I came up with this recipe when I was in a hurry for a kid dinner one night not too long ago, and it has been one of my favorites ever since.
This is the easiest homemade macaroni and cheese you will ever make! But it is just as good as Grandma's old fashioned recipe. Maybe even better, because you didn't slave over it. It takes 15 minutes, about as long as it would take you to make one from a box! Seriously, I timed it. I had the whole thing done and the stove turned off exactly 15 minutes from the time I turned the burner on. You've seen all those Pinterest posts about "one pot wonder" pasta dishes. Well this is like one of those. But it's homemade MACARONI AND CHEESE.
You might look at this and realize that it's similar to a lot of other homemade mac & cheese recipes. It is. The ingredients are basically the same. But the technique is different.
This is a one pot recipe. You don't drain the pasta!
There is nothing low cal or low fat about this. It's homemade mac & cheese and if you're having mac & cheese then you basically need to just go for it. This is comfort food - it is creamy and cheesy and fills your tummy, just like comfort food should. But unlike a lot of comfort foods that take hours to make, this takes only minutes. It almost sounds too good to be true, but it's not! It works!
- 1 Pound dry elbow macaroni (not cooked!)
- 5-6 Cups water (start with hot water if you want to save a minute or two of cooking)
- 3 Cups shredded cheese - whatever kind you like. A blend of several cheeses is really nice.
- 1 Cup milk (I think whole milk is best here)
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- A dash each of onion and garlic powder
- About 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric (optional- just for orange color)
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- Other spices to taste - maybe a pinch of cayenne, a little black pepper, or a dash of tabasco.
- Put macaroni, salt, 5 cups of water, and butter in a pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer, stirring frequently, until most of the water is absorbed (about 10-12 minutes). If the water is almost gone but you don't think the pasta is done enough, then add the rest of the water, 1/2 cup at a time. Thicker pasta is going to absorb more water.
- Meanwhile, mix the flour and spices into the cold milk.
- When the pasta is mostly cooked and the water mostly absorbed, add the milk mixture and stir until well combined.
- Then add the shredded cheese, and mix over low heat just until the cheese is melted and mixed in.
- Turn off heat, cover, and let sit for a few minutes to thicken.
I'm serious. You're just not even going to believe how easy this is.
A few notes for you:
- If you really want this to look like the box stuff, get the small elbow macaroni. If that doesn't matter so much to you, then try other shapes - little shells are nice, or curly pasta - you just want something that is going to grab that cheesy sauce and hold onto it.
- If you really want it to taste more like the box stuff, then go ahead and use a little processed cheese. I've done it with organic American cheese and it tastes great! I just use the slices and tear it into pieces. I think a blend of a little organic American cheese plus a little sharp cheddar gets you a really nice flavor.
- I don't usually add salt to this, so I left it out of the instructions. But I think one of the attractions of boxed mac & cheese is that it tastes so salty. So if you really are trying to imitate that flavor, then you might want to salt yours a bit. It also is going to depend on what kind of cheese you use - some cheeses are saltier than other. So I would get it all mixed together, and then salt if you need to.
- The seasoning and spices are definitely flexible. I keep it mild because my kids are picky. But if you want more spice or kick to it, then go for it.
- It reheats great - just add a little more milk.