Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese with Asparagus

Macaroni and Cheese


For some reason my craving for macaroni and cheese has been escalating.  Maybe it’s because of all the wonderful mac & cheese recipes I’ve been seeing online lately.  But the one that pushed me over the edge was Zsuzsa’s stovetop Creamy Macaroni and Cheese.  When I first saw her picture, I knew that was the mac & cheese I wanted to eat.  Her recipe looked fabulous and the video she provided in the post was a great tutorial on how to put all of the components together for a creamy outcome. You definitely need to check it out.

For this recipe I used Zsuzsa’s for the most part, but purely out of habit I ended up making the béchamel (white sauce) the way I normally do. I added a couple of herbs to the dish because I love herbs, and then cut back a bit on the cheese. For the finishing touch and to create a complete meal for Bobby and me, I added my Simply Asparagus dish which you’ll find later in this post. Each plate was served with a serving of macaroni and cheese and about 5 to 6 spears of asparagus.  We cut the asparagus into bite size pieces and ate a piece with each bite of mac & cheese.  It is quite tasty!

Mac N Cheese with Asparagus



Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

This recipe was adapted from Zsuzsa is in the Kitchen’s recipe

Serves 4 as a side
Prep and Cook time: 45 minutes


2 cups elbow macaroni
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
A couple of short gratings of nutmeg
¼ tsp. dried tarragon, crushed
Salt and cracked white pepper
1 ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 Tbsp. chopped, fresh parsley


  1. Start the water for the macaroni and when it comes to a boil, add the macaroni and cook until it is “almost” done, before al dente’. Drain and transfer back to the pot.  If you aren’t ready to add the béchamel, add a small pat of butter and melt, stirring into the macaroni or your could rinse the macaroni briefly under hot water and drain before returning it to the pot. (While the macaroni is cooking, you can start the béchamel.)
  2. In a sauce pan, melt the butter over low medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine with the butter.
  3. Slowly add the milk a little at a time, whisking to combine with the roux (butter/flour mixture), keeping it from clumping.  Continue to add the milk, whisking, until you’ve added 1 cup. Pour in the second cup and increase the heat to medium.
  4. Continue to heat, simmering and whisking the béchamel for about 10 minutes, until it starts to thicken. Don’t get it too thick because it will thicken even more once it is stirred into the pasta and the cheese is added. (See Kitchen Notes)
  5. Add the tarragon and grate the nutmeg into the mixture.
  6. Season with salt and cracked white pepper to taste.
  7. Add some of the béchamel to the pasta and stir to coat. Turn the heat on to medium-low.  Continue adding the remaining béchamel, stirring and coating.
  8. Add the grated cheese, a little at a time, stirring until the cheese is melted.
  9. Add the parsley and stir.
  10. Serve immediately with 5 to 6 spears of asparagus, if desired.



Close up of macaroni and cheese with asparagus


Kitchen Notes

Macaroni – I know you can make mac & cheese from different types of pastas, but we prefer the little elbows.  I think it’s because there is so much more surface area with the smaller pieces so more of the pasta gets coated with the sauce and cheese.

Béchamel – The thickness of the béchamel is a factor here.  If you get it too thick, then you end up with a gummy pasta. Too thin and the sauce will be runny.  I usually cook it for about 10 minutes or until, the mixture has reduced by about 1/2 cup. It may seem too thin at this point, but believe me, it will thicken once you add it to the pasta and add the cheese. You will continue to cook the sauce during this process; therefore, it will get thicker.

Herbs – Tarragon is a great herb for asparagus, therefore, it works quite well in this dish.  If you’re not a big fan of tarragon, then eliminate or substitute with ¼ to ½ tsp. thyme .  The fresh parsley worked great with the tarragon and cheese. I would not make it optional.

Cheese – The sharp cheddar was excellent and kept this dish quite simple.  I didn’t think it needed a second cheese, but you could topped it with a little Parmesan as Zsuzsa suggests or stir in a second cheese for a more complex flavor.

