I have another confession to make: I love Kraft Dinner. I pretend that I keep it stocked in the cupboard for the babysitter or as a special treat for my daughter. And while those things are partially true, they are not the whole truth. I definitely love eating it myself. Especially with cut up hot dogs and smothered in ketchup. I’m sure you could psycho-analyze that situation for me (I didn’t get it enough when I was a kid, or I got it too much or I have an insatiable desire for extremely orange food) but the fact remains that I like it.
However, it is not the healthiest of dinners (even with the veggie pasta or enriched fiber pasta) and so, I usually make my own macaroni and cheese, entirely from scratch. And because this recipe is so delicious, I don’t mind! Whenever it was my turn to make dinner at home as a teenager, I made this meal. Every single time. My family didn’t seem to get tired of it, and I don’t think you will either! It is creamy, cheesy and has a nice crunchy top that you just can’t get from KD.
You can add whatever extras you want to put in. Lately, I’ve been doing leftover honey mustard chicken and some broccoli, but you can experiment with your own protein and veggies. My mom and sister like to put in peas (which if you like peas, I’m sure you will like) and tuna. I’ve done ground beef with tomatoes and avocados on top. The possibilities are endless!
Macaroni and Cheese (serves 4-6, depending on how many “extras” you put in)*
adapted from Fanny Farmer
What you need:
2 cups macaroni (or other fun shaped noodle)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated (and divided)
1 tsp mustard powder
a few shakes of cayenne pepper
cooked meat / vegetables
about 1/4 cup bread crumbs
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles until al dente. If your vegetables are raw, throw them in the water with the noodles to save yourself a pot. Drain the noodles / vegetables and pour them into a baking pan (I usually use a 10 inch casserole dish). Stir in the cooked meat.
Warm the milk in the microwave (about two minutes). In a medium pot over medium heat, melt the butter then stir in the flour. Whisk in the warmed milk (I promise you, this comes together a LOT quicker if you warm the milk first) and stir constantly until the mixture begins to boil and has thickened.** Turn down the heat and add 1 cup of cheese, the mustard powder, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the cheese is melted. At this point, it is fine to leave it on very low heat if you’re waiting for your noodles to finish, without stirring.
Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles / vegetables / meat and mix it in gently. Toss the 1/2 cup cheese with the bread crumbs until the cheese is coated. Sprinkle the cheese over the casserole. Bake for 15-30 minutes, until the top is brown and crunchy and the cheese sauce is bubbling.
*This recipe doubles and halves very easily. Basically, you want to have the same amount of noodles as sauce. If you don’t need the crunchy cheese top, you don’t even need to bake it – just toss is all together in a bowl.
** If you find that it has started to boil and is not thick (because you, like me, got distracted with grating cheese and did not stir very often), then turn down the heat, stir vigorously and it should eventually start to thicken. You can also throw in a little more flour or cornstarch to speed up the thickening if it’s not working.