Homemade Mac & Cheese: Simple, Delicious

…simple joy by simpler living

It is that time of year again where BBQs and pot lucks are coming into full swing.  This Homemade Mac & Cheese recipe is one that I get rave reviews of every time I make it.  It is also very filling and easy to make so perfect for a crowd! 

What Makes It So Delicious

This recipe is not too different than other mac & cheese recipes (I mean how different can they really be with being mainly macaroni and cheese) so the key is getting very good quality cheeses.  That’s basically it.  Good cheese makes good mac & cheese. 

Why You Will Love It

Simple – Few ingredients, easy to make.  Shredding the cheese is the only somewhat time consuming part if you are making the recipe for a crowd.  To shorten prep time, you could shred the cheese a day ahead or have other family members pitch in and help with that part.

Healthy – Real, from scratch ingredients are always healthier.  You know exactly what is in this dish as you make it from scratch.  It does contain a bit of fat so it is not to be an everyday dish but from scratch real foods are healthier than any processed dish that lowers fat by replacing with artificial ingredients.

Filling – It is a great side dish for a crowd and fills everyone up!

Delicious – I know I always say this for my recipes but I only post the most delicious ones!

Great for Make Ahead Meals

This recipe is perfect to make a day or two ahead of when you need it.  Then when you need it, remove from the refrigerator and let the dish warm up a bit (if it is glass) before heating it in the oven.  Another alternative to making the whole dish ahead of time is to partially prepare it ahead of time.  Sometimes I shred the cheese and cook the pasta and store separately until just before cooking.  On the day I need it cooked, I can prep the remaining ingredients in less than 10 minutes, pop it in the oven, and it is done in 30 minutes. It is also quite adaptable and can be put in a slow cooker also. Instead of cooking in the oven for 30 minutes, it can be cooked in the crock pot for 3 hours on low. I usually do whatever fits best in my schedule.

Ingredients

Dried pasta – Any will do but I typically get elbow macaroni or penne pasta.  Somewhat small pasta seems to be better.

Cheese – The most important ingredient.  I usually get three types of cheeses and combine them.  I use  mostly cheddar, then less of asiago and parmesan.  Again, getting a very good quality cheese that you shred yourself is the most important thing.  If you skimp on this, it will be a very different dish.  I used to buy the preshredded for ease of preparing but after reading Real Food, Fake Food by Larry Olmsted I will never eat that again.  This book examines different foods and found that shredded cheese you buy in grocery stores is often not all made of cheese.  These bags also contain other by products: preservatives, stabilizers and in some cases SAWDUST!  Yes, you read that correctly.  Even if you did not know that, you can tell by the taste that a block of cheese that you shred yourself has a far better taste and texture than any you buy pre-shredded.  I have found that the more expensive the cheese, the better taste it has.  I am all for bargain shopping so what I do is stock up when my favorite cheeses go on sale. 

Milk – We limit dairy in our house but this dish is one of our exceptions because it tastes so good!  We also use A2/A2 milk from a local farm which doesn’t have the same inflammation and stomach irritation that other milk has.   Sometimes, to limit the lactose I use a milk substitute.  I like oat milk the best.  It seems to have the most neutral taste of all the milk substitutes and still makes a delicious mac & cheese.  There is no doubt, however, that when made with real milk it tastes better.

Flour – Any flour will do, just a little is needed.  I only use freshly ground wheat in my house for full health benefits and flavor.   

Butter – Any butter or margarine that you can cook on the stove will do.

Recipe

2 lbs. small pasta (elbow macaroni, penne,…)

5 tablespoons butter/margarine

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

½ teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

6 cups freshly shredded cheese (cheddar alone or mix with asiago, parmesan,…)

  1. Boil pasta until al dente. Drain then put in casserole dish.
  2. In a separate pan, melt butter over medium heat.
  3. Whisk in flour, stirring constantly on medium, for about 3 minutes until smooth & thick.
  4. Whisk in milk, stirring constantly on medium-high for about 3-5 minutes until thick & bubbly.
  5. Add cheese to milk, stirring until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.
  6. Add salt and pepper.
  7. Combine pasta and cheese sauce in a casserole dish. 
  8. Sprinkle a little more shredded cheese on top.
  9. It just needs to be heated & browned on top so here are 3 options:
    • Broil in oven for 5 minutes or until golden brown.
    • Bake in the oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes until top is golden brown.
    • Put in slow cooker on low for up to 3 hours.

Serve and enjoy!  You are bound to get compliments for this one!!

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