White cracked pepper – I always use white pepper in my béchamel sauce, but if you don’t have any, black pepper is just fine.  A generous amount of pepper is a must in my book.

I usually cook the asparagus while the pasta water is heating up. Once it’s done, I’ll rinse it with cold water and set aside. Right before I add the béchamel to the pasta, I’ll start heating up the bacon drippings, then add the asparagus and reheat just before plating.


Simply Asparagus

Spears of asparagus



Simply Asparagus

Recipe author:  MJ’s Kitchen

Serves: 4
Prep and Cook time: less than 15 minutes


1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed
1 tsp. fat of choice (bacon drippings or butter or olive oil or garlic roasted olive oil)
¼ tsp. dried tarragon, crumbled*
Salt and pepper

*oregano, thyme, or lemon thyme can be used in place of or in combination with the tarragon.


If you have an asparagus steamer, just steam the asparagus the way you normally do, but be sure not to overcook.

  1. In a skillet large enough for the asparagus to lie flat, add about 1/4 inch of water. Place the skillet over medium heat, cover and bring to boil.
  2. Add the asparagus, spreading it out across the skillet. Cover.
  3. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and steam for 3 to 4 minutes until the asparagus is crisp tender.  After 2 minutes, toss the spears to transfer the spears on top to the bottom and vice versa.
  4. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  5. Return the skillet back to the heat and add the bacon drippings, butter or olive oil.  Heat until hot.
  6. Return the asparagus to the skillet. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and tarragon. Toss to coat and heat through for about 1 minute.
  7. Remove from heat and serve.



Kitchen Notes

Asparagus really doesn’t need much more than salt and pepper, but we really like just a touch of bacon drippings or other fat.  The bacon drippings adds a little bit of a bacon flavor, but not too much.  If you are vegetarian, butter is just as good. If you’re vegan, then olive oil. Garlic infused olive oil works great!

Suggested Sides

For another simple asparagus recipe try my Asparagus with Pecans or Asparagus with Chorizo and Soft-Boiled Egg.

This macaroni and cheese recipe has been shared with the following blog hops:  Hearth and Soul

Simply Asparagus has been shared with the following blog hops: Katherine Martinelli’s Asparagus

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77 Responses to “Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese with Asparagus”

  1. Daphne March 14, 2014 at 3:49 am #

    Good Morning MJ, I love this recipe for Stovetop Macaroni as I have only ever made Macaroni Cheese in the oven. The next time we are in the mood for some Macaroni, I am going to try your lovely creamy recipe….. I’m also going to buy some Tarragon as it is the only herb I do not have in my garden.
    Have a lovely weekend.
    Best Wishes

    • mj March 16, 2014 at 9:58 am #

      Thanks so much Daphne! I use to make my mac&cheese in the oven as well, but now, I ALWAYS make it on the stovetop. It’s much creamier. Glad to hear that you have your own herb garden. Isn’t it a wonderful thing to have? 🙂

  2. Swathi April 22, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    Stovetop macaroni looks simply awesome. MJ.

  3. April @ The 21st Century Housewife April 22, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Your Macaroni and Cheese sounds delicious, MJ. I’ve never tried adding tarragon before but it sounds wonderful. I love the idea of serving it with asparagus as well – it’s the perfect spring time comfort food!

    • mj April 23, 2013 at 7:35 am #

      Thanks April! Well, I have to admit that I’m a tarragon fan, so for me, it really picks up the flavor and complements a lot of vegetables and pastas. It worked perfect in this dish!

  4. Amber @ The Cook's Sister April 14, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    Yum! This mac and cheese looks amazing!!! I posted my family mac and cheese recipe recently as well. A great comfort food!

  5. Nami | Just One Cookbook April 8, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Now you successfully convinced us with this delicious mac and cheese! I love the addition of asparagus too. 🙂 I’m always a fan of adding veggies to the plate whenever possible, just like you did. It’s on my to make list now~!

