recipes, as it has for me.

These pastas taste great, but the sauce breaks up after it cools down. I aimed to fix it.

Through testing this recipe a lot, and learning from Americas Test Kitchen and J Kenji Lopez Alt. The keys to a creamy mac and cheese are: cooking the pasta in some milk, and using sodium citrate.

My kitchen isn’t a lab, so I instead use American cheese.

To start, add the pasta to the milk/water combo right away. No need to wait for the water to boil, as traditional.

J Kenji Lopez Alt does it, as does Lan Lam from America’s Test Kitchen. It turns out great, and saves a few minutes! I live for these tips.

You do need to measure the liquid. We’re starting with just about enough liquid to cook the pasta, and ALMOST evaporate. This method leaves us with starchy pasta, which helps the sauce get super creamy, and stick to the pasta well.

Finally, we’re using American cheese and cheddar (and bonus parmesan) for super creamy, and a classic mac & cheese flavor.

I love American cheese on grilled cheese, breakfast sandwiches, and burgers so I’ll use a whole package eventually.

Give it a try!

Ingredients

Scroll down to the single serving baked mac and cheese recipe card for the amounts of each ingredient, but here’s a quick visual + description of what’s in this recipe.

Water

Milk: Cooking your pasta in a milk/water combination makes a creamier single serving baked mac and cheese. The protein helps your sauce stay smooth. Also use the minimum liquid to concentrate the starch-for extra creamy pasta.

Pasta: Use a short, curved pasta. Corkscrew shaped pasta, elbow pasta, or small pasta with ridges work best to hold onto the sauce.

Salt

Cheddar Cheese: It’s a classic mac & cheese cheese, easy to find, and good in this recipe.

American Cheese Slice: Sodium citrate is a key to creamy mac & cheese sauce that doesn’t separate. For ease, I just add America cheese, which it’s in. A slice (or some shredded cheese) makes your mac creamy and adds more classic flavor.

Italian Breadcrumbs: Seasoned breadcrumbs add a wonderful crunch to turn plain single serving mac and cheese into something very special, without much extra effort.

Parmesan Cheese (optional): A sprinkle of some grated parmesan cheese really takes this single serving baked mac and cheese over the top for me. It adds some savory-ness and tastes great with the cheddar and American cheeses.

Instructions

Scroll down to the single serving baked mac and cheese recipe card for more detailed instructions. Here’s a quick overview + photos to see how to make this recipe in general.

1. Add water, milk, pasta, and a pinch of salt to oven safe saucepan. Heat over medium/medium-high heat. Watch and stir frequently until al dente or soft (to your preference). Add additional water if it all evaporates.

Yes, you can add the pasta before boiling the water! try it!

2. 1-2 Tablespoons of liquid should remain, once pasta is to desired doneness. Add 1-2 Tablespoons milk, if needed. Reduce heat to low. Preheat oven to BROIL.

3. Add cheeses, stir until melted and smooth. Add additional milk, a splash at a time, if needed. Once smooth, sprinkle breadcrumbs (and optional parmesan cheese) over pasta.

4. Transfer to oven, bake for 2-5 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Watch closely.

5. Serve single serving baked mac and cheese as is, or with sides if desired.

Other Macaroni and Cheese Recipes

Not sure about this single serving baked mac and cheese? Try these other simple single serving macaroni and cheese recipes.

Side Suggestions

I typically serve very simple sides with single serving baked mac and cheese. You can add a simple sausage link and Microwave Frozen Broccoli (or other vegetable), or something else. Here are a few suggestions.

Microwave Instructions

Although it’s easier to keep an eye on your single serving baked mac and cheese by starting to cook it on the stove, you can also make it in the microwave, it’s really easy and delicious!

Cook ⅔ cup pasta, ⅔ cup water, and a pinch of salt in a medium-large bowl in the microwave for 4-5 minutes. Or until desired softness. Pour out any remaining water.

Note that different pastas will absorb different amounts of water, so you may need to add more water for bigger or more twisted pastas.

Add 1 Tablespoon milk, ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese to pasta. Stir. Place slice of American cheese on top. Microwave another 2 minutes. Stir, and add more milk if it’s very dry. Cook longer if needed.

Transfer to oven safe dish, add breadcrumbs. Broil.

Storage/Reheating Tips

Store leftover single serving baked mac and cheese in an airtight container for about a week. It won’t freeze well.

To reheat pasta, sprinkle a teaspoon or so of water on pasta, and microwave until heated. The additional water rehydrates your homemade macaroni a bit and helps keep the sauce creamy.

It’ll help the texture feel more fresh than usual. Stir and enjoy.

