Who doesn’t want to indulge in a little cheesy goodness now and then (or every week in our house)? Mac ‘n’ cheese is something that almost everyone enjoys. Although I must confess that my daughter wouldn’t eat this comfort food until she was three years old. I know . . . strange, right? But she also is on the opposite end of the spectrum compared to most kids. She has actually requested broccoli for breakfast before. She even begs for more avocado when we have turkey sandwiches or chicken tacos. Unheard of! My son, however, is the opposite of her, so he balances out her healthful weirdness.
Back to mac ‘n’ cheese. My kids request it every week. I’ll change it up with a few mix-ins to make it a touch healthier. My husband loves the addition of steamed broccoli and shredded chicken. We both agree that it keeps us fuller longer than just straight up cheese and carbs. If it’s just the kids and I eating it, I’ll keep half of the cheese, milk and egg mixture in the refrigerator for the next day and use it for a cheese sauce on steamed broccoli for our side of vegetables. But take note that the cheese sauce (uncooked) will only keep for one day in the refrigerator, so plan on using it the next day for sure. Broccoli in cheese sauce is a sure way to get your kids to eat their vegetables.
Never in my adult life have I bought the Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese in a box, but I’d guess that this recipe takes just as little time to make as the orange powdery cheese version. For as indulgent as real homemade mac ‘n’ cheese is, I’d bet that it’s way healthier than the processed version, as well.
Enjoy the real thing in 20 minutes or less—give or take a few minutes for the time you wait for the water to come to a boil for your macaroni noodles!
HOMEMADE STOVETOP MAC ‘N’ CHEESE
- 1 pound bag of elbow macaroni
- ½ cup of unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into cubes
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 (12-ounce) can of evaporated milk
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 2 ½ cups of shredded Colby jack cheese (or about two large handfuls-I’m not much into specific measuring when it comes to cooking)
- Optional: 1 teaspoon of paprika and ½ teaspoon of dry mustard (Also, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric will add a burst of yellow color if your kids long for that bright hue)
Bring salted water to a boil and cook elbow macaroni according to the package’s directions (I like to cook it about one minute less than the package’s directions so that the noodles don’t get gummy during the extra cooking of the cheese sauce later). When the pasta is done cooking, drain and coat the noodles with the butter.
Meanwhile, mix the eggs, evaporated milk, salt and cheese.
Pour milk, egg and cheese mixture over the buttered noodles and stir over medium low heat until the cheese sauce thickens or until the cheese sauce doesn’t allow the macaroni noodles to simply slide right off the spoonula (or spoon) without any friction. This should take about 7 to 10 minutes. You can always put a lid over top to speed up the process every couple minutes. Just keep stirring in between the process of covering with the lid.
***DO NOT OVERCOOK—since there are eggs in the cheese sauce, they will develop a scrambled (almost ricotta appearance) if cooked too long. The eggs in the cheese mixture will cook quickly as soon as it touches the hot noodles, so there is no need to overheat or overcook.
Voila! You have a much better version of stove top macaroni without the weird orange tint. We like to keep the ingredients real on the farm!
Note #1: I heart spoonulas—they are my favorite for keeping sauces from sticking to the bottom of your pan.
Note #2: If you’d like to turn this into a baked mac and cheese with bread crumbs and a drizzle of olive oil on top, just don’t let the sauce thicken as much (about 4 minutes versus 7 to 10 minutes of stirring time). It will thicken while cooking in the oven. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and bake on top rack until the breadcrumb topping is golden brown (about 7 to 10 minutes).
Note #3: The cheese sauce mixture makes about four cups, so sometimes I’ll make only half of a one-pound package of elbow macaroni noodles and with half of the sauce mixture. The cold cheese sauce mixture will keep in the fridge for one more day which works perfectly for making steamed broccoli with the remaining cheese sauce the following day. Just melt the four tablespoons of butter on the steamed broccoli and coat with two cups of cheese sauce just as you would with the elbow noodles, and it comes together and thickens the same way.
Note #4: Your water should always be as salty as the Mediterranean (so I’ve been told by Food Network). It always drives me crazy when I see people only add a few sprinkles of salt from their saltshaker (or none at all!). This is your one chance to flavor your pasta or potatoes-whatever you’re cooking. I’ll admit, when I’ve seen people only add a sprinkling of salt to their boiling water, I sneak by and add a good swirl of salt to the pot (at least two tablespoons). If you’ve seen Garfield’s Christmas (1987) in the scene where the grandma adds chili powder to her daughter-in-law’s sausage gravy, she may remind me of myself. However, I’ll try to refrain from doing such things if I have a daughter-in-law someday. But seriously, if you haven’t seen Garfield’s Christmas already, you should definitely watch it this Christmas season. It’s one of my favorite nostalgic holiday movies.