    • mj April 8, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

      Thanks Nami! We do quite a few vegetarian meals with a carb of some kind and a simple vegetable. I’m so glad that Bobby isn’t a meat and potato person. It makes it easy to get our vegetables. Glad I was able to convince you how good this is because it really, really is. 🙂

  6. Javelin Warrior April 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    I’ve never had tarragon with asparagus before and I need to give that a try because I love to change things up with this vegetable. I’m also in total agreement with Zsuzsa about mac and cheese – I really have never fallen in love with a baked version, but I LOVE stovetop. I’m so impressed with the cheesy, creamy perfection you’ve achieve here. Very tricky to do…

  7. Raymund April 2, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Who does not crave for mac n cheese, its such a comfort meal every one loves

  8. Hotly Spiced April 1, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    Mac and cheese is such great comfort food. My little guy would eat it every night of the week if I would let him xx

  9. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles April 1, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    Let’s face it, when it comes to comfort, few things satisfy quite like mac ‘n cheese. Besides, working in the asparagus makes me feel like it’s utterly healthy ;-). I’ll never forget the time my sister-in-law dropped off a large tray of homestyle mac ‘n cheese right after I returned from hospital with our first born… I tell you, it was the best thing this new mom had ever tasted! (she only told me later that she doubled the cheese and used cream – no wonder it tasted so darn good! ;-)). Love the addition of tarragon here MJ – one of my favourite herbs.

    • mj April 1, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

      Thanks Kelly! Oh – I can definitely see how a double cheesy and creamy MacNCheese would feel good after coming home from the hospital. What a nice SIL you have!

  10. Charles April 1, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    Hi MJ – I had a massive urge for stove-top mac and cheese a few weeks ago too, haha! I was searching around for a recipe for an “authentic American-style” one, and I found one which used unsweetened condensed milk and eggs as the base of the sauce. It was pretty darn nice – thoroughly recommend it!

    Yours’ looks fantastic though – gorgeous photos!

    • mj April 1, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

      Thanks Charles! I’ll have to remember the condensed milk. Sometimes I’ll add an egg to my bechamel, but just didn’t feel like it for this recipe. Maybe I’ll try it the next time I make this – which will be soon. 🙂

  11. Gourmantine April 1, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    This looks great and perfect for quick and comforting bite.
    p.s. really like the photos too!

  12. Zsuzsa April 1, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Peach lady thank you so much, this post was such a compliment and just when I was thinking of retiring from blogging. I am getting sluggish I have lots of photos, but no write-ups, sometimes I don’t even get my camera out.

    Pairing the mac and cheese with asparagus was a fabulous idea. Asparagus and mushrooms are my all time favourite vegetables and they both do so much for the dishes they are added to. And once again, your photo is exceptionally beautiful. You are truly an artist the way you use that camera. It isn’t just the camera you know, the camera is just a tool, one has to have the eye to see the possibilities.

    • mj April 1, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

      You are most welcome my friend! Thank YOU for posting such a great recipe and reminding me how good macaroni and cheese could be. Please don’t retire from blogging! I love your recipe, your website and YOU! Just do what you can and have fun with it. Thank you so much for you kind comments. You always make me feel so good and like I actually know what I’m doing with the camera. 🙂

  13. thebestdressup April 1, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    ciao! just delicious.

  14. Amanda@ChewTown April 1, 2013 at 2:32 am #

    People don’t really make mac and cheese here in Australia, but if I was to make it, this would be the recipe i’d use!

    • mj April 1, 2013 at 8:08 am #

      Thanks Amanda! That’s interesting that it isn’t made in Australia. I wonder why that is. I guess it could be cultural dish after all.

  15. Terra March 31, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    I understand your craving, it happens to me all the time. I love when nutmeg is added to cheesy recipes, it sounds so unique. Your recipe looks delicious, I would do the bechamel sauce too, such a beautiful sauce for homemade mac n’cheese! Hugs, Terra

  16. Carolyn Jung March 31, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    A perfect spring meal. I simply can’t get enough of asparagus at this time of year.

  17. Food Jaunts March 31, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Great dinner, it looks amazing on the plate. I swear I’ve been inundated with mac and cheese recipes for exactly that reason, I keep seeing delicious recipes like this everywhere!

