There are some things in life I can cook- macaroni and cheese is one of them. I have spent the past two years as a full-time working mother trying to master the easiest homemade Mac & Cheese. My goal is simple- it must be faster than any box or frozen variety and taste AMAZING. It was not until my friend, Melanie, taught me how to make fondue it all clicked. A light bulb literally came on in my head. Honestly, I do not know how I missed the boat on this for years.
Here is the problem for most people- the best homemade mac & cheese recipes require a roux. If you have no idea what a roux is, than this recipe is right up your alley. Making a good roux can be hard and does take practice and attention. Making a roux, in my opinion, is an unnecessary activity that consumes precious time. If you are an over worked parent (like me), who wants homemade foods without artificial colorings or flavorings, here are a couple fast tips for you which have helped me on working days and even vacation.
Easy Mac & Cheese (better than box) Fast Cooking Tips
1. Boil, drain and coat pasta with oil the night before you plan to serve Mac & Cheese. Store the pasta in an air-tight container. No, don’t worry- even the finest Italian restaurants keep cook pasta on hand to speed up the cooking time. This is a brilliant tip I learned as I waitressed myself through college.
2. Shred the cheese the night before and store in an air-tight container. You can buy shredded cheese but I recommend against it because it usually comes with extra ingredients called preservatives. Read my article on 10 Ways to Decrease Chemical Overload in Children.
3. Coat your cheese with flour before cooking! This eliminates the roux and makes life so much more easy. This is the fondue trick that works perfectly for your favorite homemade Mac & Cheese dish.
4. If you decide not to shred your cheese or boil your pasta prior to serving day, make sure you shred your cheese while the pasta is boiling and start the pot of water immediately. Seriously- before you take anything out of your pantry start the pot of water. Boiling the water and cooking the pasta is the longest part of this recipe.
- 1 box elbow macaroni (gluten free macaroni works too)
- 1 Tbsp. pastured butter
- 2-3 cups whole fat pastured milk
- 1 tsp. salt or to taste
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 Tbsp. flour or corn starch
- In a large pot, boil pasta until almost done (al dente), drain and set aside
- In a saucepan, melt butter and add milk
- Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes
- Toss flour in shredded cheese, set aside
- Slowly add shredded cheese to milk mixture, constantly stirring
- Cook until thick and creamy
- Add salt to taste
- Add pasta to sauce and mix well
- If you want a thinner sauce, add more milk
- If you want a thicker sauce, use less milk
- For the homemade baked appearance, put in a casserole dish, top with additional shredded cheese and broil until slightly browned and bubbly.
- The picture has a crumb topping. I simply mixed 1 cup bread crumbs with ½ cup melted butter. I topped the Mac & Cheese with bread crumbs and broiled in oven until golden brown.
Teach Flavor Preference Tips with Homemade Mac & Cheese
1. Add variety to your Mac & Cheese by using different types of pasta. Although, this picture has elbow pasta it does not mean you have to use it.
2. Add flavor by using a variety of cheeses. Do not get stuck in a cheddar rut. Typically, cheese that melt well make the best homemade Mac & Cheese such as Mascrapone, Asiago, fontina, Gouda, Gruyère, Havarti, Monterey Jack, or Muenster. Many of these cheeses add a unique flavor twist and can be paired with a milder cheese if you feel the flavor alone is too strong. Some Mac & Cheese flavor combinations I enjoy are Gouda and Gruyere, Asiago and Monterey Jack, cheddar and Gouda, Mascrapone and Havarti. My best advice is to add your cheese slowly and continue to taste until you find a perfect balance for your family’s taste buds.
3. Add vegetables for texture. Great veggies that pair nicely with Mac & Cheese include broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus. My suggestion is to cut into bit size pieces and roast in oven for 10 minutes on 350 F or until lightly browned. Add the vegetables to the Mac & Cheese at the end of cooking.
4. Spice up your dish with your favorite taco seasoning, Italian spices, curry or even BBQ rub spice.
5. Freshen your Mac & Cheese with fresh herb garnish such as cilantro, basil or parsley.