“Almost as good as the box” Homemade Mac and Cheese

Thank you http://whiteonricecouple.com!

So, I know it’s not Tasty Thursday, and I’m not Gena Golas (by the way, you should seriously be making some of her recipes, because they are great!), but  I had to post this recipe for Homemade Mac and Cheese.

My kids love mac and cheese.  To be more specific, they love the BOXED mac and cheese.  You know the kind- that thin, rectangle box of elbow noodles and powdered cheese, that somehow makes even the best of cooks pale in comparison to….(I buy Annie’s Organic to feel a bit better about it, but still.)

I think I’m a pretty darned good cook, I make lots of things from scratch and my children are pretty good eaters.  But, I have tried every homemade mac and cheese recipe and have failed to please the tiny food critics… they love the box!

And then, I found this recipe on Pinterest (do you hear the angels singing, too?).  It seemed easy enough, used one pot and I didn’t have to turn on the oven.  At the very least Hubby and I would probably like it.

Well, I told the natives that tonight’s dinner was mac and cheese (YAY!!!) and warned them that Mommy made it, not the box (“I’m not eating it… no way”).  We sit down, they take one bite and then I heard those words that make every mommy’s heart melt,

“This is almost as good as the box!”

They both proceeded to eat it all without any other prompting, and I had a successful Mac and Cheese recipe for the book.

WIN, and WIN!

So if you are looking to get rid of the box (or at least save it for those nights you are scrambling for time), here is the recipe with a few tweaks:

One Pot, Stove Top Macaroni & Cheese Recipe

Adapted from the recipe at http://whiteonricecouple.com

The key to keeping this recipe creamy is to make sure the flame is low and to consistently stir the pot. The mac elbows need to be cooked slowly in the milk and any high heat will cause the milk to curl. Don’t leave the pot unattended.

Make sure you have both wet and dry measuring cups! Using the dry measuring cup to measure out the raw macaroni and wet cup for measuring out the liquid milk is crucial. There are volume differences between both dry and wet measuring cups. 

Obviously with the stove top, there won’t be that cheesy crust that forms on top. But toppings of toasted bread crumbs or bacon should be a nice exchange.

  • 1 12oz box of elbow mac
  • 2 cups 2% Milk (about 16 oz) , or more if needed
  • **if more milk is needed, additional 1/4 cup milk at a time for final cooking. **Macaroni pasta varies so much! have additional milk on hand, or be ready to increase the heat if your macaroni doesn’t absorb fast enough. 
  • 1 tablespoon Butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt, plus additional for final season later
  • generous dash of Nutmeg
  • 1 cup Grated Cheese, I used Trader Joe’s Shredded 3 Cheese Blend, but any one or combination of  ( jack, cheddar, swiss, mozzarella, gouda, parmesan*, asiago*, pecorino*) *Hard cheeses are best combined with a secondary,  softer, better melting cheese. Cheese varies in flavor and salt level too! 
  • Toppings if you want (toasted bread crumbs, bacon bits, etc)

1. Place raw elbow macaroni in colander and quickly rinse under water. Let drain.

2. In medium sauce pan (about 3.5 qt), add milk, raw elbow macaroni, salt, butter, mustard powder and nutmeg.

3. On medium heat, slowly bring milk/macaroni mixture to a simmer, stirring the macaroni frequently as it comes up to a simmer. This will separate macaroni and keep them from sticking together. DO NOT LEAVE THE STOVE! The milk mixture will come to a boil very quickly and leaving it unattended will leave a big mess on your stove stop.

4. Once mixture comes to a simmer, immediately turn down heat to LOW. Macaroni will slowly cook in the milk. Having your heat too high will evaporate the milk too quickly!

5. Continue to stir the mixture frequently so that macaroni will cook evenly and absorb milk evenly. If you don’t stir your mixture frequently, you will get a big clump of macaroni in the end! Stir, stir, stir!

6. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until milk has been fully absorbed.

**If macaroni is not cooked fully, add a little more milk or water  to mixture ( in small amounts) until macaroni is fully cooked. This will take about another 5 minutes.

7. When milk has evaporated, stir in grated cheese of your choice. Stir the  cheese evenly into the macaroni.

8. Turn off heat. Place lid on top of pan and cover for about 5 minutes. This rest period will allow macaroni to plump up and absorb any excess milk.

9. Take a final taste and add additional salt to taste. Before serving, stir one final time to mix everything together.  At this point I found my cheese to be clumping a bit, so I added about a 1/8- 1/4 cup of milk to really make it creamier.

Serve immediately. Feeds about 3-4 people.

Happy Eating!

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