A good deal of getting our kiddos to eat what we eat involves compromise. If I’m going to introduce something new during dinner, I try to make sure it’s accompanied by something familiar, something I know my kids will enjoy. Mac n cheese is one of our “go to” side dishes. If my daughter could choose just one thing to eat for the rest of her life, macaroni and cheese would be it. It’s a safe bet for almost every family I know.
Now, you can go with the brand-name or even generic boxed standbys and be just fine. If you do go this route, please try doctoring up your boxed macaroni and cheese by following the last 2 steps in the recipe below. This basically involves adding a handful of small cubes of cheddar cheese and a heaping spoonful or two of sour cream. These 2 small steps take ordinary mac n cheese and elevate it into something flavorful that the grownups will enjoy as much as the kids.
If you’re like us and prefer the taste and peace of mind that comes from the wholesome, made-from-scratch variety, give this homemade mac n cheese recipe a try. It’s not as hard (or as heavy) as you might think.
Just like I mentioned in the post on how to make the best grilled cheese sandwich, making delicious Macaroni and Cheese from scratch involves using more than just one kind of cheese. The variety of cheese (in my opinion) can differ, so long as all the cheese you use is flavorful. Think about it this way: the more flavor the cheese has, the less you have to use. The less cheese you use, the healthier this dish becomes! In this recipe, I used extra sharp cheddar, parmesan, and gruyere. I almost always shred the cheese on a box grater just before using it. I can’t help but feeling that pre-shredded cheese is dry and inferior. If that’s all you have, by all means, give it a try. Please be adventurous and try a variety of cheeses to find the combination your family likes best. I would love for you to share your favorites in the comments below!
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. onion powder
- 1/2 tsp. coarse/kosher salt
- 1 1/4 cup skim milk
- 1 cup extra sharp cheddar, shredded
- 2 slices extra sharp cheddar, cut into cubes and set aside until just before serving
- 1/2 cup gruyere, shredded
- 1/2 cup parmesan, shredded
- 2 cups elbow macaroni
- 2 heaping tbsp. light sour cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium low to medium heat. Also, in a medium sauce pan, bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil (I usually add about 2 tsp. salt to my water).
- Once the butter is nearly all melted, add garlic powder, onion powder, 1/2 tsp. salt and a couple of cracks of fresh black pepper. Cook for about 1 minute.
- Whisk in flour to make the "roux". A roux is basically flour and fat cooked together to form a thickening agent. Cook the roux, stirring occasionally for about 3-4 minutes longer. It's okay if it goes longer than 3-4 minutes, just keep an eye on and stir occasionally so it doesn't burn.
- Just before you add your milk to your roux, make sure your water is at a rolling boil and add your elbow macaroni. Cook for 1 minute less than the time noted on the box label.
- Back to the roux. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of skim milk into your small sauce pan. You should notice that the mixture is fairly thick. Continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth (not lumpy).
- Whisk in the remaining milk. The mixture will be considerably thinner. Cook over medium heat until the mixture just starts to thicken up again, stirring frequently so it doesn't burn. As soon as you notice that the sauce is thickening, turn the heat off.
- Whisk the shredded cheeses in, a small handful at a time. Take care, not to add more cheese until the previous handful has been fully incorporated. This will ensure a smoother sauce.
- Once all the shredded cheese is whisked in, remove the sauce pan from the burner completely.
- Strain or drain your elbow macaroni and quickly bring your noodles back to the pan.
- Continuing to work quickly, add your cheese sauce. The goal is to have the cheese sauce ready by the time you strain/drain your macaroni.
- Once the macaroni and cheese sauce are combined, cook on low heat for another 1-2 minutes. During this time, you are essentially finishing the noodle cook time in cheese sauce rather than water (YUM).
- Turn the heat off. Stir in the sour cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you salted your water and roux properly, no additional season should be necessary here.
- Just before serving, add the final bits of cubed cheddar cheese and mix into the macaroni so you have little melty bits of cheesy surprises throughout.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
Any time you reheat mac n cheese, be sure to add a tbsp. or two of milk to prevent the leftovers drying out!