One of my daughter’s very favorite (and most requested!) meals is macaroni and cheese. And yes, while I’ve purchased boxed varieties over the years, I’ve wondered if I couldn’t develop my own homemade version using whole ingredients that I control. After several months of tinkering and experimenting, I’m happy to say her favorite macaroni and cheese is now my recipe, not one from a box!
Not only is today’s recipe delicious – it’s very quick and easy to prepare and chances are, you have most (if not all) of the ingredients right now!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 6-8 oz dry pasta (I am using elbow macaroni today, but we’ve also used rotini, shells, and other shapes)
- 2 cups shredded cheese (I use sharp cheddar for a nice cheese flavor)
- 2 cups milk
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- pinch salt
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs + 2 tbsp melted butter (optional)
The key to making great homemade macaroni and cheese is making a delicious cheese sauce! In my earlier attempts, I would just make the pasta and then melt in chunks of cheese on top. The result was a gloppy, somewhat flavorless mess.
What you’re going to do instead is create your cheese sauce in a separate saucepan while your pasta cooks. Start by making a roux. Melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Let it get frothy and form gentle bubbles for about a minute. (Don’t let it go much past this or it may burn!)
Next, add a handful of cheese and a little bit of the milk and whisk until melted.
Continue to add the cheese by handfuls and milk until you’ve got a creamy cheese sauce. Note that you may need a little bit more or less cheese or milk depending on what kinds of cheese and milk you’re using. What you want at the end is a nice thick cheese sauce – not a cheese soup – and not sooo thick that it’s resembles old nacho cheese. (I know these descriptions are a bit weird, but perfecting the sauce is important here!)
Finish with a pinch of salt.
As you might imagine, you’re going to mix the cheese sauce into your cooked and drained pasta.
See? Did that take any longer than just making a box of mac’n cheese? And trust me – this version is sooo much yummier. Now, you can end the recipe here and serve as is. This is the stage my daughter prefers to eat it or how I prepare it if I’m making it as a side dish.
But, you could also pour it into a lightly greased casserole dish, sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and a bit of melted butter. Put it in a 350° oven for 15 minutes or so and you’ve got a delicious baked macaroni and cheese!
We also like adding things and turning it into more of a substantial casserole for dinner. You might try:
- Cooked cubed chicken and broccoli
- Cooked sliced apple chicken sausage and peas
- Cubed ham
- Cooked peas and carrots
- Seasoned ground beef
There are really a ton of options here and you can really tailor it to your family’s preferences and whatever it is you happen to have on hand!
If you find yourself buying macaroni and cheese often, I encourage you to give this easy recipe a try! You might find, like I have, that it’s one item you no longer need to buy!
I’d love to know how you make macaroni and cheese? Do you do anything different than I’ve mentioned above? I’d love to hear – please leave a comment below.