Substitutions/Tips

You can cook pasta for your single serving baked mac and cheese in the microwave or on the stove. I prefer the stove because it’s easier to watch, and the sauce’s texture is a bit more creamy, but do whatever works best for you!

Check your pasta as it’s cooking and adjust the water you add, different pastas will absorb different amounts of water.

Use small pastas with corkscrew or rounded edges, like fusilli or elbow macaroni. Small pastas with ridges also work well. They all hold the sauce well, for a great single serving baked mac and cheese.

If you like American cheese, I highly recommend trying this pasta with it. It’s key to a super creamy, flavorful sauce. Use your favorite cheeses in this recipe, the sauce consistency will change based on the cheese you add.

Other great add-ins: paprika, red pepper flakes, onion powder, melted butter (with breadcrumbs), ground mustard, crumbled/sliced sausage, vegetables, etc would all be great in/or with your single serving baked mac and cheese.

FAQ

How much dry macaroni per person for mac and cheese? Start with about ⅔ cup for a serving, but you can always adjust that to your needs, or add sides if it’s not enough. Follow your hunger and fullness cues to decide how much to eat. Your needs may change day to day, so this is helpful. What to serve baked mac and cheese with? You can serve your mac and cheese by itself, with a simple vegetable, and/or protein. I like to microwave frozen vegetables to go with it, or mix into the pasta. You can add some simple cooked chicken or sausage link for an easy protein side. Does mac and cheese need to be baked? Definitely not. If you like a crunchy topping, I highly recommend sprinkling breadcrumbs over your macaroni and cheese, and broiling it for a few minutes. It makes delicious multi serving or single serving baked mac and cheese.

What to do with leftover ingredients

When you’re cooking for one, you often have leftover produce, cans of whatever ingredient, etc. Here are a couple ideas on how to use up the leftover ingredients from single serving baked mac and cheese. It’ll save money by wasting fewer ingredients.

Did you make this single serving baked mac and cheese? Leave me a comment & rating to share how it turned out!

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Single Serving Baked Mac and Cheese (5 Ingredients)

This super creamy single serving baked mac and cheese has a deliciously crunchy topping that bakes up perfectly in the oven. Make the macaroni on the stove or in the microwave for a quick 15 minute dinner.

Course dinner, main, Main Course

Cook Time 15 minutes minutes Total Time 15 minutes minutes

Author Rebecca Clyde MS, RDN

Equipmentmedium saucepan, with lid6 ounce oven safe ramekin or oven safe saucepan (cook pasta in it)Measuring cups, spoons
Ingredients¾ cup milk¾ cup water2.5 ounces pasta (or about ⅔ cup) elbow noodles, fusilli, other short corkscrew pastaspinch salt½ cup shredded cheddar cheese1 slice American cheese1-2 teaspoons Italian breadcrumbs or breadcrumbs with a large pinch of Italian seasoning1-2 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese (optional)
InstructionsAdd ¾ cup milk, ¾ cup water, 2.5 ounces pasta, and a pinch of salt to oven safe saucepan. Heat over medium/medium-high heat. Bring to boil and cook until desired doneness (about 5-8 minutes). Stir frequently and remove floating foam from milk. Add additional water if needed. There should be about 1-2 Tablespoons of liquid remaining once pasta is done cooking. Add additional milk after pasta is cooked, if needed (to have 1-2 Tablespoons liquid).Reduce heat to low. Add ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese, 1 slice American cheese to pasta. Stir with spoon. Stir until cheese is melted and smooth. Preheat oven to BROIL.If your saucepan isn’t oven safe, transfer to oven safe ramekin. Evenly sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of Italian breadcrumbs over macaroni, optional: add 1-2 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese to top.Transfer to oven, bake for 2-5 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Check frequently to avoid burning.Serve with sides, if desired. Enjoy immediately.

Notes
Use your preferred pasta in this recipe. I recommend small, round or corkscrew shaped pastas with edges and/or ridges to hold onto the sauce.
Adding milk to your pasta water will help sauce stick to your pasta better.
You can add pasta to your cooking water before boiling. It’ll save you a few minutes, if you’d like. 
Cook pasta in an oven safe saucepan for fewer dishes to wash.
I highly recommend adding some American cheese to your pasta for a very creamy sauce that doesn’t break apart. But you can substitute the cheeses for your favorites. 
Microwave Instructions. Use the same ingredients, cook the pasta in ¾ cup if water for about 4 minutes, or until softened. Add 1-2 Tablespoons milk, cheeses. Stir, cook for another 1.5-2 minutes. Then add breadcrumbs. 

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