    • mj April 1, 2013 at 8:06 am #

      Yep -and I just added one more to the list to tempt you further. It finally got me! 🙂

  18. Soni March 31, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    Ooh I need some of this right now! Love asparagus and it sounds perfect with the macaroni!

  19. Nisa Homey March 31, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    Oh my, you are tempting me with your dish….and now I am having a cheesy craving….Happy Easter Mj and have a great day.

    • mj April 1, 2013 at 8:04 am #

      Thanks Nisa! I hope you and your family had a wonderful Easter weekend as well.

  20. Jane March 31, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    I love mac and cheese, but I don’t think I have ever had one that I loved. I will have to give this a try!

  21. Liz March 31, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    Perfectly done!!! What wonderful comfort food!!!

  22. Tessa March 31, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    Perfect! Macaroni and cheese is one of my all time favorite foods! Lovely photos MJ!

  23. Kate@Diethood March 31, 2013 at 7:32 am #

    Mac ‘n cheese… one of the best darn foods, ever!! And, I love me some asparagus. Paired together is an awesome idea!

    • mj April 1, 2013 at 8:02 am #

      Thanks Kate! I totally agree!

  24. Debra March 31, 2013 at 6:35 am #

    One of the first things we learned to make in the kitchen was a classic white sauce. 🙂 That and mac ‘n cheese are bringing back a flood of memories. Love the herbs with this. Can’t wait to get my hands on some asparagus soon!

    • mj April 1, 2013 at 7:56 am #

      Growing up, my mama use to call bechamel – white gravy. 🙂 it has always been my favorite “gravy”. Thanks Debra !

  25. Adora's Box March 30, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    The ultimate comfort dish. You are right, the love for macaroni cheese is getting stronger. Love this simple but tasty version. Love the addition of tarragon.

  26. Valerie @ From Valerie's Kitchen March 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Sometimes you just gotta have mac and cheese! I completely agree. Love the stove top method and the healthy side 🙂

  27. Karen (Back Road Journal) March 30, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    I like the addition of tarragon in your mac and cheese…sounds great.

  28. Sanjeeta kk March 30, 2013 at 2:20 am #

    We too love elbow mac over the other fancy stuffs for the same reason…its weekend here and your recipe will be on dinner table today! Hugs.

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

      Thanks Sanjeeta! I hope you do get to make it and that your family enjoys it! Have a great weekend!

  29. Lori Lynn March 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    Hi MJ – I like the idea of dried tarragon with asparagus!

    Just read a blog post on Mac & Cheese Sandwich on Toast! Oy. Too much!

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

      Thanks Lori Lynn! Oh – I saw that sandwich as well! It was way over the top!

  30. Reese@SeasonwithSpice March 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    Looks like you are passing on the craving for macaroni and cheese to us…Thanks for sharing your delicious version, MJ! The use of nutmeg & tarragon in the creamy sauce are just wonderful. I think my mom-in-law would love this. I gotta share this with her so I can take a break from cooking. Heh!

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

      Thanks Reese! The nutmeg and tarragon really do make it special. I hope your MIL gets a chance to make it and loves it. Hope you and Mark are having a wonderful weekend!

  31. Ramona March 29, 2013 at 6:13 am #

    That Mac and Cheese is just begging to be scooped up with a fork and eaten. YUM!! You know my kids are going to love this. 🙂

  32. Giulietta | Alterkitchen March 29, 2013 at 5:07 am #

    I never (never, you read right) ate mac&cheese. I eat pasta a lot (well, I’m Italian, after all), but never like that! It’s so unusual for us!
    Maybe I should give it a try, uh?!

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

      Giulia – you really, really need to give it a try. You’ll love it!

  33. ChgoJohn March 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm #

    I usually make mac & cheese in the colder months and in the oven. This tasty recipe is a game changer, allowing me to have mac & cheese year-round. I think that’s a good thing. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing, MJ.

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

      Thanks John! I’ll never be making it in the oven again! This is so creamy and delicious!

