I ate a lot of macaroni & cheese growing up (and still do…). It was almost always from a blue box. I didn’t care. Sometimes instead I’d have the yellow box with its squeezy cheese. You can make mac & cheese from scratch for essentially the same amount of time and only minimally more work.
The sauce for mac & cheese starts out with melting butter and making a roux with flour. Anything that starts out with butter is bound to be delicious. Milk and cheese complete the sauce. That’s it. Making gravy is very similar fat (grease), flour, and liquid (milk or stock). The only difference here is you add cheese.
To Bake or Eat Right Away?
My favorite thing about this recipe (besides the cheese and carbs) is that it’s perfect to eat right off the stove or can be baked depending on my mood and time constraints that day. I under cook the noodles just a bit and add more milk and make the sauce a bit thinner if I plan to bake it, as the sauce absorbs into the noodles. There’s always a few bites that never make their way to the oven, kind of like the angel’s share of barrel aged liquor.
This macaroni & cheese only takes 5 ingredients and about 20 minutes to be ready from the stovetop. In the winter, when I’m in optimal macaroni & cheese making shape (yes, that’s a thing), I can whip up a batch during intermission of a hockey game. My preference usually is to eat this recipe right off the stove because I’m impatient. Doing that is perfect in the summer, because you don’t have to turn the oven on.
If you’re having folks over, the stovetop portion can be made ahead then baked in the oven when you need it. Something about baking it elevates the presentation and deepens the flavors a bit. And don’t get me started on the crunchy top. Add a touch of cheese and some breadcrumbs before baking to give it a crispy topping. If I’m having more than just a few people over, I’ll make a double batch. I like leftovers.
Cream Cheese, Macaroni, Macaroni & Cheese, Pasta
1.5 – 2 cupsmilk1.5 if eating right away, 2 if baking
2cupssharp cheddar cheese
cheese for topping
breadcrumbs for topping
Set a pot of water to boil for pasta, then measure out milk to it can start warming up.
In a skillet, melt butter.
Add flour to butter. Stir for a few minutes until well combined and mixture thickens a tad.
Whenever water boils, add pasta. Stir occasionally and drain when ready. Under cook noodles a bit if baking.
While pasta is cooking, add milk to roux. You can add slowly and stir or dump all at once. Don't worry if it seems lumpy. As the milk heats up and you stir it will come together. Let thicken.
If baking start adding cheese before sauce becomes too thick. If eating right away, a thicker sauce coats the noodles better. Add cheese about a third at a time while stirring to allow it to melt and combine.
If your sauce is ready before your noodles, grab a few tortilla chips and try it out. Then stir in your noodles. Serve if eating now. Or add to greased casserole dish and top with more cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake @350 for 30 minutes.