Thursday, May 14, 2015

Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese

Hello, everyone!  Happy Thursday!  I'm still on vacation, but the other night, I had a real craving for some mac and cheese.  I've been known to grab a box off of the shelf in the pantry, but, honestly, I'm not a huge fan of the boxed stuff.
I like being able to pronounce the ingredients in my food, call me crazy.  But that's a discussion for another day, and sometimes, all you have time for is the boxed stuff, and that's okay, too!
As you may know, I usually make my mac and cheese in my slow cooker (here's my homemade mac and cheese), but, as we all know, there's more than one way to do something.  If I'm in a pinch, I like to just toss this all in a pot and call it a day!  As you can see, if you check out my other post, the bases of these mac and cheeses are totally different.  My slow cooker mac and cheese is more of a traditional Southern style, using eggs.  This one is bechamel cheese sauce base, and comes together faster than it takes for your pasta to cook!  This is creamy, and delicious and a perfect alternative to the slow cooker version!
Here's your grocery list for this one:
1 C uncooked macaroni pasta (or pasta of choice)
2 C shredded cheese of choice (I used Cheddar)
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 Tbs. all purpose flour
2-3 C milk *
1 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder

To start off with, bring a medium sized pot of water up to a boil, put your pasta in, and cook to package directions, draining your pasta about 1 minute before the pasta is finished.  I didn't take any pictures of this, because who needs to see a picture of boiling pasta?  We all know what that looks like.
So, while your pasta is boiling away, either get your pre-shredded cheese ready, or go on and grate up some shredded cheese (these pictures are much more interesting than boiling water, huh?).

Set your cheese aside, and in another medium sized pot, melt your butter -now, be warned, this makes a lot of cheese sauce!  You can either double up your macaroni, or cut this sauce recipe in half, and should be fine.  Once your butter has melted, add in the flour, and whisk/stir until this turns the color of light sand.  In case you were curious, this is a roux; this is the base for a bechamel sauce, not to mention the thickening agent in countless sauces, gravies and soups.

Once your roux has reached a light sand color, slowly pour in the milk*.  You can see here that I only used 1 C (just over) of milk to start off with, but this sauce was way too thick, so I needed to add more milk!
See?  This is way too thick.  So I added more milk, and while it was still thick, it was just right.  You don't want this to be too soupy, because then you'd have macaroni and cheese soup.  Tasty, but not what we're after.

Now then, slowly add in the shredded cheese a little bit at a time (I go over why, in my cheesy chicken quesadillas), until you have added all of the cheese in.  Oh, boy, I just want to dive in there and swim around for a bit....

I'm not sure why the color is so different between the two pictures of the sauce here...maybe my camera was thrown off by my whisk?  Maybe the lighting was different?  I have no idea.  But, at this point, add in the paprika and garlic powder.  I would have enjoyed some dry mustard powder in this as well, but I didn't have any.  

So, pour some of the sauce over your pasta.  Don't pour all of your sauce on, because you can always add more, but you can't (easily) take some out if you add too much to begin with.

It looks like I added a bit too much, but after letting it rest for a minute, it set up and became the perfect consistency.  Taste for salt content, and season to your liking!  This mac and cheese is creamy, and perfect as a side dish, or you can toss in some broccoli and chicken, and have a full on meal!