  34. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef March 28, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    I haven’t made macaroni and cheese in well.. years. I think this is what I’ll do right this minute and have it for lunch.

    Happy Easter!

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

      Thanks Maureen! It’s funny how we forget about these classics. I hope you got to make it. Happy Easter to you as well!

  35. Jen @JuanitasCocina March 28, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    This is like perfection on a plate!

  36. Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies March 28, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    This is pretty much the perfect dinner to me–two of my favorite foods, together at last! 🙂 I’m so excited about asparagus being in season again.

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

      Thanks Kiersten! Yep – it was dinner for Bobby and I as well. We love simple tasty dinners like this.

  37. Viviane Bauquet Farre- Food and Style March 28, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    MJ, what a great take on mac & cheese!

  38. Choc Chip Uru March 28, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    I definitely have a cheesy craving now 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  39. Kayle (The Cooking Actress) March 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Mmmmm now I want mac n cheese, stat!

  40. Jen @ The Scrumptious Pumpkin March 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    I like a generous amount of pepper in my mac and cheese too. Love the addition of tarragon – I’ve never tried this but it sounds like a delicious, fresh complement to the sauce 🙂

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

      Thanks Jen! Can never have enough pepper!

  41. Sissi March 28, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    Oops.. Zsuzsa will kill me for this typo! (Moreover, I do know how to write her name very well: I speak Hungarian!). Sorry, MJ and sorry, Zsuzsa.

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

      🙂 🙂

  42. Sissi March 28, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    What a gorgeous plate! I remember very well Zuszsa’s macaroni tips and recipe. It seemed very precise and detailed (I have never made or even tasted macaroni and cheese, so I can only say “seemed”). I see you have already started the asparagus madness. I had my first Italian (organic!) asparagus last week and it has reminded me I now feel like having them every day… I have already prepared two posts in three days 😉 Anyway, this simple (or rather quite complicated for macaroni!) dish somehow becomes noble thanks to the mighty asparagus!

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

      Oh Sissi – you really need to give it a try! You’ll love it! And since you do love asparagus, this combo is perfect together. Can’t wait to see your asparagus posts. I can’t get enough of it this time of year. Hope you’re having a great weekend!

  43. I was introduced to macaroni and cheese 2 months ago, when I came to San Francisco. I must say I love it!!! What an invention. I’ll make it quite often at home I suppose. And asparagus is my second love 🙂

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

      Thanks Marta! Growing up in the the southern US, mac & Cheese was one of those ole stand-bys that my mom would make when we didn’t want potatoes. Glad you found it. Who cna’t love Mac & Cheese!

  44. Angie@Angie's Recipes March 28, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Whenever I cook Mac and Cheese, I end up eating way too much…I meant, how could one just eat one portion and feel satisfied? I love this with green asparagus. Yum!

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

      Me too!!!! It’s such a great dish, it’s hard to stop! The asparagus makes you feel not quit as guilty. 🙂

  45. Michelle @ Simplify, Live, Love March 28, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    This looks really tasty. Your pictures are so pretty, MJ. I have a lot to learn still. 🙂

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

      Thanks Michelle! You’re so sweet!

  46. john@kitchenriffs March 28, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Who doesn’t love mac ‘n cheese?! Your post reminds me I haven’t made it in quite some time, and need to again. I always make a béchamel sauce when I make mine, too, although I usually (not always) bake it in the oven rather than go the stovetop route. Asparagus is such a great pairing with this dish! Really nice combo. Good post, good pictures, good recipe – thanks!

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

      Thanks John! I use to make it in the oven as well, but no more. I love the stovetop version!

  47. The Wimpy Vegetarian March 28, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    I had mac ‘n cheese for dinner just last night. The weather here in the mountains is gray and cold, and it was the comfort meal I wanted. Your recipe here sounds so much better than what I made, though, so I’m sorry I didn’t wait to make it. Beautiful photo too, MJ!

    • mj March 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

      Thanks Susan! Sounds like we were in the mood for the same comfort food! This is such an easy recipe that I see that I’m going to be making it a lot. Thank you Zsuzsa!


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